Summary of Costco grade
Pollinator Health Policy
17 out of 45 points
In May, 2018, Costco released a pollinator health policy that encourages suppliers of fruits, vegetables, and live goods/plants to phase out use of neonicotinoid and chlorpyrifos pesticides. The policy encourages use of least-toxic approaches stating, “We support the use of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies and other creative solutions for the use of least toxic alternatives,” and encourages suppliers to “limit the use of all non-essential chemicals and to utilize eco-friendly methods of pest or disease control.” The policy also encourages suppliers to avoid regrettable substitution, or the replacement of one hazardous pesticide with another, and it provides a list of potential regrettable substitutes that have been identified as acutely toxic to pollinators
Costco’s pollinator health policy does not include any timebound or measurable commitments to phase out pesticides of concern or expand the adoption of least-toxic practices in company food and beverage supply chains.
- Commitment to reduce pesticide use
- 6 out of 15 points
- Avoiding regrettable substitutes
- 5 out of 5 points
- Commitment to least-toxic approaches in non-organic supply chains
- 1 out of 10 points
- Commitment to organic
- 5 out of 15 points
18 out of 90 points
Costco, via its partnership with the Equitable Food Initiative (EFI), received credit for a pilot-scale commitment to track pesticide use in its supply chain and to support growers to shift to least-toxic approaches. On Costco’s Environmental Impacts & Land Stewardship webpage, the company states that as of November, 2019, 16 Costco suppliers are partnering with the Equitable Food Initiative on 33 certified operations employing nearly 30,000 workers. In addition to labor and food safety standards, EFI certification also requires an implemented integrated pest management (IPM) plan that includes a stepped approach starting with biological controls followed by cultural, physical, and finally chemical responses. EFI growers also use the Pesticide Risk Tool (PRT) developed by the IPM Institute to track all pesticide applications. The Pesticide Risk Tool tracks total pounds of pesticides used and also helps growers identify high risk uses of pesticides to reduce. Costco states that EFI is in year one of a five-year partnership with The IPM Institute to aggregate and analyze pesticide use data.
In 2020, Costco reported to Friends of the Earth that the majority of cocoa and coffee sold are either certified fair trade or organic. Cocoa is certified under the Sassandra program, which uses the Rainforest Alliance criteria for pesticides. Rainforest Alliance requires integrated pest management and prohibits use of pollinator-toxic pesticides including fipronil and neonics (imidacloprid, clothianidin, thiamethoxam) and includes requirements to mitigate the risk of 166 pesticides known to pose harm to workers, pollinators, wildlife and aquatic life, including glyphosate, chlorpyrifos, diazinon, and malathion.
In 2016, business analysts reported that Costco’s organic sales exceeded $4 billion, up from $3 billion the previous year. In 2018, Costco reported to Friends of the Earth that 23% of fresh produce offerings were certified organic. There have been no public updates on Costco’s organic sales since then.
There is some evidence that Costco has taken steps to support the expansion of organic farming in the U.S. In 2016, it was reported that Costco was working with Nebraska ranchers to transition land to organic production, although there have been no public updates since then. Costco states on its website, “Where it makes sense, we work with suppliers and growers to support the conversion of conventional supplies to organic.” To ensure that this important practice helps close the gap between rising demand for organic food in the U.S. and our farmers’ ability to meet that demand, Friends of the Earth encourages Costco to specify what actions the company is taking to support the growth of organic agriculture in the U.S.
Costco has not measurably reduced pesticide use in its supply chain. Costco does not publicly demonstrate advocacy for public policies aimed at reducing agricultural pesticide use, protecting pollinators and supporting the expansion of organic agriculture in the U.S.
- Track pesticide use in supply chain
- 3 out of 10 points
- Measurably reduce pesticide use
- 0 out of 15 points
- Prioritize least-toxic approaches in non-organic supply chains
- 5 out of 20 points
- Prioritize USDA certified organic
- 5 out of 25 points
- Support domestic organic growers
- 5 out of 15 points
- Support public policies
- 0 out of 5 points
Transparency & Accountability
16 out of 21 points
Costco’s pollinator health policy is publicly available on the company’s website. The policy encourages produce and live goods suppliers to transition away from neonicotinoid and chlorpyrifos pesticides and includes a commitment to continue to grow organic offerings. Costco has educational content online about pesticides and organic food farming, including a clear definition of USDA certified organic and information on the value to pollinator and human health of decreasing use of toxic pesticides and expanding organic offerings.
Costco does not appear to include reduction of pesticides of concern to pollinators and human health or expansion of organic offerings in company Key Performance Indicators or other formal sustainability criteria.
- Make policies and commitments publicly available
- 6 out of 6 points
- 0 out of 5 points
- Educate consumers
- 10 out of 10 points
10 out of 10 points
Costco has communicated with Friends of the Earth in the past year. Costco briefed Friends of the Earth in advance of a public announcement in relation to pollinators and pesticides in the past three years.
Complimentary Home & Garden Policies
9 out of 9 points
In May, 2018, Costco released a pollinator health policy that encourages suppliers of fruits, vegetables, and live goods/plants to phase out use of neonicotinoid and chlorpyrifos pesticides. In 2019, Costco made a decision to no longer sell products containing glyphosate in any store locations worldwide. In 2020, Costco confirmed with Friends of the Earth that the company had also removed products containing neonicotinoids from its U.S. locations. Costco reports that it now sells a number of organic and alternative gardening products to provide customers with least-toxic options.
- Policy for live goods
- 4 out of 4 points
- Policy for on-shelf pesticide products
- 5 out of 5 points