We’re bringing reusable shopping bags to the grocers, our own tumblers to the coffee shop, and carrying around stainless-steel straws in a pouch to leave behind less waste. Shoppers are incorporating small habits that mirror their concerns over a deteriorating environment, and there’s a great expectation on the retail industry to compete in the sustainability race too. So, the question is, among the crowd, which grocers are leading the competition

1. Whole Foods

fish, seafood, sardine, mackerel
Dea Uy

Sustainable Seafood is now one of the grocer’s largest sustainability commitments to the community. Only sourcing from responsibly managed fish farms and fisheries, their goal is to help restore a depleted ocean ecosystem and build a more sustainable seafood supply for future generations. Whole Foods is big on their sustainable canned tuna efforts – extending their buying power to fishery partners. Now, fishermen supplying to Whole Foods only catch one tuna at a time as opposed to catching by vessels - preventing bycatch of sea turtles, sharks and other marine life. The grocer’s seafood sustainability efforts were also recognized by Greenpeace last year where it received the highest rating among 20 major U.S. grocer retailers. Pescatarians can rejoice and shop in peace knowing that a large source of their protein consumption is sourced responsibly.

2. Trader Joe’s

candy, chocolate
Sean Kitayama

According to Greenpeace, Trader Joe’s is retailer that sells the least Red List species in their stores – six among the twenty-two species of marine biodiversity critical to our survival - although it received some criticism for not having the clearest labels on its seafood products. Apart from a few improvements to be made around label transparency, Trader Joe’s is doing a great job as a responsible member of the communities they exist in, giving back to avoid unnecessary waste while supporting the people in need around them. Through its Neighborhood Shares Program, the grocer donates 100% of products that go unsold but are still safe to consume. Last year, they donated nearly $370 million worth of food products, equating to approximately 60 million meals. It’s definitely a big plus for customers knowing that the business we are helping to grow is also doing what they can to help reduce waste and feed people in need.

3. Walmart

meat, beef, oatmeal, ground beef, cereal, mince
Alex Frank

It’s worth applauding Walmart for delivering annually-updated sustainability reports that is easily accessible to the public. It’s commitment to achieve zero net deforestation particularly caught my eye. Walmart highlighted its’ commitment to source 100% of its beef from Brazil – the world’s second largest producer of beef – with zero net deforestation by the end of 2020. It has been monitoring all its Brazil beef suppliers to ensure that no beef is sourced from deforested areas, and publicly supported the efforts of nearly fifty NGOs and research institutes behind the Cerrado Manifesto in adopting policies to eliminate deforestation. Nearly half of the world’s forests are now left bare, and beef production is currently the leading driver of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest and the Cerrado – a wooded savannah south and east of the Amazon. Walmart is very much aware of the huge impact it has on the environment and is steadily expanding its sustainability efforts to cover more facets of its operations, so props to them for caring about the environment as much as they care to keep costs low for us

The sustainability efforts highlighted above are among the few that these grocers have committed to. The three were chosen for its breadth of commitments in multiple areas of operations, scale of impact to the environment, and transparency in self-reporting their own initiatives. No grocer is perfect – so what we can do as consumers is educate ourselves to make more informed decisions. Starting from modifying our own habits and consuming less of endangered fisheries like the yellowfin tuna, we too can make a steady change to help the environment heal.