Ahold Delhaize: "Telling customers what to do is not our place"


The new IPCC climate report once again makes it crystal clear that companies must do more to combat global warming. Ahold Delhaize Chairman Frans Muller agrees, but he advocates evolution rather than revolution: "It will take time."


Creatures of habit

Last year, the Dutch-Belgian multinational launched its new sustainability targets, in which the company wants to halve its carbon emissions by 2030. Emissions generated by products sold by other manufacturers must also be reduced - but only by 15 %. Furthermore, the retailer promised to focus more on recycled packaging and intensify further the efforts to reduce food waste.


After the publication of the new climate report, however, there can only be one conclusion: things are moving too slowly. Muller agrees with this statement, saying that "we have to do more than we are doing now". A more nuanced view quickly follows: "Customers are creatures of habit. You do not simply change flavours", he tells Dutch newspaper NRC. "We do not want to say to customers: this is what you have to do, this is healthy. That is not our job. Our job is to tell people how we look at food and help them make better choices. That takes time."


One thing that could help with this is to label each product to indicate its carbon footprint. That would be quite a task for a company that sells half a million different products worldwide. Nonetheless, Muller thinks he can introduce such an emission label in the Netherlands within three years. "Many people are very attached to meat, but if we can get them to eat no meat one or two days a week, that would have an enormously positive impact on the climate."