Sustainable Entrepreneurship as DNA of Colruyt Group

Colruyt Group

9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure 12. Responsible Consumption and Production 13. Climate Action

Overview

Colruyt Group is a Belgian company that mainly focuses on retail. They developed the ‘Liquid Ice Container’ and ‘Vertical Farming.’ In doing so, they try to achieve several Sustainable Development Goals. Industry, innovation, and infrastructure; responsible consumption and production; and climate action are the SDGs they try to solve.

The 'Liquid Ice Container' is a way of transporting food efficiently and sustainably. The liquid ice keeps the food fresh during transport.

'Vertical Farming' is a process where plants are growing above each other in an enclosed space. A vertical farm saves a lot of water and energy.

Authors

Kelsey Malcorps

Kelsey Malcorps

Britt Vanwetswinkel

Britt Vanwetswinkel

Alexandra Cannizzaro

Alexandra Cannizzaro

Huub Woutermaertens

Huub Woutermaertens

Ignace Verstraete

Ignace Verstraete

School

Universiteit Hasselt

Universiteit Hasselt

Professors

Frank Lambrechts

Frank Lambrechts

Seppe Croonen

Seppe Croonen

Innovation

The ‘Liquid Ice Container’ is a container that is used in the Laekebeek and Dassenveld distribution centers of Okay, Bioplanet, and Colruyt for transporting food. Liquid ice, which cools for 48 hours, is sprayed in the walls of these containers. In this way, the products stay fresh during transport. The innovation is very efficient and sustainable. These containers are modular and are used to transport fresh products to Colruyt, Bio-planet, and Okay shops. Besides, 2.000 LIC’s for frozen products are already in use. These products are all kinds of goods, refrigerated and non-refrigerated products, all placed in the same truck. Furthermore, the ‘Liquid Ice Container’ is fully reusable because you can reuse the liquid ice by refreezing the melted liquid ice or replacing it with freshly frozen liquid ice {Colruyt, 2020 #21}. Using the 'Liquid Ice Container,' they are innovative and try to take action against climate change. Moreover, this way of transport is highly sustainable.

Their other concept is ‘Vertical Farming’ or ‘closed multilayer cultivation in controlled conditions.’ In a vertical farm, you grow plants, for example, basil, in different layers, one above the other, in an enclosed space. By farming like this, a lot of water and energy is saved. Every plant gets the right amount of water, and the water they use is rainwater. This way, 90% less water is used. Vertical farming is also energy-efficient because it runs on green electricity from its own wind turbines and solar panels. Energy-efficient is the codeword of Colruyt Group. Even the LED lighting is twice as efficient as the current standard on the market. The vertical farm is close to its distribution center, which helps saving kilometers. Thereafter, because of ‘Vertical Farming,’ less space will be taken. This scalable innovation is new since this year; therefore, new herbs or plants will follow {Colruyt 2020 #20}. By focussing on 'Vertical Farming,' the Colruyt Group implements a responsible and sustainable way of producing these products.

Sustainable Entrepreneurship as DNA of Colruyt Group

Inspiration

The mission of Colruyt Group is the following: “Creating sustainable value together by value-driven craftsmanship in retail.” It is obvious that sustainable entrepreneurship is crucial for Colruyt Group and is at their business's heart. The interviewee also said: “Sustainable development is implemented in the DNA of Colruyt Group. It is used in all our projects. Partnerships are also a great source of inspiration.” This quote makes clear Colruyt Group works with partners and brings people together. ‘Collibri Foundation’ is Colruyt Group’s company fund. They offer vulnerable young people in Belgium and abroad opportunities for a successful future through training, coaching, and exchange. Colruyt has always had quantum leaders who learned how to deal with uncertainty and instability. Creativity and innovation are the results of this. These leaders are more likely to flourish and significantly benefit business and society.

Colruyt Group also uses its customers as inspiration. More and more people are becoming aware of their health. Colruyt Group uses this awareness. They try to share more information about healthy food. An example is the ‘Nutri-Score’ that is used by Colruyt. The Nutri-Score is a food label that converts products' nutritional value into a letter from A to E and color code on the packaging. With this code, you can make balanced food choices and be aware of the nutritional value. Moreover, the Colruyt Group takes action to fight the Coronavirus. They oblige customers to wear a mask in their stores, they invite you to come shopping alone as much as possible, and they started a campaign ‘You are by far the best customer.’ This campaign emphasizes that it is still important to comply with all the safety measures.

Furthermore, entrepreneurship within the Colruyt Group is a fundamental characteristic. Especially the courage to undertake such things is an important value in the company. Employees are encouraged to use online platforms to share their entrepreneurial ideas. These ideas are being analyzed and seen if they can become a reality as a consequence, employees feel involved and respected in the corporation.

Overall impact

Sustainable entrepreneurship has always been embedded in the DNA of the Colruyt Group. In the beginning, when Colruyt Group was founded, they started with a focus on reducing costs by minimizing the loss of raw materials. From the conception, Colruyt Group was already thinking about sustainable entrepreneurship.

Nowadays, the definition of sustainability has changed in society. Starting with an economic impetus, Colruyt Group aims to bring positive social and ecological dynamism with long-term results in mind. One-third of the Belgian citizens do their shopping in one of their stores. Because they take such a central position in society, this bears the burden of responsibility. They occupy a critical point in the supply chain, close to the consumer and the producer. Conscious of this strong connection and constant interaction, they want to play a meaningful role for everyone involved in their business, from near to far, and create added social value.

Since the use of the ‘Liquid Ice Container,’ Colruyt Group has decreased its negative impact on the environment. By using these containers, they have been able to increase their cargo capacity. This means that trucks can load more products during one transportation. This radical innovation is 73% more climate-friendly than the classic refrigerated containers that use CO2 {Colruyt, 2020 #21}. Since 2016, Colruyt only uses liquid ice containers for the transport of fresh products. Also, liquid ice is made using green electricity, avoiding even more CO2 emissions.

‘Vertical Farming’ also bears an important impact on the environment. The Colruyt Group takes the production of goods into their own hands and produces these products locally. In this way, they need less space from traditional agriculture, which means the pressure on these cultivated lands will be less.

They do not use any pesticides and use only rainwater to water the plants. Finally, the energy they use to run the installations comes from their own wind turbines and solar panels. So Colruyt Group really tries to minimize the negative effects of production as much as possible {Colruyt, 2020 #20}. With these two innovations, Colruyt impacts the environment positively.

Business benefit

One of Colruyt Group’s fundamental notions is offering the lowest price to their customers, combined with sustainability. Because of this strategy, their market share is the highest, 32 percent. Colruyt Group already has more than 600 stores, and the number of stores is still increasing.

Because of the Liquid Ice Container and vertical farming, Colruyt Group saves a large amount of money. With this reduction in costs, they do several things. They can use it to innovate even more in terms of sustainability or improve employee well-being even more. For example, when looking at health, Colruyt innovates in sustainable and healthy food. They also innovate in terms of training & development of their personnel. For instance, Colruyt provides training on how to quit smoking and ‘Start To Run’ programs.

Social and environmental benefit

Colruyt Group has more than 600 stores in Belgium and France. In these stores, they try to shift their energy usage to moments with lots of wind or sun. At these moments, the production of electricity is high and energy costs low. In doing so, they reduce their costs and avoid the overproduction of energy. Another example of how they foresee green energy is using their own on-shore wind turbines and solar panels. Furthermore, Colruyt Group has a recycling rate of 83,98 percent, and they have decreased their carbon dioxide emissions by 19,04 percent compared to 2008. Moreover, because of good forecasting in inventory and stock, they have a waste-rate of only 3 percent. This means that thanks to efficient stock management and good monitoring, Colruyt manages to sell more than 9 percent of their fresh and frozen products. Lastly, Colruyt Group is a pioneer in using hydrogen. Colruyt Group can convert the excess current into hydrogen via electrolysis. The hydrogen can be used as a fuel. In conclusion, Colruyt Group tries to minimize the possible negative impacts they cause on the environment.

Besides the environmental impact, the Colruyt Group also has an impact on society. They have ‘Aan Tafel project in 1, 2 of 3 euro’ (dinner is served at 1-2-3 euros). This project makes balanced food more accessible to people experiencing (financial) difficulties. Vulnerable families with children are informed without obligation by their trusted social organizations, such as Social Services, ‘Centrum Algemeen Welzijn’ or ‘Kind & Gezin.’ Those who register will find a Colruyt cookery booklet containing six easy, balanced, and tasty recipes with corresponding shopping lists, in their mailbox every two weeks. Each recipe costs a maximum of 1, 2, or 3 euros per portion. Since the end of 2016, the project has already reached over 7.000 families in 200 municipalities. By doing this, the poorer part of society has a chance to eat healthier.

Interview

Emma Bernolet, Emma Bernolet

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Colruyt Group

Colruyt Group

Halle, BE

Business Website: https://www.colruytgroup.com

Year Founded: 1928

Number of Employees: 10000+

Colruyt Group is a Belgian company that mainly focuses on retail. The family business was established in the 90ties and has grown substantially to become the current multinational company. The mission of Colruyt Group is: "Together, we create sustainable added value through value-driven craftsmanship in retail." Every sister company within the Colruyt Group has a different goal, but there is a very strong common identity within the family business. For this reason, sustainable entrepreneurship has always been an important aspect of the company.