Field: Sustainable consumption
Global Technical function: Information sharing
Technical Function Unit: Labelling
Geographic Area: Germany

Consumer information label to communicate sustainability aspects of products

The PRO PLANET label communicates that the German supermarket chain REWE  values its products not only in economic but also in ecological and social terms. REWE’s PRO PLANET products contribute to sustainable consumption since the environmental and social impacts identified in the whole product life-cycle are significantly overcome.

The challenge

Many consumers want to live a sustainable and healthy lifestyle and are therefore looking for sustainable products. The complex decision-making process that all consumers go through when trying to make their environmental footprint smaller can be made much easier if they receive help, support and information sharing from retailers. Product labelling can be a valuable communication tool for retailers to encourage more sustainable consumption.

The innovation

The supermarket chain REWE in Germany has developed the PRO PLANET label to indicate product sustainability in a comprehensive format. The labelling ensures that products are delivered to consumers after taking all necessary measures to reduce environmental and social impacts in the whole product life cycle. PRO PLANET is an integral part of the REWE sustainability strategy, which reflects REWE’s core values; that the long-term expansion and growth of the company is valid if it conserves resources, treats employees and partners with fairness, and contributes to society. As a navigation system for more sustainable products and services, the PRO PLANET label aims to catalyse a change in consumer behaviour towards more sustainable consumption.

The labelling process involves several steps. Internal and external experts analyse the lifecycle of selected product groups, and independent specialists conduct scientific investigations to define the environmental and societal high priority impact areas of a product. The PRO PLANET label can be awarded only if these high priority impact areas are eliminated or reduced by specific actions and the sustainability performance of the product is significantly improved. The label awarding process both involves independent ecological and social experts, and REWE employees at the stage of defining the high priority impact areas in selected product groups as well as when proposing and implementing actions to eliminate identified impact areas. Based on the internally and externally verified life-cycle impact areas of a product group, knowledgeable REWE employees and external project partners recommend specified actions which will imply performance improvements. The REWE advisory board then decides how to implement specific actions based on a feasibility assessment. Once the proposed action is implemented to minimize the impact areas related to a specific product group, the PRO PLANET Strategy Group (comprising members of the areas of Strategic Procurement, Sustainability, Quality Assurance and of the Strategic Business Units of the retailer) can decide whether to award the label to that product group or not.

The PRO PLANET labelling process is repeated every three years to ensure that the high priority impact areas are monitored continuously and to follow-up on the action lists for any unchanged impact areas , as there may be a need for new lists of proposals to be created.

Why did it work?

The increase in consumer  demand for information on sustainable products offered by the Rewe group was a catalyst for Rewe to launch the PRO PLANET label.  The label makes the consumers’ choice to purchase sustainable products much easier. Consumers can go to the PRO PLANET website, enter the product code indicated on the PRO PLANET label, and access all of the relevant product information. This strengthens consumers trust in REWE’s sustainability actions.

Further deployment

REWE plans to expand the application fields of the PRO PLANET label and it will also include REWE Group’ services and real estate in the future.  The PRO PLANET navigation system has been given a positive validation by the certification agency TÜV, Rheinland. Since this labelling method is successfully practiced by REWE, its maturity level is estimated to be beyond 9 on GML scale.

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