As a food provider, we recognise our responsibility to deliver quality products to consumers through a sustainable network of first-choice suppliers. We further want to reduce our use of natural resources by rolling out initiatives fostering environmental welfare and achieve long-term cost reductions for the business. Supply chain optimisation and innovative energy management are critical in helping us achieve our goals.

Climate change poses a challenge to business and society and will fundamentally change the way economies use and value natural resources. Climate change-related risks and opportunities that could substantively impact our business are classified as regulatory, physical or other and are monitored by the Social and Ethics and Risk Committees. Mitigation plans and costs were determined in our latest CDP carbon and water submission*.

For employees, we run campaigns to raise awareness about the benefits of reducing electricity consumption. We also help our retailers reduce their carbon footprint by making recommendations on green building practices and assisting them with purchasing energy-efficient technologies.

* CDP data submitted in 2019 reflects SPAR’s performance for the 2017/2018 financial year.
Download more information about how we calculate our carbon footprint here.
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81 763 tonnes of CO2e emitted (scope 1 and 2)

(2016/2017: 81 577 CO2e tonnes)

The increase is attributed to increase in business growth and expansion. Additional stores and routes increased travel distances. Continued power outages across the group contributed to increased fuel usage.

We continued to install energy efficient technologies and optimise our travel routes to keep our carbon emissions within scope. The group has made significant investment in energy efficient technologies such as photovoltaic panels which we anticipate to reflect in our results next year. We continue to explore innovative solutions to ensure that we reduce our carbon footprint.

44 554 MWh electricity consumed

(2016/2017: 47 894 MWh)

The reduction is largely attributed to the installation of photovoltaic panels at some distribution centres. As some of these panels only came online at the end of the reporting period, we anticipate a further reduction in our scope 2 emissions during our next reporting period. We continue to invest in energy efficient technology. We run a heating, ventilation, air conditioning, refrigeration and machine replacement programme, which prioritises newer and more energy-efficient technologies to reduce consumption at distribution centres and warehouses.

The solar panels installed at the South Rand distribution centre in October 2017 had a significant impact on electricity use, resulting in a decreased of municipal electricity usage from 8 512 MWh to 7 542 MWh. We installed solar panels at the North Rand and the Western Cape distribution centres and plans are in place to have KwaZulu-Natal, Lowveld and the Eastern Cape using solar energy by 2021. Initiatives to offer retailers a solar store solution are under way.

The group neither purchased nor consumed heat, steam or cooling energy during the stated period.

Distribution centres have comprehensive plastic and cardboard recycling programmes in place. This includes waste generated at the distribution centres and by participating retail stores. Waste is backhauled when deliveries are made.

We partnered with third-party service providers to achieve major improvements in recycling of SPAR branded packaging. Approved SPAR packaging suppliers channel waste into our recycling programme and use recycled cardboard from our distribution centres (and participating retail stores) in our SPAR branded packaging. In this way, we close the loop on cardboard waste and reduce waste to landfill.

Organic waste is converted into compost used by local community farmers. This initiative is currently being run at two of our distribution centres. The implementation has been successful and we aim to roll this initiative out across the group.

Used cooking oil is collected from selected stores and is recycled.

Recycling includes vehicle lubricants and refrigeration oils. Glass and metal recycling is not in place at distribution centres but will become a bigger focus going forward.

We increasingly recycle electronic waste. For example, a permanent container was placed at the South Rand distribution centre to collect electronic waste. Typical waste includes old desktop computers, laptops, monitors, keyboards, telephone handsets and cables. This ensures we do not dump electronic waste in landfills, which helps prevent toxins, metals and ash being released into the air, water and soil.

South Africa is one of the biggest culprits of marine plastic waste. We have a high per capita consumption of plastic and rank in the top 20 marine plastic polluters globally. South Africa also has some of the highest plastic recycling rates in the world (46.3% of all plastic) compared to Europe and many other developed countries. Recycling is beneficial to the economy in that it creates much needed employment: it is estimated that around 58 470 workers and waste pickers receive an income through the recycling supply chain.1

1 Source: National plastics recycling survey 2018, published July 2019

Polystyrene pieces and nurdles are the most common types of plastic pollution in the ocean, and combined with plastic bags and food containers, make up the majority of oceanic debris. At SPAR we believe there is an opportunity to fundamentally rethink the way we produce, use and reuse plastics. We want to create a new, more effective plastic system.

We subscribe to the circular economy, an approach promoted by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, where we ensure that plastics never become waste or pollution. To achieve this, we support three main actions:

  1. Eliminate problematic and unnecessary plastic items.
  2. Innovate to ensure plastics we need are reusable, recyclable or compostable.
  3. Circulate plastic items we use to keep them in the economy and out of the environment.

Creating a circular economy is key to our plastic carrier bag strategy. Our goal is to ensure that our plastic bags do not end up in landfills or the environment. To date, SPAR’s 100% recycled plastic bag, made with no less than 70% post-consumer waste, has resulted in 3 500 tonnes of used plastic being diverted from landfills annually. In producing the bag, there is a 40% reduction in the carbon footprint. The 100% recycled plastic carrier bag was introduced in 2018 together with brown paper carrier bags, which are made from a 100% renewable resource, which is recyclable and biodegradable.

Our commitment to reducing single-use plastics and their impact on the environment resulted in the implementation of environmentally friendly, sustainable business solutions supporting our local economy.

In 2019, SPAR became a founding member and signatory to The South African Plastics Pact. The Pact’s objective is to support government and industry to deliver a circular economy for plastics. This will ensure the implementation of solutions relevant to the South African context. As signatories we aim to change the way we design, use and reuse plastic products and packaging.

We will continue to collaborate with our packaging suppliers to develop alternative solutions including compostable and biodegradable plastics.

SPAR Eastern Cape taking plastic action

The SPAR Eastern Cape distribution centre is one of the trailblazers in promoting the reduced single use of plastics. This year, the distribution centre pledged R250 000 as a reward for innovative ideas and developing an implementation plan to effectively reduce single-use plastic.

SPAR remains the largest food retailer in the Eastern Cape and is well positioned to work with our communities to achieve a noticeable impact.

What is the SPAR Eastern Cape distribution centre doing?

  • Creating awareness of the plastic problem in our province
  • Partnering with likeminded organisations to educate our youth about dangers of plastic pollution
  • Working with our suppliers to invest in the most environmentally friendly packaging solutions
  • Encouraging customers to decline single-use plastic and accept alternative shopping bags
  • Regular in-store promotions offering SPAR customers free paper or alternative shopping bags
  • Encouraging customers to reuse shopping bags and responsibly recycle plastic

Through the SPAR Eastern Cape distribution centre, plastic bag sales dropped by 4.3 million since April 2018.

We need water at our stores and distribution centres to maintain a hygienic environment for storing and selling food products. Access to a constant, good quality water supply is critical for our agricultural activities.

We analyse and prioritise water-related risks in our business and procurement process and participate in the CDP’s water programme.

We consider water risks when investing in new opportunities, expanding to new retailers and in our engagement with potential suppliers.

Distribution centres have water recycling systems installed, and water recycling/collection schemes are being explored on existing sites and in developing new sites and expansions.

Recycled water is used for washing trucks, ablution facilities, watering on-site, etc.

Water targets and goals (along with energy, waste and fuel) were included as part of the group’s aim to improve its sustainability performance. In terms of our 30% reduction target in using municipal water, we achieved a 34% reduction since our base year.

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Due to the drought in the Western Cape in 2018, the local distribution centre focused on drastically reducing water consumption. Boreholes were drilled and an adiabatic cooling system was introduced. This cooling system uses evaporating water to pre-cool ambient air. Unlike traditional cooling towers constantly using water, the adiabatic system uses evaporative cooling during the hottest part of the day. For the remaining time, the system meets the distribution centre’s cooling requirements without using any water, operating as a simple aircooling system. These systems can run dry for 85% of the year in most climates, having up to 90% less annual water usage than other systems.

A sustainable food system integrates every aspect of the value chain to safeguard environmental, social and economic value for communities and regions. One of our contributions towards achieving a sustainable food system is to innovate through our house brands. We made significant progress with our suppliers to source responsibly, reduce waste and implement biological farming. Our Freshline team, for example, assists local farmers in the Freshline supply chain to adopt more sustainable farming methods. On the other side of the value chain, we engage with consumers in terms of nutrition, water use and reducing plastic use.

Read more about the ways in which we reduce plastic use here. Read more about our role in the food system in the strategy section and in our rural hub case study.

Seafood is part of our offering to retailers and consumers. However, we are conscious of being responsible in sourcing seafood as it affects the sustainability of fish species as well as the livelihoods of local fishing communities.

SPAR is a co-signatory to industry and government bodies on issues relating to fishery improvements. Our seafood procurement is done within the parameters of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI) guidelines on how seafood should be caught and sold.

SPAR joined the WWF-SASSI retailer/supplier participation scheme in December 2010. Since then, we completed an assessment of the SPAR house brand seafood range demonstrating that SPAR house brand seafood procurement occurs according to our formal sustainable sourcing policy.

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We create internal awareness of the WWF-SASSI and SPAR commitments and generated external awareness through the guilds. We provide real-time access to seafood data by linking WWF-SASSI and suppliers to SPAR’s online portals. Through working closely with suppliers, we established full traceability of SPAR branded seafood products. This includes random DNA testing on SPAR branded seafood products to ensure correct identification and labelling.

We took this initiative beyond SPAR house brand products to seafood and fish procured through our distribution centres. We engage with and assess suppliers who deal directly with distribution centres according to standards stated in the SPAR brand procurement policy. We also focus on training buyers at distribution centres and gather seafood information from seafood suppliers to assess whether any species were red listed. We also assisted retailers who sourced their own seafood, including the outsourced fresh fish counters in SPAR stores in the Western Cape.

SPAR adopted the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) assessment, which provides a global benchmark for advancing food safety. Our suppliers must comply with these standards to be able to trade with us as a house brand supplier. This will ensure common standards for the production and trade of food products in the group. In February 2019, an initiative was launched to monitor and track regional suppliers and align them with the GFSI global market capacity building programme. This is an ongoing initiative.

Key facts about SPAR supplier certification


Total suppliers

GFSI intermediate


Freshline Bakery




Freshline Produce




SPAR brands




As the number of emerging farmers in the SPAR supply chain continues to grow, we adopted localg.a.p. as an entry level food safety standard with to achieve full compliance with GLOBALG.A.P. (relevant for large-scale commercial farmers). Furthermore, SPAR stores are subject to hygiene and safety audits. The group has a SPAR-appointed central resource to ensure food safety, compliance and audits for suppliers.

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Our role is to support suppliers and enable capacity building. The GFSI global market capacity building programme is for small or less developed businesses encountering difficulties in implementing basic levels of food safety (according to the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points system) in their food businesses. This can be due to their size, nature of work and lack of technical expertise or economic resources. The GFSI has a tiered approach to certification, which allows individuals responsible for food safety within small and less developed businesses to develop a systematic action plan to be implemented over time. This reassures customers that they are developing effective food safety management programmes to reduce food safety risks.

Private label suppliers are audited at intermediate level and we encourage them to apply for certification (FSSC 22000, BRC, IFS, AIB). The SPAR house brand food safety requirements are:

  • Certificate of acceptability (Department of Health);
  • GFSI food safety audit: basic (low-risk products such as biscuits);
  • GFSI food safety audit: intermediate (high-risk products such as cut vegetables and processed products);
  • Global Gap for Farmers (fruit and vegetables);
  • Abattoir certificate (meat);
  • Export certificate (Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries); and
  • FSSC 22000, BRC or International Featured Standard certification.

Our logistics model focuses on route planning and fuel efficiency to reduce our environmental impact and transport expenses, particularly on the back of volatile fuel prices.

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Initiatives include:

  • Monitoring fuel consumption, excessive idling, route adherence, determination and optimisation, speeding via an on-board computer system
  • Fitting of aerokits on long-distance vehicles to reduce drag
  • Increasing the use of 95:5 (diesel:biodiesel) fuel mix
  • Driver training, with associated assessments and remuneration incentives, to improve fuel efficiency
  • Implementing a national integrated transport system across regional boundaries
  • Fleet optimisation, which also supports the increasing need for night deliveries
  • Route optimisation in all territories and improved cross-border cost analysis
  • Increased demand for recycling space at distribution centres and a concomitant need to optimise recycling initiatives

The North Rand distribution centre implemented solar systems on refrigerated and dry trailer boxes. These systems aid the operation of tail lifts and auxiliary equipment used to power up CCTV cameras. Asset life improvements follow as a secondary benefit. New vehicle fleet technology improvements as well as design changes on trailer boxes substantially improved vehicle performance and fuel consumption.

Read about the new electric truck fridge system piloted at the KwaZulu-Natal distribution centre earlier in this section.