First-of-its-kind in Canada grocery store certification helps grocers go green

A new industry-specific certification has launched on Vancouver Island to help grocery stores green their operations.
Photo supplied by Synergy Foundation.

A new industry-specific certification has launched on Vancouver Island to help grocery stores green their operations. 

The Vancouver Island Green Business Collective (VIGBC)’s Grocery certification, the first of its kind in Canada, provides grocers with a list of actions to reduce their environmental footprint, addressing common sources of waste and emissions including food waste, refrigeration equipment, lighting, and single-use plastic.

The certification takes a holistic approach to sustainability, incorporating social criteria such as volunteer hours for employees, action toward Truth & Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, and donations to community charities and non-profits. 

The peer-reviewed criteria was developed as part of a 12-month working group supported by VIGBC’s strategic partner Vancity. The process included interviews with industry professionals as well as pilot partners Country Grocer, 49th Parallel Grocery, and Root Cellar

Jarret Klim, Program Manager, VIGBC, says “grocers are in the unique position to create significant change throughout the supply chain. From influencing farmers and food producers to motivating consumers, VIGBC is excited to spur environmental leadership in the grocery industry.”

Reducing the Grocer Carbon Footprint

Grocery stores typically have significant environmental footprints due to their comparatively large size, high amount of food and plastic waste, and sizable refrigeration systems. On average, hydrofluorocarbon refrigerants – a major source of greenhouse gasses – account for 65% of a food retailer’s direct greenhouse gas emissions1. Similarly, food waste in BC grocery stores accounts for 4% of sales, or an estimated $516.5 million annually2

On the flipside, improving the sustainability of grocery stores can have an incredible impact. By making simple changes like donating food to redistribution or animal feed programs, adding low-flow aerators to sink faucets, or adding strip curtains to walk-in refrigerators, grocery stores can divert over 286,000 kg of waste from landfill (= 233 average annual households), save over 2,800 m3 of water (= 1.13 Olympic swimming pools), and avoid 127 tCO2e (= 28 car emissions annually). 

VIGBC’s new Grocery certification provides the guidance that these stores need to make significant changes. “We have been interested in ways to reduce our environmental impact,” said Megan Knight, North Island Operations Manager of Country Grocer, “and this program offered a great way to show the areas we are successful in and the areas that we can work towards in the future.” 

Peter Richmond, President & CFO, 49th Parallel Grocery, says “I found the process very informative. There is a lot going on inside a grocery store – that’s for sure!  Some of which I’m sure we can look at a bit closer. Hopefully once you’ve looked at a few stores – you will be able to share best practices / success stories as we all aim to improve our footprints.”

Finding Ways to Help Business Go Green

This is the sixth industry-specific checklist offered by VIGBC, a program that works to educate and certify sustainability best practices for Vancouver Island-based businesses. 

VIGBC is a green business certification program that supports businesses that are looking for practical and affordable ways to reduce their environmental impact and contribute to our local communities. 

Businesses can be certified as Silver, Gold or Green (the highest level) and can also be certified as an Ocean Friendly Business based on ‘Surfrider Approved’ actions that focus on direct and positive impact for our oceans and waterways. A program of Synergy Foundation, it has over 150 members across the restaurant, retail, office, spa/salon, fleet, and grocery industries. 

Businesses who are interested in joining VIGBC can visit