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Jihad Rizkallah, Ahold USA's VP, Responsible Retailing, discusses how the company’s eco-minded commitment fits with its Better Neighbor promise.
Jihad Rizkallah, VP, responsible retailing for Ahold USA, has a healthy appetite for zero waste. Accordingly, he’s been pivotal in setting the aggressive agenda that’s driving the company’s corporate responsibility commitment. “It fits with our [Better Neighbor] promise,” says Rizkallah, the key building blocks of which are “also part of our commitment to caring for the environment, and the health of the communities we serve.”
In tandem with one of its Our Family Foundation’s primary missions of eradicating hunger is Ahold USA’s waste reduction effort, which leads with a bold goal to reach zero by 2020, “meaning at least 90 percent of our waste is diverted from landfills and incineration to other uses,” Rizkallah explains. This includes the expansion of organic recycling programs, and the identification of new opportunities for recycling cardboard and plastic.
To wit: Ahold USA divisions have to date reduced the number of disposable bags by 447 million, compared with the 2011 baseline, says Rizkallah, who notes the company’s wider goal of upping that number to 1 billion bags by 2015. The company is also working with cashiers and baggers to further reduce the number of bags used by ensuring they’re properly filled, which he says is one of the single best ways to encourage customers to curtail wastefulness.
“We’re big on energy conservation across the company,” Rizkallah declares. The company’s commitment to reducing its total carbon footprint by 20 percent by 2015 is “a primary tenet of Ahold USA’s main corporate responsibility priorities, and … helps us minimize our impact on the environment while at the same time making operations more efficient,” he adds.
Without question, Ahold USA’s demonstrated, ongoing commitment to the communities and neighborhoods its stores serve on a daily basis, coupled with its pioneering leadership in the green building movement, is vividly evidenced by a variety of environmental leadership accolades, including recognition by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as the eighth-largest green-power purchaser among retailers, as well as No. 7 on EPA’s Top 20 retail list and No. 30 on its national Top 50 list of green-power purchasers. According to EPA, Ahold USA’s green-power purchasing is equivalent to eliminating the carbon dioxide emissions of more than 20,000 passenger vehicles per year, or pulling the plug on the electricity usage of nearly 13,000 average American homes annually.
Its eco-minded diligence, notes Rizkallah, has enabled the company to purchase more than 149 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of green power annually via renewable energy certificates (RECs) and self-generated green power from its on-site renewable energy systems. Since 2008, Ahold USA has been developing its renewable- and clean-energy portfolio, which includes roof-mounted solar photovoltaic systems and a fuel cell project at a Stop & Shop in Torrington, Conn., which consumes natural gas to produce electricity and waste heat. The electricity generated provides 95 percent of the store’s annual electricity requirements, and the waste heat offsets the gas consumption required to heat the air and provide hot water for the store.
Nurturing the Promise, Powering the Charge
Further evidence of the company’s continuing quest to illuminate its green cred can be seen in six of its recent stores having earned Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. Ahold USA ranks as having the largest number of LEED-certified stores among U.S. grocery retailers, with more to follow.
“We have made, and continue to make, major investments in renewable energy sources,” says Rizkallah, who’s leading the charge to further lighten Ahold USA stores’ energy loads with LED lighting, energy-efficient refrigerated cases and other eco-friendly retrofitted equipment, all of which netted $41 million in electricity savings in 2013. He also spearheads related grass-roots action in stores via “mini conservation initiatives that encourage everyone to play a role. We’re looking at healthy communities from all aspects,” affirms Rizkallah, an architectural engineer by training who’s a natural fit for his influential and wide-reaching role.
Despite these achievements, when asked about the significance of the impressive strides Ahold USA has taken in its eco-conscious approach, Rizkallah is the picture of modesty: “We’re not doing these things for publicity or awards; we genuinely believe it’s just the right thing to do.”