29 January 2021

Guideline on water protection in the supply chain

Water is the basis of all life. There is a growing need for potable water in agriculture and production, and water pollution is increasing around the world. As a result, this resource is in short supply – posing a threat to humans, plants and animals. This is why the REWE Group wants to ensure that a sustainable water management system is in place throughout its supply chains.


Fresh water is distributed very unequally, both globally and seasonally, and climate change is exacerbating this problem. With population growth and increased usage, water consumption worldwide is rising by one percent each year. Seventeen countries, home to one-quarter of the world’s population, are suffering from “extremely high water stress” (Water Resources Institute 2019) – and as a result from food scarcity and conflicts as well. Then there is the problem of global water pollution from the pesticides, fertilisers, antibiotics and growth hormones that are used in agriculture, as well as the issue of industrial chemicals. In addition, 12.7 tonnes of plastic waste land in the world’s oceans every year. Throughout the REWE Group’s supply chains, water is consumed and polluted – in the cultivation of ornamental plants, fruits and vegetables, in fish farming, in the mining of natural stone, in timber and cotton production, in manufacturing paper, in the companies that process metal and plastic, in manufacturing cosmetics and in textile production.

Our goals

The REWE Group’s goal is to ensure that a sustainable water management system is in place throughout its supply chains and that fresh and salt water, as a natural resource and habitat, continue to be protected over the long term. The Group intends to increase water efficiency, minimise pollution and improve water treatment, as well as to continually monitor and limit the use of water in manufacturing. Another goal is to find ways to prevent water pollution. More attention is being given to water as it relates to specific product groups and raw materials. The relevant goals have been included in the guidelines for sustainable textiles and microplastics in cosmetic products, and in the REWE Group’s annual sustainability report.

Our measures

The REWE Group is taking a number of steps to achieve its objectives. For example, it is focusing on gaining certification from Fairtrade, Blue Angel, XertifiX and Cotton made in Africa. It has also launched a Green Production Programme for all non-food products, with an emphasis on Asian countries and companies that process metal and plastic. Audits are being conducted to determine where there are high levels of water use, and to achieve improvements by implementing action plans and providing training. Through the company’s detox programme for its clothing, shoe and household textile brands, the wastewater from factories and suppliers has been regularly tested for chemical contaminants since 2014, and processes have been upgraded and corrected. Plans have been put in place to find substitutes for dangerous chemicals, and training in wastewater management is being provided. In agriculture, the REWE Group is issuing precise guidelines for the use of pesticides and fertilisers, and it is monitoring compliance by testing for residues. To prevent microplastic contamination in bodies of water, the company is reducing the use of packaging materials and single-use plastic products. In the case of cosmetics, it is introducing standards for microplastics and dissolved, gel-like and liquid polymers and requiring that appropriate measures be taken.