Industry Partners

UNFI Gets Nod of Approval on Climate Goals

Company commits to significantly reduce emissions across its operations and value chain
Illustration courtesy of UNFI

United Natural Foods Inc., which reported what the company called "historic" financial results for the second quarter of fiscal 2022 in March, received welcome news May 25 regarding the company’s climate goals. UNFI announced that its climate goals have been validated and approved by the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi)—making UNFI among the first North American wholesale grocery distributors to adopt these targets, the Providence, R.I.-based UNFI said in a May 25 statement. The company said its 2030 Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) agenda, Better for All, is a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and waste and make progress on other key ESG priorities.

“Climate change continues to pose a serious threat to our planet, and UNFI is committed to taking bold action on environmental issues and investing in opportunities to reduce our emissions,” said UNFI CEO Sandy Douglas in a statement. “Through adoption and pursuit of these science-based targets, UNFI is proud to help lead the North American wholesale and grocery distribution industry, and humbly recognizes the critical importance of coordinated and rapid decarbonization.”

UNFI’s emissions reduction targets approved by the SBTi are consistent with levels required to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, the wholesaler said in a statement.

“We are excited to take the next step in our emissions reduction journey by having our targets validated by SBTi, but we know we can’t accomplish these goals alone,” said Alisha Real, UNFI director of Sustainability and Social Impact, in a statement. “We take the need for business accountability in solving this global challenge seriously and look forward to engaging our value chain in these important efforts.”

UNFI said the three validated targets below are based on a fiscal 2020 emissions base year and fiscal 2030 emissions target year.

Operations targets:

  1. Reduce scope 1 and 3 heavy freight well-to-wheel GHG emissions from transportation by 38% on an intensity basis.
  2. Reduce absolute scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions from all other emission sources by 50%.


UNFI said its fleet of more than 2,000 owned and leased trucks makes 1.37 million deliveries to more than 30,000 customer locations each year. The wholesaler said in a statement that these deliveries are facilitated through UNFI’s 56 distribution centers, which represent approximately 30 million square feet of warehouse space. Together, UNFI said distribution centers, retail, fleet, and all refrigerant emissions account for less than 5% of UNFI’s total Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions.

Value chain target:

3. Reduce absolute scope 3 GHG emissions from purchased goods and services by 25%.

UNFI said it purchases nearly 300,000 products from more than 12,000 suppliers and growers, accounting for around 90% of total Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions. To promote reductions, UNFI said it created the Climate Action Hub to provide tools and resources, including opportunities for suppliers and vendors to learn from experts and each other. UNFI said it was also created “to innovate and scale climate solutions across the food system. Hub visitors will find resources such as a Climate Action Guide which provides tips on how to advance their own emissions reduction work.”

Courtney Pineau, executive director at The Climate Collaborative, said in a statement that UNFI’s commitment to "reducing their emissions, including their Scope 3 emissions, sets a strong precedent in the food industry." Working in collaboration with its network of suppliers, she said, UNFI is "helping to activate and support much-needed climate action."


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