In the early 1900s, a new movement arose: as fewer people farmed for themselves and relied on the food manufacturing industry to feed their families, the first seedlings of interest in the sourcing of their dinners were planted.
Today, this has become a full-on desire for ethical and sustainable awareness in our grocery stores, and with Aldi’s growing presence in the U.S., more and more Americans want to know: Is Aldi ethical? Well, here is the info you need.
Is Aldi Ethical?
Aldi holds itself to high ethical standards, and in many ways, the company succeeds. Practices such as local sourcing of food, reduced energy consumption, and paying employees well over the minimum wage show that Aldi takes its commitment to ethical operations seriously. No supermarket is perfect, but Aldi consistently strives to do better.
To learn more about the ways in which Aldi is environmentally friendly, how the company sources some of its most popular foods, and a breakdown of their treatment of employees, keep reading!
Is Aldi Environmentally Friendly?
You might expect a company like Aldi, which sells its products at a steep discount, to cut corners when it comes to its environmental practices. How else could they price items so low?
You’ll be happy to know this couldn’t be further from the truth. Here are some of the ways Aldi is actively working to become a more ethical company.
For one, Aldi recently released a Sustainability Charter outlining their “green vision,” which includes a diversion of 90 percent of their operational waste by 2025, a 50 percent reduction in food waste by 2030, and a 26 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.
Further, the company wants to make 100 percent of its private label packaging recyclable or compostable by 2025 and increase the sustainability of its sourcing practices (more on that further down).
Aldi has also embraced green building practices, installing the first wind turbine outside of its Dwight, Ill warehouse. The turbine provides clean energy and up to 40 percent of the warehouse’s electricity.
The stores themselves are either built with or have been renovated to incorporate LED lighting to save on power use, more energy-efficient coolers, and even solar rooftops.
Current Operational Practices
Aldi has trained its employees and customers to perform at peak efficiency, and it’s not just good for cutting costs.
Some of Aldi’s price-slashing behaviors are also good for the environment. For example, charging for bags encourages shoppers to bring their reusables, cutting paper, and plastic usage.
Aldi also limits their hours of operation, and only allowing people to shop between the hours of 9 a.m. and 8 or 9 p.m. reduces the amount of electricity used in each store.
Finally, though I touched on some of the specific green building features being installed into new stores, the fact that Aldi stores have always been smaller than their supermarket counterparts, with less warehouse space in the back, reduces utilities and the drain on power grids.
Where Does Aldi Source Its Fresh Meat And Produce?
Knowing where your meat comes from is a big deal because, for too long, there have been shady sourcing practices.
However, a lot of Aldi beef is actually sourced from local cattle farms.
The positive ethics of this are twofold: not only is Aldi supporting local and regional farmers who badly need the financial boost, but by sourcing close to individual stores, they reduce the amount of transport (and the materials to transport) necessary to get the meat from farm to store.
Fewer miles traveled by big semis means less fossil fuel consumption and fewer fuel emissions.
Likewise, some Aldi stores are able to source their produce from local farms.
Not all of Aldi’s fresh meat and produce come from nearby or even from the U.S., however; but per FDA regulations, food that does not come from the U.S. is plainly labeled to say from which country it has been imported.
Is Aldi Seafood Ethical?
Aldi ran into some bad press in 2017 when shoppers learned that seafood, specifically salmon, being sold in stores had possibly been processed by North Koreans working in Chinese factories, basically as slave labor.
Not only that, what little recompense the workers did receive was skimmed by the North Korean government so very little went to the employees and the majority went toward the North Korean nuclear missile program.
I’m happy to say, however, that since then, Aldi has cleaned up their act where the sourcing of their seafood is concerned.
The Ocean Disclosure Project, a nonprofit which monitors just that, shows the location of many Aldi-associated fisheries and includes information on how well they’re managed – and where they could be improved.
For example, there are two entries for sockeye salmon, both of which come from fisheries in the U.S. and both of which have been designated “well-managed.” In the notes section, the site even lists the sources from which they received the information.
If you’re interested in taking a closer look at where your supermarket seafood comes from, not just via Aldi, I recommend visiting them here.
How Does Aldi Treat Its Employees?
Finally, we have to look at Aldi’s treatment of its employees because it’s a little complicated and open to discussion.
Aldi compensates employees well above the federal minimum wage of $7.25; part-time stockers in my area start at $11.25 per hour.
Management earns excellent salaries, and Aldi’s benefits package is generous, with inexpensive healthcare plans and plenty of PTO/vacation.
However – Aldi is notorious for making their employees earn every penny. According to a Mashed article, “The grocery store has a reputation among its employees for working them to the point of exhaustion.”
Further, employees have complained of Aldi interfering with their lives on off days, expecting them to put their work first.
These are entirely believable allegations, but so far, I haven’t seen anything to suggest that Aldi is doing anything to address the complaints.
On another note, though not directly employed by Aldi, the supermarket chain has made strenuous efforts to ensure that laborers employed by international suppliers work under conditions that meet ethical standards (perhaps haunted by the North Korean debacle?).
Aldi’s corporate responsibility website addresses these issues, citing their social monitoring program and the specific issues related to Bangladesh, where in 2015 employees of a garment factory protested with sit-ins to obtain wages they had been illegally denied.
Aldi had ceased its partnership with the factory a year earlier, but the link between the two was still recent enough to merit an official response from both parent companies, Aldi Nord and Aldi Sud.
This no doubt has heightened Aldi US’s awareness of the implications of sourcing through Bangladeshi suppliers for textile imports. Since then, no untoward reports have been made.
Aldi continuously and innovatively strives toward improved ethical operations, whether it’s through regional and local sourcing of food stuff, green building practices, or fair pay.
Aldi has clearly set lofty environmental goals for themselves, a noble cause that we can all hope comes to fruition, but judging by my research, the company would do well to look inward, too, helping employees achieve a better work/life balance.