Here, on what used to be a farm in Jutland, the first of Coop's afforestation projects will be implemented.
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Ten forests will help Denmark’s largest retail group to become climate positive

The supermarket chain Coop with 1,100 Danish stores is working intently to become climate positive. Several afforestation projects will contribute to realise the ambition. NIRAS consults Coop on the international standards that apply to climate compensation.

19. Aug 2020

Denmark's leading grocery group Coop has launched a large-scale climate and nature project, which will provide the Danish population with 10 new folk forests and help make Coop a climate positive company by 2030. The first forest project will be on a former agricultural area in Jutland. In overall terms, the ambition with the afforestation project is to achieve approx. 400 acres of new forest by 2030.

Coop’s folk forests will be planted with a focus on biodiversity, and the areas will evolve into attractive recreational spaces for the general public to use for walks and different kinds of activities. Coop will achieve their climate compensation when the trees in the forest absorb from the air. This way COOP will guarantee a reduction with their afforestation projects.

“In 2020 we will have the foundation for the calculations of the absorbed  in place, and in the spring of 2021 we will establish the forest in Idomlund. The following years we will further establish 9 different forests in different locations in Denmark. Forests are special because in addition to them being beneficial to the climate, they also greatly contribute to foster communities, and bring much joy to our 1,8 million members and the rest of Denmark,” says Peter Svendsen, Head of Climate Action in Coop and responsible for the activities regarding Coop’s folk forests.

Coop crosses the finish line with climate compensation

Obviously, when a retail group with 1,100 stores and 40,000 employees wants to become not only CO2-neutral but also climate positive, it is not enough in itself to raise forests. Coop is working persistently to reduce its direct CO2 emissions by 75% in 2025. The methods are energy efficiency improvements, heating with heat pumps, decommissioning of old refrigeration systems, purchasing electric company cars, and buying green electricity.

However, to reach the goal of becoming climate positive in operations by 2030, calculations show that Coop needs to pick up 9% CO2 reductions outside the company's boundaries. This is where the ten afforestation projects come in. Coop's public forests will provide a positive climate effect, which compensates for the last 9% - so-called climate compensation.

“It is nice to see that there are still more and more Danish companies, who prioritise efforts that benefit the global climate and contribute to the Paris Agreement. Companies take on responsibility and reduce as much as they can within their own areas,” says Morten Pedersen from NIRAS, who is an expert in climate compensation and consultant on the project.

Large-scale CO2 offsetting is still new in Denmark

NIRAS consults Coop on how to ensure that the afforestation projects contribute to their efforts towards climate positivity through CO2-offsetting. Calculating the amount of absorbed CO2 and monitoring the climate projects is a complicated affair. Also getting the climate credits officially recognised - e.g. by CDP (Carbon Disclosure Projects) – is an extensive journey with a lot of uncertainty along the way.

 “Two to three years after the first trees have been planted, we can start measuring how much CO2 has been absorbed so far. The result for Coop is carbon credits, which they can use to achieve CO2 neutrality or resell to other companies. It also benefits Denmark's overall climate accounts, so my hope is that more companies start using the option of climate compensation in addition to their own CO2 reductions,” says Morten Pedersen.

Coop is raising the first folk forest in an area near Holstebro, Denmark, which has been used for ecological farming for the last couple of years. Here Coop has purchased 113 hectares of land in cooperation with a partner (Hedeselskabet), who has many years of experience with afforestation, operation, and development of forests.