Miguel Silva Gonzalez is senior vice president and treasurer at Ahold Delhaize, the Netherlands-based food retail group turning over 76 billion euro yearly across Europe and the US east coast. With a growing portfolio of sustainability-related debt instruments, his group has become one of the pioneers of the industry’s ESG finance innovation. For his treasury, this means a radically higher degree of involvement with the group’s ESG activities overall – and the details of their measure points.
After issuing the first euro denominated sustainability bond, the industry’s first sustainability-linked bond followed. And further, a sustainability-linked revolving credit facility came to win a prize from the Association of Corporate Treasurers.
In the group’s view, “the commitment to contribute to a better planet and provide healthier yet affordable food options for all” is not just an aim but also “one of our growth drivers”. The key lies in cooperation across all types of stakeholders, including consumers. From the treasury perspective, this also requires alignment within the corporation, as well as a meticulously set-up deal structure and KPI toolbox.
Long list of targets
The prime stakeholder is the customer – who usually wants to buy healthier food but often does not know how and who often can’t afford to do it very often.
Getting the key performance indicators (KPIs) and sustainability performance targets (SPTs) right is crucial. Within sustainability, Ahold Delhaize uses various nutritional scores, for example. Activities to grow the healthy share of sales include product selection, changing recipes on own-brand products, and price promotions. Further, with farmers and suppliers, partnerships have been established on biodiversity targets. In the operations, reducing food waste is central – by half until 2030. And, as is common, carbon emissions are tracked with a view to reaching net zero, across the operations by 2040 and through the full supply chain by 2050.
“We spent an inordinate amount of time thinking through the KPIs and SPTs. They must be ambitious and relevant, but at the same time achievable. So one challenge we struggle with is that they need to dynamically align with how the business actually evolves. For example, we define food waste as a percentage of sales. But then, how do you deal with acquisitions … when all of a sudden you add stores or whole businesses to your food waste target,” asks Miguel Silva Gonzalez.
Exposed to currency fluctuation
“Or how do you treat currency movements? What do they do to the numbers? Not so much at the at the end of the run in 2030, but in between, when investors are checking our progress, these things can have a material impact. We spent a lot of time thinking about the KPIs together with our ESG colleagues but some of these things just popped up, like the currency. None of us actually had any clue that this could move the needle.”
Treasury 360° Nordic 2022, on 9 June, gathered nearly 300 delegates at Clarion Hotel Copenhagen Airport, and 100 online.
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