Giant Eagle’s meteoric rise from 16th place in the 2019 ranking to 1st this year is a testament to the bold actions the company has taken since then. In December 2019, the retailer ambitiously committed to eliminate all single-use plastics by 2025. For Giant Eagle to succeed, it must move swiftly and engage its suppliers to ditch plastics and invest in reuse, refill, and package-free alternatives.
Policy: Giant Eagle’s public commitment is to eliminate all single-use plastics by 2025, solidly placing it ahead of all other retailers for this category. The retailer is developing sustainable packaging supplier guidelines. Giant Eagle must prioritize eliminating packaging units, not switching from one single-use material to another; scaling up reuse, refill, and packaging-free alternative; and releasing a more detailed policy with time-bound benchmarks.
Reduction: Giant Eagle kicked off its commitment by banning plastic checkout bags in a subset of its stores and offering paper options for grocery delivery and pickup, for a charge. Unfortunately, like too many retailers, Giant Eagle paused its checkout bag initiative and does not permit reusable bags, citing the pandemic. That should hopefully change this year. The retailer is also engaging its suppliers on alternative packaging options and is prioritizing phasing out unrecyclable plastics (e.g., with Resin Identification Codes #3–#7).
Initiatives: Unlike all other retailers, Giant Eagle earned a passing score in this category, albeit barely. It is engaging its suppliers to achieve its 2025 goals, working across the grocery retail industry to develop solutions to reduce packaging, and engaging local elected officials on its efforts to ditch single-use plastic checkout bags. Giant Eagle must scale up reuse and refill options, demand action from large suppliers like Nestlé, and support bold initiatives like the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act and a global plastics treaty.
Transparency: Giant Eagle scored better than several retailers in this category, but it didn’t finish in the top three. Like many retailers, Giant Eagle is evaluating its plastic packaging footprint. It should publicly share this information and provide annual updates on its progress toward its 2025 goals.