We have always had a clear view on the improvement opportunities for major sustainability topics. In 2021, we formalized our Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) approach and performed our first official materiality assessment. To learn more about effective approaches, we have chosen a group of internal stakeholders for this first assessment. For 2022, we are considering broadening this group of stakeholders. Our target group consisted of the top 50 managers, members of the Dutch and Belgian Works Councils, and the Management Board. The results confirmed that the topics we have been focusing on are in line with what these groups find important. We have made sure we have covered these topics results in the Go Green, People, and Governance chapters of this report.
The members of the target group were asked to rate Environmental, Social, and Governance topics based on Importance and Impact, which they could rate on a 5-point scale. The average of these ratings determined the topic’s position in the materiality matrix.
Impact: The first scale on which the topics were rated was the impact a topic can have on Coolblue’s economic, environmental, and social performance.
Importance: Importance forms the second scale on which the topics were rated. Here, we assess of how much ethical importance a topic is to the target group.
Reducing energy consumption
We make an effort to reduce our energy consumption and ensure that the energy we do use is as green as possible.
Reducing our own energy consumption
Our warehouse has a solar roof the size of 16 soccer fields, making it one of the largest solar roofs in the Netherlands. The energy it generated in 2021 was enough to make the 88,000m2 warehouse close to energy neutral.
Renewable energy contracts
For the energy we use in our daily operations, and do not generate ourselves the way we do in our warehouse, we aim to use energy which is as green as possible. Therefore, all our buildings in the Netherlands of which we own the energy contracts are supplied with renewable energy via Coolblue Energy. This energy is generated by Dutch solar panels and wind turbines.
Reducing our customer’s energy consumption
We can reduce energy consumption much more if we help all our customers do the same. For this reason, we offer advice for energy-efficient products, provide customers with energy, and help them generate their own.
Coolblue’s Green Choice
To help customers in their search for an environmentally conscious product, we have the Coolblue’s Green Choice label. We use this label on our website, in our app, and in our stores with products that our experts have identified as the best green choice for our customers. These products have a relatively low energy consumption and the best customer reviews, allowing customers to always make a green choice that makes them happy.
Generating and using own energy
Besides energy-efficient products to help reduce energy consumption, we sell and install solar panels via our Coolblue Solar proposition. This enables customers to generate their own renewable electricity. They can use their self-generated energy to charge their means of transport as well, because we also sell and install charging stations. And if they need to charge their car somewhere else, they can do so with the charge card we supply.
Coolblue Energy is the energy company for anyone who wants to reduce their energy consumption. We offer renewable energy and CO2-compensated gas throughout the Netherlands. This, in combination with our knowledge of the energy consumption of products, allows us to provide Coolblue Energy customers with advice to further reduce their energy consumption. We explain for example how replacing an old freezer in the shed can save a significant amount of energy and money on an annual basis.
We do not just give advice about reducing their energy consumption, but also provide Coolblue Energy customers with an opportunity to follow up on it. In an online portal available to just these customers, they can obtain energy-efficient products from the Coolblue assortment at a discounted price.
We aim to minimize waste throughout the product journey, such as by using as little packaging material as possible. At the same time, we maximize the amount of sustainable materials we use, both in our packaging and in the manufacturing of products for our own private label BlueBuilt.
At the end of 2021, we installed 2 new machines in our Warehouse that will help reduce our cardboard consumption. They tailor the cardboard packaging to the exact size of medium and large products, thus reducing the amount of cardboard required. Moreover, we have started using paper-based tape to further reduce the amount of plastic we use.
No additional packaging
Some products, such as vacuums and printers, already come in sturdy packaging. As a result, there is no reason for us to pack it for transport. In 2021, we sent 25% of our orders without additional packaging.
We have reviewed our fully blue packaging and shifted to a design that is still recognizably Coolblue, but more sustainable. This allowed us to stop using bleached paper and start using a higher percentage of recycled cardboard for 96% of our packages. All other paper and cardboard we use carries the trademark for responsible forestry, the FSC certification.
Paper shipping bags
In 2020, we introduced the paper shipping bag for smaller products that do not need to be wrapped in cardboard. This bag requires significantly less cardboard, making it a more environmentally friendly way of packing. As a bonus, this also allows us to load products more efficiently in our delivery bikes, so we can deliver more orders during a single bike ride. To maximize the number of orders we can pack this way, we will install our first automated paper bag machine in 2022. It will greatly improve the speed at which we can pack smaller products, which in turn supports the rapid growth of our bike delivery network.
BlueBuilt is our private label brand, through which we offer responsibly sourced, high-quality products. We design these products based on customer feedback and create them using low-impact materials that in addition require little to no additional packaging.
Decreasing CO2 Emissions
We aim to reduce our CO2 emissions in the delivery phase of the product journey as best we can. For example by delivering more orders by bike and using as little energy or fuel as possible. And what we do need to use, we make as green as possible.
Our delivery network constantly expands. In 2021, we identified various opportunities to further reduce our CO2 emission related to deliveries.
CoolblueBikes is our greenest delivery proposition. This last mile delivery proposition with 144 active bikes has virtually no emission. It delivers up to 90% of the parcel-sized orders in 27 of the largest cities in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany. In 2021, we delivered 1.3 million products via this last-mile delivery method and saved 391 tonnes of CO2 emission.
We reduce our CO2 emission for CoolblueDelivers by planning the most efficient routes to drive. Additionally, we ensure that we visit customers when it suits them by offering time slot selection. We even send a text message 15 minutes before we arrive, so the customer knows exactly when we will be at their door. As a result, we nearly never have to visit a customer a second time.
We conducted a pilot with biofuel in 2021. This pilot has been so successful that our Dutch delivery and installation fleet of over 180 vans will have shifted entirely to biofuels in 2022. These biofuels have a 90% lower emission rate than regular diesel, meaning that we will significantly reduce the exhaust of this delivery proposition. Once the roll-out in the Netherlands has been completed, we will look into making this possible for CoolblueDelivers in Belgium and Germany as well.
Extending product life cycles
Go Green goes further than a product’s delivery. We actively provide assistance in prolonging a product’s life cycle through information, maintenance assistance, and repairs. Once a product has reached the end of its initial life cycle, we aim to recover as much value from it as we can via refurbishment and recycling.
Information and advice
To ensure that customers enjoy their products to the fullest, we create advice content about the installation, efficient use, and timely maintenance of products. In total, we offer close to 2,000 of such advice articles. They also include instructions for simple repairs, which the customer can perform themselves. In addition, we started to send push notifications with maintenance reminders, such as for descaling the coffee machine. This way, customers can enjoy their product for longer. And it reduces unnecessary returns.
While we have a relatively low return ratio at Coolblue, returns are an inherent part of the product journey. Some returns are still unopened or undamaged, meaning that they can be resold as new. Products that have been opened or show slight signs of usage are sold as Second Chance products on our website. This approach allowed us to resell over 90% of the products returned to our warehouse in 2021.
To further optimize the amount of returned products that can be reused, we have a dedicated value recovery team. They repair products by taking components of other returned products, thus making optimum use of the available materials. Products repaired this way are sold on our website at a discounted price.
We help customers enjoy their product longer by offering repair services should it break down. We offer these services in our stores and started repairing various white goods appliances at customers’ homes.
Tablet & phone repairs
In all of our Dutch and Belgian stores and via our website, we offer a repair service for a large variety of devices. Our CoolblueRepairs staff is trained in-house, which offers advice experts an interesting growth opportunity. In 2021, we repaired 29% more devices than in 2020.
Repairs at home
Usually, the product journey of white goods starts with the breaking down of an already owned appliance, too large for the customer to carry in for repairs. If the appliance was still relatively energy efficient, however, it would be a waste to already replace it. That is why we introduced a step before the purchase of a new appliance: our Repairs at Home proposition. In 2021, we grew to over 400 repairs at customers’ homes per month.
A product that has stopped working may still contain operational elements. We examine the phones and white goods we take in and create refurbished products from those elements.
We want to make reuse of mobile devices as easy and interesting as possible. To this end, we give customers a discount on new mobile devices if they hand in their old device. And if possible, we refurbish the old device to give it a second life.
White goods refurbishment
When we deliver a new household appliance, we take the old appliance with us as a service. This makes us the largest party to take in white goods in the Benelux. By refurbishing these appliances, we create restored appliances that are sold at a reduced price. In 2021, we expanded this proposition and refurbished almost 12,000 appliances, which means 812,000 kilograms worth of appliances that had otherwise been discarded.
If we truly cannot repair or refurbish a product, we opt for recycling at the highest grade possible. At our depots and warehouse, all our waste is separated into recyclable flows. In 2021, 92% of our waste was recycled.