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alt="Três pessoas juntas a sorrir" Três pessoas juntas a sorrir Together we made a difference Criança com o planeta Terra nas mãos Our Mission Rapariga com uma caixa com ervas aromáticas nas mãos Sustainability Initiatives Rapariga e rapaz a sorrirem com as mãos juntas Partners and institutional support
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Good environmental practices

iniciativas initiatives
Rapariga a sorrir a trabalhar numa horta
Year after year, our effort for a more sustainable future translates into concrete measures and tangible results. Whether in plastic reduction, promoting circular economy or energy transition, we have conquered important goals which motivate us to continue this path and achieve sustainability across the entire value chain.

Responsible use of plastic

Responsible use of plastic
Accelerating the transition towards a circular economy can only be done if everyone is involved — suppliers, retailers and consumers. This cycle starts with the design of recyclable packaging, with materials that can be recycled and later incorporated into new packages. It’s essential to avoid waste and guarantee that plastic doesn’t end up in the environment. The consumer plays a crucial role to ensure that, after use, the packages get the right destination and gain a new life.
Ana Alves | Director for Private Labels at Sonae MC

Sonae MC’s position regarding plastic is clear: it presents many advantages compared to other materials, regarding the protection and preservation of products, but also economically and in terms of environmental carbon footprint.

Right now, the challenge are to promote a responsible use of plastics — eliminating excessive usage, encouraging separation and recycling — and build a circular economy to extend the materials’ lifecycle and avoid their deposition in nature (soils, rivers and oceans) or incinerators as undifferentiated trash.


Our goal (anticipating the EU’s goal in 5 years) for:

  • Reducing or eliminating the use of plastic materials of fossil origin
  • Ensure reusable, recyclable or compostable packages

As an active promoter of conscious consumption habits, Continente has been implementing several measures according to its Strategy for the Responsible Use of Plastics. A multidisciplinary and transversal work group is currently focused on developing concrete solutions for a more responsible use of plastic, at several levels:

  • In the private brand
  • In terms of logistics
  • Among suppliers
  • Within internal operations
  • Raising awareness among consumers

This commitment aims to stimulate a circular economy, namely reducing the use of natural resources, promoting recycling, and finding economically viable alternatives to single-use plastic.

The implementation of the Strategy for the Responsible Use of Plastics

  • allowed us to
    achieve in 2020
  • 4,2 thousand tonnes of virgin plastic saved
    which means
  • 90% growth compared to the 2,2 thousand tonnes / year
    announced in April 2019

Recognition of our work

Ellen MacArthur Foundation 2020 Report

Annual report that states the progresses of the 400 organisations committed to the New Plastics Economy. In 2020, it mentions several factors that enhance Sonae MC’s recognition:

  • ✓ One of the best results in the world among subscribers
  • The best result among all retailers operating in Portugal
  • 4th company with highest percentage of reusable plastic incorporated in its packages (13,4%), ahead of companies like Starbucks e a Delhaize
  • 7th retailer with highest percentage of effectively reused, recycled or compostable packaging, ahead of Carrefour, Marks & Spencer e Walmart

The New Plastics Economy features the collaboration of the United Nations Environment Programme and is signed by more than 400 worldwide organisations that share the same vision: prevent plastic from becoming waste and accelerate the circular economy. Launched in 2018, this commitment inspires the definition of specific milestones according to common goals: anticipate the European goals (established for 2030) to 2025 with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Divided in phases, the main ambitions of this global commitment are:

  • Eliminating unnecessary plastic objects
  • Redesigning packages
  • Investing in innovation so that all plastic can be reusable, recyclable or compostable
  • Ensuring all plastic is used in a circular manner and dissociated from consumption of finite resources

Sonae MC was the first Portuguese retailer to sign the New Plastics Economy commitment.

Recognition of our work

“Recognition of Practices in Social Responsibility and Sustainability” APEE award

Awarded by APEE (Portuguese Association of Business Ethics) and the Global Compact Network Portugal, this prize was delivered to the “Responsible Plastic Project” on the 15th Edition of Social Responsibility Week.

The distinction refers to the category of Sustainable Development Goal 12 (SDG), established by the United Nations until 2030: Sustainable Production and Consumption.

Ramo flores
We need to create a circular ecosystem for plastic. And to do that, we need everybody on board. At Continente, we’re still very much committed to promoting responsible use of plastic, and awards like these motivate us even more to keep on this track.
Pedro Lago | Director of Sustainability and Circular Economy Projects at Sonae MC

Initiatives to reduce / reuse plastic Initiatives to reduce / reuse plastic

Recyclability Iconography

In 2020, the Continente brand packages received something new.

Sonae MC, alongside with Sociedade Ponto Verde, is placing in all packages of the private label a set of detailed instructions on how to recycle each product (splitting bottle and lid, flattening the packages, draining yogurt bottles, etc.) and in which recycling point to place the packages.

With this initiative, Continente achieves 2 goals:

  • Communicate and raise awareness for the importance of recycling
  • Encourage each consumer to adopt an eco-friendly behaviour

Promoting more and better recycling is one of the Sociedade Ponto Verde’s main goals. This project we’ve been developing with Sonae MC gives packaging a greater potential for recyclability. On the other hand, it makes it simple and clear for the consumer to read the iconography related to selective separation. We achieved this through a complete technical work, with eco-friendly design tools from the Ponto Verde Lab project, an SPV initiative to improve package recycling. This included signal and message development for separation in the post-consumption phase, but also a new approach to conceiving and designing packages. When the package gets the message out there, we all win!
Isabel Trigo Morais | CEO/Chief Executive Officer of Sociedade Ponto Verde
The consumers designed with us!

The consumers designed with us!

Beyond the collaboration with Sociedade Ponto Verde, the iconography of Continente’s products was deeply studied with the help of our consumers, which were invited to design instructions for several typologies.

From colours to simple words and clear expressions, consumers helped define the most relevant information on how to recycle each product.

New sustainable bags with messages

New sustainable bags with messages

To promote more eco-friendly behaviours and remember what each of us can do for the planet, Continente launched a new shopping bag collection to inspire consumers with messages on good sustainability practices.

5 raffia bags in different sizes
1 isothermal bag with a zipper

Eco-friendly messages

The new collection is available on all stores across the country and inspires consumers to follow the R’s policy.

Also included in this collection: the already well-known recycled plastic bags from physical stores and Online Continente, and the recycled paper isothermal bags.

As Portugal’s retail leader, we have the responsibility to give the example and stimulate citizenship and good environmental practices. The “Continente Responsible Plastic” is an unequivocal example. With this mind, we believe shopping bags will become efficient means of dialogue with consumers. We’ll use them to illustrate what they can do, from the correct separation of materials for recycling to tips on how to reuse leftovers and avoid food waste.
Vítor Martins | Head of Environment at Sonae MC

Elimination of microplastics at MyLABEL

Continente eliminated microplastics from hygiene and beauty products of the private label. This decision extended to MyLABEL, an exclusive brand offering a range of more than 300 cosmetics care products for face, body and hair.

Microplastics are small particles (less than 5 millimetres), used to give opacity to transparent formulas and make them creamier, or applied to exfoliation products. They have a significant impact on the environment and are capable of absorbing toxic products such as pesticides or heavy metals. Its ingestion by marine animals can extend throughout the food chain to the human body.

Microplastics eliminated from cosmetic products are, in some cases, replaced by plant-based alternatives. In exfoliants, for example, the microspheres come from seeds of fruits such as apricots or cherries, instead of the usual polyethylene microspheres.

This Sonae MC initiative anticipates the government measure to stop commercialisation of cosmetics and detergents containing microspheres or microplastics.

We work closely with our suppliers to ensure the non-use of microplastics in our products and, whenever necessary, to replace them with plant-based alternatives that guarantee the same quality.
Tânia Lucas | Head of MyLABEL brand

New reusable charcuterie boxes

Pioneering yet another sustainable measure, Continente is promoting package reuse in the charcuterie and take-away sections of its stores. The idea is that the customers take their own box when they go shopping and avoid the unnecessary use of disposable plastic.

In 2020, we tested the pilot project in 3 Continente stores. Three models of hermetic boxes of different types and capacities will now be available for sale at the stores, replacing the current disposable boxes and plastic wrappings. This means that now, when customers get home, they don't have to transfer the products from supermarket packages to other containers and dispose of them (often without recycling) anymore.

The Continente employee weighs the product inside the box and subtracts the box weight. The barcode label is fixed to a card created for the purpose.

New reusable charcuterie boxes

New fishmonger bag

The Sea Wrap is a fishmonger bag with the purpose of reducing plastic in packages.

  • Made of 100% recyclable paper
  • Covered on the inside with a thin layer of polyethylene
  • Avoids liquid spills and guarantees full preservation

After removing the fish from the bag, the customer can separate the two materials from the package, placing paper in the blue recycling bin and plastic in the yellow recycling bin.

New fishmonger bag

Expected savings: Expected savings

  • 40% of plastic eliminated
    per year in fishmonger bags
  • 70 tonnes of plastic avoided
    per year
We are responsible for finding the best solutions for our packages, both in terms of product quality preservation and environmental sustainability. The packaging of fish meets specific criteria, which makes it difficult to change. We are happy for being able to develop this solution, which will allow us to save an additional 70 tonnes of plastic a year.
Pedro Lago | Director of Sustainability and Circular Economy Projects at Sonae MC

Environmentally responsible services

Environmentally responsible services

We continue motivated in finding alternatives that allow us to create a more sustainable future. We fulfil our commitment to plastic elimination and energy efficiency by investing in new solutions and leading processes of change and transformation.

Packaging deposit systems

Aligned with European goals and legal guidelines for recycling, Continente is already participating in pilot projects to prepare for the Deposit Return System (DRS), which will come into force by 2022 (Decree-Law 69/2018). These projects allow us to gain knowledge and experience of the system in commercial spaces like super and hypermarkets, before implementation.

Continente has Reverse Vending Machines (RVM) already installed in 24 stores throughout Continental Portugal. This equipment will be the basis of the future national deposit system for packages and beverages (plastic, glass and metal). It represents a convenient, fast and simple solution for the consumer.

With this system, it will be possible to recycle high quality plastic and maximise “material circularity” by incorporating recycled plastic in new bottles. The results of the activity of these machines in Continente stores couldn’t be more positive!

7,3 million collected packages
200 tonnes of PET plastic collected for recycling

With this initiative, we encourage citizens to adopt more a sustainable behaviour and contribute to recycling and use of new materials in plastic bottles — thus contributing for a circular economy.

Environmentally responsible services

Continente Plug&Charge

In 2020, Continente launched the country’s first Plus&Charge hubs in 3 stores. This simple and innovative service allows customers to charge electric vehicles with up to 200 km of autonomy in 1 hour, while shopping at the store.

The goal is to get national coverage with hundreds of charging stations, with a maximum distance of 100 km between hubs — which will be achieved in 2021.

Plus&Charge is restricted to customers who download the Continente Plus&Charge app and the Continente Card app. Those who make purchases over €30 and hold a Continente Card can also benefit from free charges with about 35 km autonomy.

This project intends to improve energy efficiency and environmental sustainability and to reduce the carbon footprint (a commitment made at the Paris Agreement signing). Installing electric charging stations is an investment covered by the financing of the European Investment Bank and the European Fund for Strategic Investments.

Our environmental performance

Our environmental performance

In 2020, we remained determined in protecting the environment, minimising the negative impacts of our activities, promoting good practices both internally and in the community, and improving our environmental performance.

64 environmental certifications in accordance with ISO standard 14001
(58 stores, 5 warehouses and 1 Meat Processing Centre)

Electricity generation from renewable sources: 18,874 MWh
8,870 tonnes of CO2 emissions avoided

3,9% reduction in the specific consumption of electricity per sales area (KWh/m2)
(same universe of stores)

6,2% reduction in the consumption of water
(same universe of stores)

76,7% of managed waste sent for recovery

“Environmentally Trusted Brand” award for the 11th consecutive year

Sustainability certifications

Increase in private label articles with sustainability certifications

  • Range of paper product including toilet paper, paper napkins with FSC - Forest Stewardship Council certification
  • Range of diapers with FSC certification
  • Aluminium coffee capsules of Café Continente Seleção with Rainforest Alliance certification
  • UTZ certification of the range of seasonal chocolates and chocolate tablets 200g
  • “Douradinhos” Continente with Marine Stewardship Council certification
  • Chain of Custody of Continente Fishmongers with Marine Stewardship Council and Aquaculture Stewardship Council certifications
  • Range of paper reams of the private label with 100% certified PEFC paper
  • Relaunch and expansion of the Continente ECO range with sustainable raw materials, biodegradable ingredients and recyclable and recycled plastic packages

Global results of plastic reduction

Global results of plastic reduction

+ 175 tonnes of plastic eliminated

  • Replacing all plastic straws for paper straws in juice and nectar packages = 35 million less plastic straws produced per year
  • Opening of 2 more plastic-free stores in the fruit and vegetables section
  • Change of packaging, with a cardboard strap, by the suppliers of bananas from Madeira and Canary Islands
  • 10 cm reduction in the height of cod bags
  • Change in the old bakery bags (paper + plastic) to 100% recyclable paper bags
  • Elimination of the plastic window from:
    • Cardboard boxes of the Açúcar Continente sticks
    • Cardboard boxes of Tampões Continente
  • Elimination of the plastic cover from the packaging of general cleaning wipes
  • Replacement of the Cotonetes Continente plastic box with a paper box
  • Replacement of plastic labels pins of textile and fabric footwear
  • Introduction of a bulk range in writing products of the private label, reducing the number of packages
  • Elimination of disposable plastics of single use, with all stores fully stocked with a range of paper parties

Global results of plastic reduction

486 tonnes of virgin plastic eliminated

  • Raffia shopping bag 100% recycled, 100% recyclable with a new design and new certification of component quality by RCS (Recycled Claim Standard)
  • Changes in the bag used to transport cash from the cashiers to the safe to an 80% recycled LDPE bag

Global results of plastic reduction

110 tonnes of problematic plastic replaced

  • Replacement of PP mushroom packaging
  • Elimination of the PVC Seal on Continente private label spice bottles
  • Elimination of the PVC tray in Continente Wafer Cookies
  • Replacement of the É Continente sweetener packaging with PP
  • Elimination of EPS packaging in Continente handmade ice cream
  • Replacement of the Continente salt packaging from PCV to PET
  • Continente Liquid PVC sleeve replacement
  • Continente skyr liquid yogurt PVC sleeve replacement
  • Replacement of PVC from Continente toothbrush blisters by PET
  • Replacement of PVC plastic with PET in Titucho packaging

Waste collection for recycling

The planet is our common home. It’s up to us all to do our part to preserve it. That’s why we are promoting the recycling of thousands of tonnes of waste every year. But we are also involving our customers in this process, encouraging responsible behaviour. This way we firmly carry on with an environmental performance of excellence.

In 2020, the following waste was collected for recycling:

Waste delivered by customers

72 tonnes of used cooking oil
72 tonnes of old auto batteries
503 tonnes of used clothes
25 tonnes of used batteries
33 tonnes of corks

Waste from the stores

37,706 tonnes of cardboard
2,548 tonnes of plastic
377 tonnes of styrofoam
814 tonnes of wood
10 tonnes of light bulbs
26 tonnes of hangers
42 tonnes of employee uniforms