Caring for the planet and its people has always been important to Woolworths. They consolidated all their efforts to support both people and planet under one programme in 2007, which they called their Good Business Journey. Through this programme they have learnt how to tread more lightly on the earth and contribute to issues affecting all South Africans.
Since 2007 Woolworths have learnt a lot and made a few mistakes. They have also made significant progress to achieve their targets. Based on their success, Woolworths have reviewed the programme and set ambitious new targets through to 2015.
One of the things they have learnt is that, together with customers, suppliers and business partners, they can deliver greater sustainability, to benefit both the environment and the people they support through business.
Focus areas were prioritised by considering the key social and environmental concerns facing South Africa, to make the greatest difference to their business and our country.
From farming through to transformation initiatives
Woolworths found that the six areas contributing most to sustainability are:
- sustainable farming,
- protecting water supplies,
- reducing energy use,
- improving the management of waste,
- making a significant contribution to social development and
- supporting transformation initiatives.
In addition, the key shift will be relating to the life cycle of their products. They will concentrate on key interventions that result in the greatest sustainability, from supplier through to end user. Experience has shown, for example, that the major consumption of water is in growing food, while more energy is used by their customers in the care of their clothing (washing, ironing and drying) than in its production!
This is why they have shifted the focus from their own operations, to include their customers and suppliers.
Woolworths collaboration with customers, suppliers and partners will focus on the following targets and commitments through to 2015:
Own operations – water down 50%, energy 40 and zero waste
- Maintain Level 4 BEE contributor status
- Reduce relative water use by 50% in stores and municipal use by 70% in head office
- Zero waste to landfill
- Reduce relative energy use by 40% (from our 2004 benchmark)
- Reduce carbon by 20% per distributable unit
- Continue to invest in World Wide Fund for Nature’s (WWF) water balance programme
- Include significant clean energy and fuels in our distribution centres and stores
- Roll out green store model
Customer footprints are of great importance
- 60% of products will have a sustainability attribute (100% by 2020)
- 50% of clothing will have an energy or water saving attribute
- 50% of food will be healthy food options
- All product packaging will be recyclable
- 50% of food packaging will contain recycled content
- Recycling will be available at 120 locations
- Reduce foods plastic bag usage by 50%
- Contribution to education to be increased to R50m per year
Suppliers greening up fast
- Save 30% of fresh water used in irrigation through Farming for the Future
- 50% of food will be Farming for the Future
- 12% of fibres used in clothing will be sustainable
- Improve biodiversity management through palm oil, fish, wine and Farming for the Future
- Ensure that animal welfare policies and practices exceed legal requirements
“Our Good Business Journey is key to our strategy. It is a significant competitive advantage for Woolworths and it is part of the essence of our brand. It has also positioned Woolworths as a responsible investment choice both locally and internationally. With the support of our suppliers, customers and partners I believe we can do a lot more to support both planet and people through our products. I believe the targets we have set ourselves through to 2015 are the most ambitious and comprehensive in the retail sector,” said Justin Smith, head of sustainability at Woolworths.