Woolworths hosted a sustainability event at its head office this week, inviting industry partners to discuss the challenges and opportunities of moving to a circular economy.
The event included global perspectives on sustainable retailing from Peter Skelton from WRAP UK, while Craig Reucassel from ABC’s War on Waste facilitated a panel of industry leaders comprising Harris Farm Markets Co-CEO Angus Harris, Visy Australia & Pratt Industries Executive Chairman Anthony Pratt, Woolworths Supermarkets Managing Director Claire Peters, Unilever Australia and New Zealand CEO Clive Stiff and Planet Ark Australia Foundation Paul Klymenko.
There was also a presentation from a young scientist, Angelina Arora from Sydney Girls High School, who has developed a bioplastic made from shrimp shell to help address the world’s growing plastic problem.
Woolworths Group CEO Brad Banducci says there has been a shift towards more sustainable attitudes from Woolworths’ customers in the past year, “with recent research showing a 15 per cent increase in Australians now saying that taking care of the planet is important to them”.
Woolworths announced a number of new sustainability initiatives during the event, including a phase-out of the sale of plastic straws (a move that the retailer claims will save 134 million plastic straws from going into circulation each year), further reductions in plastic packaging in fruit and vegetables, and the launch of a new reusable shopping bag.
With the nationwide phase-out of single-use plastic shopping bags on June 20, Woolworths Supermarkets will offer a new green reusable shopping bag – with a lifetime replacement offer – for customers to purchase. All money made from the sale of the ‘Bag for Good’ in FY19 will go towards the Junior Landcare grants program.
Woolworths has also committed to having a food-waste diversion partner for each of its stores by the end of 2018. On the packaging front, Woolworths is leading the establishment of a new Packaging Coalition Roundtable bringing together government, NGOs and key industry partners including Unilever, Nestlé, Simplot, Visy and the Australian Packaging Covenant to find ways to move towards a circular economy in Australia.
“While we’ve made progress in reducing the amount of plastic in our stores, supported recycling labelling initiatives and made improvements in energy efficiency, sustainable sourcing and reducing food waste, we know that more needs to be done to meet our customers’ expectations,” Mr Banducci said.
“These initiatives represent further small, but important, steps in our commitment to make positive change happen. We understand the journey towards a more sustainable future has its challenges, but together with our customers and industry partners we are committed to moving our business, our country and our planet towards a greener future.”