Skip to main content
Woolworths steps up the green offensive. What's the agenda?

Woolworths steps up the green offensive. What's the agenda?

Given that we spend a fair chunk of our time sledging supermarkets, it's only fair to acknowledge the work they actually do for good

Being cynical of big business motivation is not just a national sport in Australia. When it comes to banks and supermarkets though, we live in one of the most monopolised retail markets in the world so it's not surprising that motivation cynicism is one of our favourite occupations.

(In all fairness to consumers, if you have ever played Produce Roulette, ie: purchased fruit and vegetables from Woolworths, you be forgiven for wondering about their proclivity to dice with the truth, especially when you hear the jingle, "Woolworths, the fresh food people".

And surely the cynicism elephant stamp goes to the recent 10c added to a litre of milk - an amount passed on in full, to 'starving' farmers. Anyone older than four can of course remember when the price of milk literally halved in a supermarket price war. While the two big chains loudly protested that they would absorb the cost, no one was surprised when a year later the cost was passed on to farmers. So it seems that starving dairy farmers have a lot to thank the big supermarkets for when it comes to their waist lines as the generous 10c donation now only leaves them now about $1.90 per litre short of where they started. The upside of the milk shenanigans is action by some farmers even as it has cost other farmers their livelihoods. More farmers are going direct to consumers with their own stories, or banding together with food hubs to bypass the market stranglehold.)

Wow, that decent into cynicism didn't even take a sentence. 

Back to the What Woolworths Doing Good story. This morning a colleague passed on a Woolworths mailer, sent by Brad himself on World Environment Day. The mailer summarised a round up of greening activity Woolworths has achieved. And in all fairness, it's an impressive haul. Supermarket chains doing good however isn't just good news for what they have achieved, it's also the better news about how social pressure and retail relevance is driving these changes - and that is very positive for the planet. 

Here's Brad's message

"Last June we phased out the use of single-use plastic shopping bags nationally. This was a big change for all of us, and it has taken time to adjust. But thanks to our collective efforts, more than 3 billion single-use plastic bags have now been removed from the environment. This is just the start of the journey and we’ve also made progress on a number of initiatives over the past 12 months. 

  • 100% of our Supermarkets now have a food diversion program in place to keep food out of landfill
  • 10 million meals have been provided to Australians in need from the food rescued from our stores in the past 12 months, thanks to our hunger relief partners OzHarvest, FoodBank and FareShare
  • 535 tonnes of unnecessary plastic packaging has been removed from our fruit, vegetables and bakery products
  • We no longer sell plastic straws in our stores, which will remove 134 million from circulation every year
  • 538 schools and early learning centres nationwide have benefited from the first round of the Woolworths Junior Landcare Grants program to support the next generation with environmental projects
  • By the end of June, 76 of our supermarkets will have solar energy systems in place.

These initiatives are in addition to continuing to make things easier for our customers to recycle via our commitment to:

  • Placing the Australasian Recycling Label on our own brand products to help you understand how each part of the packaging can be recycled
  • Ensuring REDcycle facilities are in all our stores across the country so you can return soft plastics for recycling

What does it mean when big supermarkets go greenish?

The sheer magnitude of these numbers tells the story. The staggering difference that a chain like Woolworths can make by withdrawing one simple thing from sale - plastic straws, plastic bags - shows the size of the problem in the first place. 

The facts are that millennials are driving big business marketing and they are looking for corporate leadership in climate action. Woolworths knows that it has to respond to consumers and it's likely that plastic straw sales were in decline anyway. But even so, it's fair to say that any executive making the call to not stock plastic straws would have launched that initiative nervously. Recent financial reporting however suggests that the changes have not bought down the empire. Woolworths is the current duopoly market leader.

This success is very good news for environmentalists. Just like individuals who make simple life changes to be more sustainably responsible, we know that one little eco change leads to another and pretty soon being more sustainable part of a person's way of life. Woolworths are definitely showing signs of that possibility. As much as can be expected anyway. 

Woolworths has been rolling out new, more wholesome, less plastic look concept stores across Australia over the past 18 months. Heidleberg, in Melbourne was the latest to open on World Environment Day 2019. 

Just confirming. does not do any paid promotion. Woolworths have not sent us a press release and neither have we solicited one. We are not sponsored or supported by any retailers. Anyone actually.

Something incorrect here? Suggest an update below: