Group Review

PLANET: for a healthy Australia

Woolworths operates in a world where consumer demand and competitive pressures are increasing. At the same time, we want to play our part in alleviating environmental pressures and mitigating climate change. Our challenge is to use natural resources even more efficiently and still meet our business goals. We will do this through innovation, collaboration and engagement.


Over the last eight years, Woolworths has invested in energy efficiency improvements to meet our challenging 2015 target to reduce carbon emissions from stores, distribution centres and offices by 40%. Our goal was to bring facilities emissions back to the baseline year of 2006/07, despite growing our business. We tackled this by focusing on energy efficiency, particularly in new and refurbished stores, which are 30% more energy efficient than those we opened in 2008. We met our goal in 2015 and maintained this achievement in 2016.

A key focus area will be refrigeration in more than 1,000 stores with refrigeration systems. We will increase our use of natural refrigerants as we move towards replacing HFC refrigerants with HFC-free or hybrid systems; and reduce refrigerant leakage to our target level of a 15% reduction of CO2-e below 2015 levels.

Innovative projects

From our continued investment into energy efficiency, we have developed a good understanding of the approaches needed to reduce energy use. We integrate energy efficiency into the way we build and refurbish stores and we roll-out efficiency improvements to existing stores. We are implementing new innovative projects to improve reporting and planning to further reduce energy use.

Project Enlighten, a technology-based energy efficiency project that we rolled out over 18 months from early 2015, has so far saved 157,000MWh and $24 million from a capital investment of $81 million. The project invested in improving lighting, refrigeration and air conditioning.

We have now begun the next phase of our energy efficiency drive, focusing on end-to-end energy management. Project Navitas will bring together performance data from the lighting, refrigeration and air-conditioning initiatives we undertook during Project Enlighten into a single dashboard visual display system to improve our reporting and planning. We are also establishing an Energy Management Centre of Excellence.

Renewable energy

Under Project Enlighten, we invested $2.3 million in installing more than 4,000 rooftop solar panel systems at our Supermarkets, BIG W, liquor stores and petrol sites across all mainland states and territories. During FY16, these sites generated 1,560MWh.

carbon emissions facilities

Emissions from company cars (tonnes of CO2-e)

Country 2013 2014 2015 2016
Australia 14,992 9,939 8,654 8,860
New Zealand 1,936 1,898 1,926 1,987
Total 16,928 11,837 10,580 10,847

During 2015/16 we continued our commitment to reduce the carbon footprint of our company car fleet, with emissions more than 40% below our 2007 baseline. Fuel efficiency will continue to be an important consideration when selecting vehicles for our fleet.


As part of our focus on sustainable water consumption, we collected 22ML of rainwater at nine distribution centres and used it to replace potable water in truck washing, cooling towers, toilets and gardens.

Our largest impact on water usage is through the Woolworths supply chain. We will continue to help our largest water-using suppliers to assess their risks and opportunities and build their capacity for managing water security, environmental impacts and drought resilience.


Managing waste is a key corporate responsibility focus for Woolworths. We remain committed to targets of moving towards zero food waste to landfill and reducing the volume of recyclable materials that are not recycled. As well as addressing these challenges in our business, we see it as our responsibility to support the role our customers can play.

In 2016, we invested in improving our waste data management, leading to higher accuracy in waste data that is helping us to better measure our performance and make more informed decisions.


In FY16, the amount of waste we sent to landfill increased slightly by 5%. However, the volume of materials that we recycled or diverted from landfill increased by 11%. These results reflect both accounting changes and our increased diversion of waste from landfill.

  2013 2014 2015 2016
Materials diverted from landfill 227,314 251,244 246,659 274,930
Waste to landfill 131,069 107,011 107,429 112,265

    Note: Waste to landfill data is only from Australian Supermarkets, New Zealand Supermarkets and BIG W.


During our annual audit of the waste streams for 26 Australian Woolworths Supermarkets during FY16, we found:

  • Plastic film increased from 0.9% to 1.37% (target is below 1%)
  • Volume of recyclable cardboard increased from 1.08% to 1.64% (target is below 1%)

We are working on improving our results with a Resource Recovery Roadshow for stores and new training and education materials.

Our resource efficiency trends

More than half of Woolworths’ waste stream is waste food. We will continue to move towards zero food waste to landfill by increasing our stores’ access to diversion options and encouraging them to separate food waste into organics bins. We want to reduce the amount of food waste that we send to landfill every year.

We have introduced commercial food recycling services to 200 more stores over the past 12 months. We have also launched a new end-to-end stock-loss initiative – Faster, Fresher Food – and are continuing our ongoing program of donating food to farmers and food rescue charities such as OzHarvest, Foodbank, FareShare and SecondBite.

By the end of FY16, more than 95% of Woolworths Supermarkets – which account for 85% of Woolworths’ food waste generation – had access to at least one food waste diversion option. We will continue to expand this program to cover more stores across the Group.

Supermarkets – diverting food from landfill

Australia and New Zealand 2016 Number 2016 %
Supermarkets with commercial food recycling program 584 50%
Supermarkets with farmers’ donation program 752 65%
Supermarkets with food rescue charities program 913 79%
Supermarkets with at least one food recovery program 1,131 97%
Total all Supermarkets 1,161  

We have designed our Hearts and Minds program to educate employees about the why, what and how of separating organic and non-organic waste. All our stores now have colour-coded bins and display materials.

The training program includes a training guide for managers, interactive activities and e-learning. We are encouraging continuous learning through a customised app that is gamified and by communicating improvement overall and by store.

Stores are incentivised to compete against each other in a league table.

seperation of organic waste
seperation of organic waste

Packaging plays a key role in the retail supply chain. It protects the significant investment that we and our suppliers have made in growing, processing and transporting the products on our shelves and ensures they are delivered safely to customers’ kitchens. It also plays a role in brand marketing.

Own Brand packaging

When we design the packaging for Woolworths’ Own Brand products, the key elements are protection, accessibility, recyclability, recycled content and brand messaging.

We try to use our packaging as efficiently as possible. In August 2016, we eliminated polystyrene trays from our Macro Organics supply network, using compostable or recyclable plastic trays instead.

Another packaging reduction initiative is for semi-loose organic produce, where we have replaced trays and plastic wrap with a band around the product for identification purposes.

We will continue to work with all our suppliers to actively pursue alternatives that reduce the amount of packaging or increase its recyclability.

Soft plastics

The soft plastic that packages many frozen products and bakery items cannot be recycled through Australia’s kerbside recycling program.

Woolworths partners with the REDcycle recycling program to keep it out of landfill and dispose of it responsibly.

REDcycle collects the plastic from dedicated bins at the front of 100 Woolworths' Supermarkets in Sydney and Melbourne and sends it to an Australian processor to make plastic park furniture. Since we began the partnership in 2015, we have disposed of 190 tonnes of plastic this way, equivalent to 47.6 million pieces of packaging.

Responsible sourcing

Sourcing products that have been produced sustainably is a challenge for every retailer, especially for raw materials and goods in high risk categories and from high risk countries, where we have no direct oversight of the supply chain. However, more and more of our customers expect to be offered sustainably sourced product choices and supplying them is a key element in our ambition to be an industry leader in responsible sourcing.

We have set ourselves the target of sourcing key raw materials and commodities that are produced sustainably and independently certified. We have also committed to promoting behaviour change in our customers by raising their awareness of sustainably sourced products.


As a member of the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), Woolworths is a signatory to the CGF Deforestation Resolution of 2010 for achieving net zero deforestation by 2020. We have pledged to achieve this by ethically sourcing the relevant high-impact commodities, including palm oil, timber, pulp and paper, and packaging.

We are working towards a 2020 target of sourcing these products from independently certified sustainable supply chains. If this is not feasible, we will consider credible offsetting schemes.

Palm oil

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is a multi-stakeholder organisation comprising retailers, manufacturers, palm oil producers, traders and non-government organisations. It sets global standards for palm oil production and manages a certification scheme. In FY16, 100% of the palm oil in our Own Brand food products was RSPO-certified.

Paper and timber

We source all our Own Brand tissue, toilet paper and kitchen towel products from independently-certified, sustainable sources and use sustainably-produced paper for our catalogues and offices.

Catalogues are a key marketing tool for Woolworths. During 2015/16, we produced almost 950 million of them across our brands in Australia and New Zealand, using 52,201 tonnes of paper. All of it came from certified sustainable sources, either through the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certifications (PEFC).

Within our business, we procure more than 229,000 reams of paper for office use every year, all of it FSC-certified.

Across the Group, we saw a year on year decrease in paper usage in 2015/16, continuing an overall downward trend. This is due to a number of waste reduction initiatives such as using swipe cards to encourage staff to collect their printing rather than printing and forgetting.


Microbeads are micro-plastic particles (0.1-0.5 millimetres in size) added as exfoliates to personal care products such as body wash.

The particles are too small to be filtered out by many municipal wastewater treatment plants and can damage the local environment when they end up in rivers.

We have been working with our suppliers to phase out microbeads in Woolworths Own Brand skin care and body wash products. In 2015, we completed the phase-out for those products that are in production. Phasing out the products that are already produced and in stock will be completed by the end of 2016.

  1. For stores in FY16 compared to those opened in 2008.