Sustainability Strategy

Woolworths Limited launched an industry leading Sustainability Strategy eight years ago, with ambitious targets and commitments to transform itself into a more sustainable business. The strategy focused on improving the efficiency of our operations, reducing waste and meeting customers’ expectations about responsible sourcing.

Sustainability Strategy




of targets and commitments achieved

The strategy set Woolworths as a leader amongst peers and the retail industry. Woolworths is developing a new Corporate Responsibility Strategy which will guide the business through to 2020.

Woolworths successfully completed 31 or 91% of the 34 key targets and commitments in the strategy. Two of the three remaining commitments were found to be unnecessary.

Our main achievements were:

  • 42% reduction in carbon emissions from facilities based on projected growth levels
  • 25%, or greater, reduction in carbon emissions per square metre in new supermarkets
  • 30% reduction in company car fleet emissions
  • 200 million litres of annual water saving by the target date of 2010
  • Implementation of key policies for ethical sourcing, palm oil, seafood, timber, paper and animal welfare

Despite the overall success of the strategy, our ambitious commitment to achieve zero food waste to landfill was not met. However, our focus to divert food to charities, farmers programs, commercial composting and waste to energy prevented 60,000 tonnes of food waste from being dumped in landfill in 2015. We have renewed this commitment through to 2020 and have launched a new partnership with OzHarvest, to further develop opportunities to reduce waste.

As our strategy timeline nears completion, Woolworths understands that despite our significant achievements we must maintain a focus on improvement.

Adopting a model that encourages a prosperous business, community and supply chain, our new Corporate Responsibility Strategy will address the themes of People, Planet and Prosperity. This basic structure best fits a business like Woolworths.

Target Status Comment
Carbon emission reductions from facilities

40% reduction in carbon emissions by 2015 (based on projected growth levels), bringing our emissions back to 2006 levels


Achieved 42% reduction in emissions through a 32.3% reduction through energy efficient technology and inclusion of the 11.11% Renewable Energy Target.

25% reduction in carbon emissions per square metre for new sustainable store designs compared with business as usual designs


Have maintained a minimum 25% reduction in emissions per square metre since 2012. Emission reduction for supermarkets built in 2015 is 30.4%.

All new Woolworths Supermarkets opening from September 2008 to conform to our sustainable design guidelines


Sustainable engineering design was implemented in 2008.

Work with the Green Building Council to develop a star-rating tool for supermarket interiors


In 2010, further investigation showed minimal benefit in developing this tool, particularly with Woolworths’ progress with investment in energy efficiency.

Develop an ecological footprint calculator for evaluation of supermarket interior design and fit-out


In 2010, it was decided that internally developed project modelling and investment in energy efficiency made this target redundant.

Carbon emission reductions from transport

25% reduction of carbon emissions per carton delivered by Woolworths owned trucks by 2012


Achieved a 25.6% reduction in emissions by 2012.
Outsourced these operations in 2013.

30% reduction on 2006 levels of carbon emissions from a company car fleet of 3,100 cars, by 2010


Achieved a 30% reduction in emissions by 2012. Fleet was significantly larger than forecast.

Establish accurate baseline data in 2008 for all modes of transport


Achieved in 2008, with accurate data available for Woolworths-owned fleet and improved accuracy for third party logistics providers.

Establish a forum with major transport suppliers to develop a low carbon strategy for our third party distribution network


Active participation in industry forums, including the Road Transport Authority’s Green Truck Partnership.

Conduct a comprehensive study on biodiesel availability in Australia, including quality, vehicle compatibility and cost impacts


In 2008, Woolworths sponsored the CSIRO Future Fuels Forum on alternative fuel research.

Trial the use of hybrid powered trucks for home deliveries


A hybrid truck was trialled in 2009. The vehicle remains part of our fleet but the business case of fuel savings versus capital cost does not justify further investment at this time.

Water efficiency

Develop a more complete baseline of water usage


Corporate Water Tree developed in 2010, mapping out water use in the business.

Roll out the Water Wise project nationally for all of our Australian Supermarkets


Completed in 2008, with all Australian Supermarkets and BIG W stores using water efficient fittings and practices.

Reduce water use by at least 200 million litres by 2010


Target achieved in 2010. Results have declined but water saving was delivered in 2015.

Ethical sourcing

Develop and implement an ethical sourcing policy


Implemented in 2008 and supported by a factory audit program.

Identify sustainable sourcing gaps and develop appropriate policies


Have introduced sustainable sourcing policies for palm oil, seafood, timber and paper products and animal welfare.

Conduct staff training and capacity building for our buying teams to help them understand issues and types of
third party certifications


Training has been provided to staff on ethical sourcing, compliance and sustainable product development.


Establish a supplier forum to work together on more sustainable packaging


Forums were held in 2008 and 2009 and included topics like improved labelling.

Establish more comprehensive baseline data for packaging of Own Brand products, including information on material consumption, recycled content, recyclability


Woolworths has collated packaging information on 34% of our Own Brand products, which used more than 32,300 tonnes of packaging material.

Review Own Brand procurement policy and supplier guidelines


Sustainable Packaging Guidelines were developed and implemented in 2011.

Conduct an audit of compliance with the Environmental Code of Practice for Packaging (ECOPP) and ISO 14021 for Own Brand products


Audit was conducted in 2008.

Trial the use of the Packaging Impacts Quick Evaluation Tool (PIQET) for Own Brand products


Trial was conducted in 2008. Woolworths now uses this tool to compare the impacts of different packaging solutions.

Report annually to the Australian Packaging Covenant (APC) and in the Woolworths Corporate Responsibility Report


Woolworths has been reporting annually on packaging since 2008.

Provide training to 50 suppliers by 2008


Facilitated training sessions and forums on PIQET, sustainable packaging guidelines and labelling.

Use PIQET to evaluate 20 Own Brand products by 2010


Woolworths has conducted PIQET assessments on meat trays, wine bottles and our packaging team uses PIQET to compare packaging options.

Continue to replace waxed cardboard and polystyrene boxes with reusable produce crates, increasing crates from 1.7 million to 3.4 million


Achieved in 2009. The reuse of these crates in 2015 saved 50.7 million boxes from being used.

Waste minimisation

Zero food waste to landfill by 2015 (where receiving facilities are available)

Implemented programs that have diverted an estimated 60,000 tonnes of food waste from landfill. More than half of the waste stream is still waste food and we have recommitted to this target for 2020.

Reduce the amount of flexible plastic in the waste stream to less than 1% by 2010


Achieved in 2015, with this material comprising 0.9% of the waste stream.

Reduce the amount of recyclable cardboard in the waste stream to less than 1% by 2010


Achieved in 2014, with 0.96% of this material in the waste stream. The result for 2015 was 1.08%.

Increase the number of Sydney stores using EarthPower from 53 to 100 by 2010


140 Supermarkets in Sydney send food waste to EarthPower, for conversion into fertiliser and generation of electricity.

Identify organics recycling technologies, similar to EarthPower, for recycling source separated waste from Supermarkets outside of Sydney, and determine commercial feasibility


Achieved. Food waste diversion programs have been trialled and implemented in most states, with key programs in Adelaide, Perth, Newcastle and Wollongong.

Implement a waste audit program for stores and distribution centres


Achieved. An annual waste audit program is tracking trends in food waste and recyclable materials in the waste stream.

Continuing phase-out of polystyrene


Polystyrene boxes have been phased out for all produce, except for broccoli where it significantly improves shelf‑life. We are also phasing out the use of polystyrene trays in pre‑packaged meat and organic produce.

Implement a staff education program to encourage greater recovery of plastic and cardboard


The Eco Ambassador Program ran for a number of years, including awareness on recycling practices.

  Target has been achieved at some stage during the strategy’s timeline.
  Target has been cancelled as it was deemed not required after further investigation.
  Did not achieve the target.