As Australia’s second largest private sector employer and New Zealand’s largest private sector employer, Woolworths makes a considerable contribution to employment and the economy. In Australia, Woolworths employed, in 2015, 197,426 people, including 74,848 young employees under the age of 25 years. Workforce diversity is thus a top priority.
This case study is based on the 2015 Corporate Responsibility Report by Woolworths published on the Global Reporting Initiative Sustainability Disclosure Database that can be found at this link. Through all case studies we aim to demonstrate that CSR/ sustainability reporting done responsibly is achieved by identifying a company’s most important impacts on the environment and stakeholders and by measuring, managing and changing.
With more than 3,000 stores in Australia and New Zealand that span food, liquor, petrol, general merchandise, home improvement and hotels, Woolworths aims to create a lively and inclusive workplace Tweet This! for its staff to feel appreciated at work irrespective of their gender, age, ethnicity, beliefs, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity. After measuring and setting targets, Woolworths took action to improve the representation of women in executive and management roles – in 2014, Woolworths reached its target to have 33% of leadership roles (within two levels below Woolworths’ CEO) filled by women –, create employment opportunities for indigenous Australians, support employees (or potential employees) with disabilities – Woolworths continues to support all of its potential employees by working closely with the Australian Network on Disability to ensure its new recruitment system is disability friendly – and, also, promote age diversity.
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With this case study you will see:
- Which are the most important impacts (material issues) Woolworths has identified;
- How Woolworths proceeded with stakeholder engagement, and
- What actions were taken by Woolworths to promote workplace diversity
What are the material issues the company has identified?
In its 2015 Corporate Responsibility Report Woolworths identified a range of material issues, such as supplier relationships, communication and collaboration, end to end reduction of waste, labour rights in the supply chain, environmentally responsible sourcing, energy and emissions, product quality, safety, availability and range. Among these, as Australia’s second largest private sector employer and New Zealand’s largest private sector employer, employing 197,426 people in Australia, promoting workplace diversity stands out as a key material issue for Woolworths.
Stakeholder engagement in accordance with the GRI Standards
The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) defines the Principle of Stakeholder Inclusiveness when identifying material issues (or a company’s most important impacts) as follows:
Stakeholders must be consulted in the process of identifying a company’s most important impacts and their reasonable expectations and interests must be taken into account. This is an important cornerstone for CSR / sustainability reporting done responsibly.
Key stakeholder groups Woolworths engages with:
How stakeholder engagement was made to identify material issues
With Woolworths’ original Sustainability Strategy drawing to a close, work has began on preparing a wider Corporate Responsibility Strategy through to 2020. To prepare this, Woolworths had an independent assessment carried out to review its key material sustainability issues.
The AccountAbility AA 1000 Assurance Standard (2008) principle of materiality and their Five Part Materiality Test were used as a basis for the assessment, to identify and prioritize issues relating to:
- Financial impacts
- Policy-related performance
- Business peer-based norms
- Stakeholder behaviour and concerns
- Societal norms
During the assessment, all of Woolworths’ business divisions and a wide range of external stakeholders were considered, including consumers, customers, employees, government, investors, peers and suppliers.
Vital information was obtained through sources such as customer insights, employee surveys, strategic priorities and targets, the Advantage Report, traditional and social media reviews and industry sustainability benchmark indices. The issues were categorized as either ‘Material’, of ‘High Stakeholder Interest’, of ‘High Woolworths Interest’ or none of these.
In its 2015 Corporate Responsibility Report Woolworths set the following targets for promoting workplace diversity, based on the company’s approach to materiality – on taking action on what matters, where it matters:
- Improving the representation of women in executive and management roles
More than half of Woolworths’ workforce are women, Woolworths is committed to improving their representation in executive and management roles. In 2014, Woolworths reached its target to have 33% of leadership roles (within two levels below Woolworths’ CEO) filled by women, a year ahead of Woolworths’ commitment to the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX). Women hold 39% of management positions in Woolworths, with most of these roles based in operations. Increasing female representation at this level of management is vital in improving Woolworths’ overall gender equality in the business. Woolworths’ CEO, Grant O’Brien, is a member of the Male Champions of Change, a group of 22 CEOs committed to achieving change on issues related to gender equality in organisations and communities. As part of his commitment, Woolworths is implementing a new workplace flexibility program, WoWFlex, which currently involves more than 550 employees. This pilot program is focused on encouraging flexible work and is supported by a new flexibility policy and an activity-based working model. At Woolworths, the average gender pay gap is less than the average national gender pay gap. Woolworths does have more work to do, to close the gap. Woolworths is reviewing remunerations for a number of levels of employment, to spot gaps and to set suitable targets for improvement.
- Creating employment opportunities for indigenous Australians
In line with the commitment outlined in Woolworths’ Reconciliation Action Plan, Woolworths continues to focus on closing the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians by means of employment strategies. To create the best employment opportunities Woolworths collaborates with external partners on community-based pre-employment programs. By means of a combination of soft skills training, in store work experience and ongoing mentoring, 84% of participants successfully reach 26 weeks of employment. Other pathways to employment are internships and the Graduate program. Woolworths continued its membership of the Business Indigenous Network, coordinated through the Business Council of Australia, which creates opportunities for greater participation of indigenous people in the workplace. Woolworths continues to work with Supply Nation, a body committed to growing diversity within the supply chain. In 2015 Woolworths supported two indigenous suppliers: Young Guns Container Crew, a Labour hire company and Message Stick communications.
- Supporting employees or potential employees with disabilities
Supporting people with a disability to find employment continues to be a main concern for Woolworths. For example, Woolworths continues to support all of its potential employees by collaborating closely with the Australian Network on Disability – Woolworths continues to be a gold member of the Australian Network on Disability and its Group Head of Safety and Health is a member of its board – to ensure its new recruitment system is disability friendly. Woolworths is working to train employees in Auslan (Australian Sign Language), the language of Australia’s deaf community, to enable co-workers, supervisors and managers to communicate better with hard of hearing colleagues and customers. This work was championed by Drisana Levitzke-Gray, the Young Australian of the Year and Woolworths Workplace Advocate.
- Promoting age diversity
With more than 74,000 of its employees under the age of 25, Woolworths provides many young people in Australia and New Zealand with a great start to their careers. Woolworths appreciates the experience of older workers, too, with more than 18,000 employees over the age of 55.
Which GRI indicators/Standards have been addressed?
The GRI indicators/Standards addressed in this case are:
1) G4-LA12: Composition of governance bodies and breakdown of employees per employee category according to gender, age group, minority group membership, and other indicators of diversity – the updated GRI Standard is: Disclosure 405-1 Diversity of governance bodies and employees
2) G4-LA13: Ratio of basic salary and remuneration of women to men by employee category, by significant locations of operation – the updated GRI Standard is: Disclosure 405-2 Ratio of basic salary and remuneration of women to men
Why diversity matters
- A diverse workforce drives both innovation and market growth for companies (Harvard Business Review)
- Employees from companies embracing diversity are 45 percent more likely to report that their company’s market share increased during the preceding year and 70 more likely to report that their company captured a new market (Harvard Business Review)
- Workplace diversity across a number of dimensions, like education or personality, improves a group’s performance and creativity (Stanford Graduate School of Business)
- Diversity enhances a group’s ability to manage conflict (Stanford Graduate School of Business)
- Gender-diverse teams are more productive compared to single-gender ones (MIT News)
- Switching from a single-sex office to a gender-diverse one could increase revenues by approximately 41% (MIT News)
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1) This case study was compiled using published information by Woolworths which is located at the links below. For the sake of readability, we did not use brackets or ellipses but made sure that the extra or missing words did not change the report’s meaning. If you would like to quote these written sources from the original please revert to the following links:
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