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Case study: How Woolworths makes healthy choices easier for its customers

Woolworths Group manages some of Australia’s and New Zealand’s most recognised and trusted brands, serves more than 900 million customers every year and directly employs over 202,000 people. Making it easier for customers to choose healthier options is, thus, a top priority.

This case study is based on the 2017 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 what CSR/ ESG/ sustainability reporting done responsibly means. Essentially, it means: a) identifying a company’s most important impacts on the environment, economy and society, and b) measuring, managing and changing.

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Abstract

Woolworths is committed to help its customers make healthier choices  Tweet This! and, in 2015, was the first national retailer to give away free fruit to any child shopping with an adult. In order to make healthy choices easier for its customers Woolworths took action to:
  • improve the nutritional profile of brand foods
  • commit to health and nutrition targets
  • use the health star rating
  • collaborate with nutrition experts
  • join the Healthy Food Partnership

What are the material issues the company has identified?

In its 2017 Corporate Responsibility Report Woolworths identified a range of material issues, such as employee conditions, wellbeing and communications, energy and emissions, end-to-end reduction of waste, labour rights in the supply chain. Among these, making healthy choices easier for its customers 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:

“The reporting organization shall identify its stakeholders, and explain how it has responded to their reasonable expectations and interests.”

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:

Stakeholder Group
Consumers
Customers
Employees
Government
Investors
Peers
Suppliers

How stakeholder engagement was made to identify material issues

To identify and prioritise material topics, Woolworths carried out an assessment of its material sustainability issues using, among others, customer insights and employee surveys.

What actions were taken by Woolworths to make healthy choices easier for its customers?

In its 2017 Corporate Responsibility Report Woolworths reports that it took the following actions for making healthy choices easier for its customers:

  • Improving the nutritional profile of brand foods
  • In 2009, Woolworths adopted the Food and Health Dialogue targets, a joint government and food industry initiative focusing on reducing the sodium content of foods from nine commonly consumed categories. In 2017, Woolworths met all targets when it completed a 20% salt reduction across seven hams and 30% salt reduction in Woolworths cheese slices.
  • Committing to health and nutrition targets
  • When the New Zealand government launched the Obesity Action Plan in 2016, Woolworths’s New Zealand team pledged to commit to health and nutrition targets. This included nutrition renovations, at least one confectionery free checkout in 95% of stores, nutrition information on the website and health stars on front of pack.
  • Using the health star rating
  • Over 80% of Woolworths’s own brand range – that’s more than 2,000 products – has the voluntary health star rating on front of pack. Customer research found shoppers like the simplicity of the health star ratings, to make ‘at 
a glance’ choices. These ratings appeal to time poor shoppers, to those less confident in their food health knowledge and to families, making it easy to point out healthier choices to children.
  • Collaborating with nutrition experts
  • Woolworths has a team of accredited nutritionists to guide healthier product development, food labelling and communications. Transparent labelling, the removal of additives and an improved nutritional profile of Woolworths’s products help its customers make better-informed choices when shopping.
  • Joining the Healthy Food Partnership
  • Woolworths is an invited member of the Healthy Food Partnership. This is a joint initiative between government, industry, retailers and public health advocates, to improve the dietary habits of all Australians by making healthy food choices easier.

Which GRI Standards and corresponding Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been addressed?

The GRI Standards addressed in this case are:

1) Disclosure 416-1 Assessment of the health and safety impacts of product and service categories

2) Disclosure 417-1 Requirements for product and service information and labeling

 

Disclosure 416-1 Assessment of the health and safety impacts of product and service categories does not correspond to any SDG.

Disclosure 417-1 Requirements for product and service information and labeling corresponds to:

  • Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
  • Business theme: Compliance with laws and regulations

 

80% of the world’s 250 largest companies report in accordance with the GRI Standards

SustainCase was primarily created to demonstrate, through case studies, the importance of dealing with a company’s most important impacts in a structured way, with use of the GRI Standards. To show how today’s best-run companies are achieving economic, social and environmental success – and how you can too.

Research by well-recognised institutions is clearly proving that responsible companies can look to the future with optimism.



FBRH GRI Standards Certified and IEMA approved Sustainability Course | Venue: London LSE

By registering for the next 2-day FBRH GRI-Standards Certified and IEMA approved Course you will be taking the first step in gaining the many benefits of sustainability reporting.

 

References:

1) This case study is based on published information by Woolworths, located at the link below. For the sake of readability, we did not use brackets or ellipses. However, we 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 original on the Global Reporting Initiative’s Sustainability Disclosure Database at the link:

http://database.globalreporting.org/

2) http://www.fbrh.co.uk/en/global-reporting-initiative-gri-g4-guidelines-download-page

3) https://g4.globalreporting.org/Pages/default.aspx

4) https://www.globalreporting.org/standards/gri-standards-download-center/

Note to Woolworths: With each case study we send out an email requesting a comment on this case study. If you have not received such an email please contact us.

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