Woolworths reaches a sustainability milestone

GBCA Senior Manager – Market Engagement, Jamie Wallis, spotlights the standout lessons from Green Building Day Melbourne, which includes an industry first for supermarket giant Woolworths.

As Green Building Day 2019 wraps up, the Melbourne leg of the tour offered attendees an unparalleled insight into some of Australia’s most influential sustainability champions. Among them, was Woolworths, which has launched its most sustainable store to date.

At a consumer level, Woolworths’ sustainability efforts are reflected in its commitment to ban single use plastic bags through the introduction of its green ‘bag for good’.  As customers become increasingly conscious of what they consume, many rely on the Fairtrade logo on products to guide them towards an ethical purchase.

Addressing a room full of sustainability practitioners, there were valuable insights about the value of brand building and trust in creating a strong business case for systemic change.

Molly Harris Olsen, CEO of Fairtrade Australia New Zealand, spoke of property sector’s unique ability to embrace sustainability, while tackling many of the world’s oldest problems; slavery, poverty, social inequity among them.

This was followed by an in-depth discussion on the challenges and benefits of carbon neutral certification, with a fascinating insight into Toll’s journey to becoming the first whole building to be certified carbon neutral against the Australian Government’s National Carbon Offset Standard.

Other sessions throughout the day included a focus on sustainable procurement, social infrastructure, and increasing sustainability outcomes through innovation.

As always, one of the highlights of the day was the highly anticipated Meet the Stars session; a showcase of achievements and insights from Green Star case studies across the country.

One of many inspiring stories came from Terry McCoy, Woolworths Regional Development Manager, who presented on the milestone Heidelberg store.

Woolworths Heidelberg has been on a remarkable journey to launch its first 5-star Green Star – Design & As Built supermarket building.

Terry outlined the road to this achievement, referring to Woolworths Group’s 2020 Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy, a framework based around 3 key areas: People, planet and prosperity, and highlighted the critical role property, development, construction and asset management has to play in meeting the aims.

Demonstrating the alignment between the Green Star tools and the complete lifecycle of Woolworths developments, from the design and construction of the supermarket buildings through the Fabcot business, to the Woolworths supermarket fit outs and on to asset management and operations, the partnership with the GBCA has assisted Woolworths establish a framework for benchmarking sustainability within their business.

By targeting a 5 star Design & As Built rating, Woolworths Heidelberg has achieved the following savings to date:

  • Up to 95% reduction in construction waste going to landfill
  •  Up to 40% reduction (240 tonnes) in greenhouse gas emissions per annum as compared to a reference supermarket building
  •  Up to 81% reduction (500 kilolitres) in potable water usage per annum as compared to a reference supermarket building

The new Heidelberg store is a significant achievement, Woolworths is currently rolling out a number of other ambitious initiatives including:

  •  Solar rollout across approximately 76 supermarkets nationally
  • Food wastage program: 100% of supermarkets now have a food diversion program in place to keep food out of landfill
  • Electrical Vehicle charging: progressive rollout of electrical vehicle charging bays and bike racks, encouraging the use of low emission transport
  • Plastics recycling: trialling of recycled plastic trolleys and hand baskets, with all trolleys at the Heidelberg store made locally from recycled plastic bottles

These are the tip of the iceberg in relation to the sustainability initiatives taking shape under Woolworths’ CSR strategy, however I wanted to share this with those who couldn’t attend this year’s Green Building Day.

It’s refreshing to learn about how large scale businesses like Woolworths are using their influence to demonstrate leadership in the supermarket space and seeing the tangible outcomes of embracing Green Star play out in its energy and waste reduction.

In the market engagement space, we’re constantly seeing Green Star projects diversify and move beyond the commercial office sector. And so I’m thrilled that Woolworths is leading the way for supermarkets to come along on the sustainability journey.