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  • Writer's pictureNhanta

Good News for a Change: Australian Supermarket Giant Pledges To Cut Emissions

Woolworths Limited (now Woolworths Group) was founded on 22 September 1924 by five Australian entrepreneurs – Percy Christmas, Stanley Chatterton, Cecil Scott Waine, George Creed and Ernest Williams. The first store was opened on 5 December 1924 in Pitt Street of Sydney's Imperial Arcade, called "Woolworths Stupendous Bargain Basement". Following the first store there were only 29 shareholders and there was little interest to accelerate the brand's growth. However, as trading continued and shareholders brought more capital, the dividends paid by the company increased from 5% to 50% after its third year of operation. (

Credit: Gawler History Woolworths - Bunyip 2001 0117 (thank Bev Burke for sharing material from her extensive historical Gawler archives)

How things have changed! Woolworths is now Australia's largest supermarket chain, operating 995 stores across Australia. In a huge win for the environment Woolworths pledged in September 2020 to cut emissions across its supermarkets and retail warehouses by 63% by 2030, and has pinned a net-zero emissions target for 2050. The Supermarket giant has become Australia's first corporate retailer to have its emission reduction goals endorsed by an independent, UN-backed body amid rising pressure from investors for companies to take climate action seriously.

This is GOOD news indeed; hopefully this is only the start with many more corporate retailers and companies to follow in the near future to cut emissions by using renewable energy sources such as sun and wind which are so abundant in Australia! Through collective effort we really can slow down the effects of climate change.

Electricity production in Australia is still dominated by coal-fired power stations, which contribute one third of it’s net greenhouse gas emissions. An extreme force of development of the renewables sector with government incentives and innovation is urgently required before any significant level of substitution of coal-fired power can take place and ultimately be phased out. Far from being a solely environmental imperative, renewable energy makes economic sense. From rooftop solar to large-scale installations, projects are ramping up all over the country. Imagine what we could achieve with greater government support! An often-overlooked double-dividend results from this trend as well: renewable energy job creation massively exceeds jobs resulting from mining operations, such as coal (New York Times, 2017) where automation has made many roles redundant. With storage technologies from companies such as Tesla proving effective and affordable, the sky's the limit.

A number of programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are underway across the Woolworths Group and have already lowered emissions by 24 per cent on 2015 levels, putting the business in a good position to meet its future targets.

Woolworths Group Head of Sustainability Governance, Fiona Walmsley said: “We’ve made good progress in reducing our emissions by almost a quarter over the past five years, with the rollout of solar and energy efficiency programs.

“We’re clear we have a long way to go and will continue our transition to a less energy intensive operation and cleaner energy mix. This endorsement of our science-based reduction targets demonstrates we’re on the right track to make a meaningful contribution to the collective effort to tackle climate change over the next decade and beyond.

“Reducing our emissions is not just the right thing to do for our environment and local communities, but also good business practice, which more and more of our customers, team members and shareholders want to see.”

CEO of WWF Australia, Dermot O’Gorman said: “We’re delighted to see our partner Woolworths leading the way in emissions reductions throughout its business and supply chain. I think we will see many other great Australian companies follow in raising their own climate ambitions and set science-based targets. COVID19 is accelerating Australia’s transition to a low-carbon economy. It gives confidence to policymakers that such ambitious targets can be achieved, as we must ramp up our collective efforts to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.”

Woolworths Group has committed to net-zero emissions by 2050. The majority of Woolworths’ carbon emissions come from its store operations, particularly refrigeration, with electricity consumption accounting for the greatest share. Over the next decade, the Woolworths Group will seek new opportunities to reduce emissions and enhance energy efficiency. (

“The wealth of the nation is its air, water, soil, forests, minerals, rivers, lakes, oceans, scenic beauty, wildlife habitats and biodiversity...that’s all there is. That’s the whole economy. That’s where all the economic activity and jobs come from. These biological systems are the sustaining wealth of the world.” – Gaylord Nelson

We have the solutions. Let's implement them.



The Sydney Morning Herald, Sep 2020 (viewed 27.09.2020)

Woolworth Group, 25 Sep 2020 (viewed 27.09.2020)


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