With its huge reliance on water and agriculture, Woolworths is vulnerable to any shocks in the supply chain. As a result it is heavily involved in initiatives to change its own consumption patterns and those of its suppliers.
Head of Woolworths sustainability programme Justin Smith said Woolworths has taken measures at every level to conserve water.
“We see water as a key risk for a food retailer in South Africa and we have looked at promoting water efficiency across our value chain”, he said.
The biggest application has been in the company’s supply chain. Through its Farming the Future programme, it has worked with farmers to reduce their use of pesticides and to use more empirical methods to measure how much water is used. Because of this knowledge irrigation only occurs when absolutely necessary and a 16% water saving has already been achieved.
“All suppliers who make fabric for our clothes also adhere to very strict standards. For instance, no materials, dyes or chemicals used in the production of clothing or textiles pose what we believe to be unacceptable risk to the health – or to the environment – during their manufacture or disposal,” said Smith.
“When evaluating new real estate opportunities, we consider if the design of the property enable the efficient use of water and water waste.”
The Greening judges said the company’s constant critical focus on these issues not only saved water, but also helped to change consumer behaviour.”
Mail & Guardian June 29 to July 5 2012
If all shopping centres could harvest their own rainwater and use it inside the centres e.g. for toilet flushing, irrigation etc. the water savings would be astronomical. Hopefully they soon follow in Woolworth’s footsteps!