Human rights and responsible sourcing challenges do not occur in isolation. They are embedded in complex socio-economic systems of migration, gender, under-employment, weak rule of law and low wages. Woolworths Group seeks to work in multi-stakeholder partnerships that both scale impact and promote a coordinated approach to tackling complex issues. We regularly engage with key external stakeholders to understand their expectations in relation to human rights. This includes civil society, government, workers and unions.
Woolworths Group is an active member of the UN Global Compact Network Australia, with our team participating in numerous events throughout the year and contributing to the Human Rights Leadership Group. Building on our contribution, the Woolworths Group is now represented on the GCNA Modern Slavery Community of Practice. The purpose of this community of practice is to share emerging best practices to build common capability in addressing modern slavery and human rights risk management among Australian businesses.
To accelerate the living standards of workers in the apparel and footwear supply chain, BIG W joined ACT in February 2020. ACT is an agreement between global brands, retailers and trade unions to achieve living wages for workers through collective bargaining at industry level linked to brands’ purchasing practises. BIG W is an active participant in ACT’s Bangladesh country group meetings, a tripartite dialogue between ACT brands, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and trade unions. After an initial two years focused on COVID response, in F22 ACT participants made progress on a number of key commitments known as the ACT Global Purchasing Practices Commitments. See the sustainability section of the BIG W website for more information on progress to date.
Woolworths Group is a founding signatory of the Bangladesh Accord. We support ongoing efforts to ensure robust, transparent and industry-wide mechanisms to deliver safe working conditions for all factory workers in Bangladesh.
In FY22 our BIG W business signed the International Accord and joined the Brand Association along with 170 other brands and retailers globally. We continue to support the International Accord by participating in business volume surveys, attending caucus meetings and following up on factory remediation.
BIG W has 20 active sites under the Accord and is the lead brand for six sites (as at August 2022). Our suppliers have made significant progress under the Bangladesh Accord with remediation at our active sites at 92%, a slight decrease of 5% on FY21 due to the onboarding of new sites. We continue to educate our internal team and suppliers on our Accord obligations through training and supplier updates.
CAF is a labour rights assurance scheme that places cleaners at the heart of compliance certification. Woolworths Group was a founding retail partner of CAF, and has invested $100,000 to assist CAF build a retail specific framework. A multi-retailer working group has been established to conceptualise how the CAF model can be adapted for a retail environment.
The FWO Horticulture Reference Group seeks to promote collaborative approaches to address non-compliance in the horticulture sector, as identified by the FWO Harvest Trail Report.
Woolworths Group collaborates with leading property groups in Australia through the PCA working group to better understand and remediate modern slavery risks associated with the property and construction sectors. In F21, we maintained our participation in the working group and contributed to F22 strategy.
In May 2022, Woolworths Group signed the Ethical Retail Supply Chain Memorandum of Understanding (Australian Horticulture Industry) with the Retail Supply Chain Alliance (comprised of the Australian Workers Union, Transport Workers Union and Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Union). The goal of the two-year MOU is to build on the work towards ending worker exploitation in the supply chain by running pilot programs to promote lawful employment practices. These programs will be based around worker education initiatives and research.
In F22, Woolworths Group joined the Consumer Goods Forum Human Rights Coalition (CGF HRC). The HRC is a collective of 30 global retailers and manufacturers committed to eradicating forced labour from their operations and consumer goods supply chains. HRC members commit to implement the CGF’s human rights due diligence maturity framework for operations, with the goal that all members reach the ‘Leadership’ level by 2025. We have commenced implementing steps of the maturity framework and adopted some of the milestones in our internal maturity framework for our business units.
There are well known human rights challenges facing the retail industry in Australia. To promote knowledge sharing and collaboration in a pre-competitive space, we have initiated a set of Retail Roundtables. These multi-stakeholder events include representatives from retail, industry bodies, civil society, and suppliers. The first of these sessions was held in Sydney in March 2018 and covered the topics of the forthcoming Australian Modern Slavery Act and labour-hire in Australian fresh food supply chains.
In November 2021, Woolworths Group Chairman Gordon Cairns and Chair of the board Sustainability Committee, Holly Kramer, co-hosted a roundtable on modern slavery reporting with senior leaders from top ASX listed companies. In the session Gordon and Holly outlined Woolworths’ approach to managing human rights risks, the Woolworths Group board’s risk appetite statement for human rights, and how this informed the Groups approach to disclosure. Our human rights team presented on the lessons learned from implementing human rights due diligence and facilitated discussion on opportunities for improvement. The roundtable reflected a continuation of our efforts to bring together like-minded companies with a shared ambition and openness to collective learning.
The Woolworths Group takes a proactive approach to protecting children and their rights. The following section serves to highlight examples of partnership and stakeholder engagement that support this.
We are committed to continuing to learn and innovate and one way we can do this is by regularly participating in various benchmarks. We recognise the value of a number of benchmarks in helping to promote, educate and inform, and in highlighting both opportunities and areas for growth. The Global Child Forum benchmark is one of these.
In addition to our Responsible Sourcing Program and related Responsible Sourcing Standards, suppliers are also required to meet the requirements laid out in Woolworths Child Rights Addendum.
This Child Labour Addendum, developed in collaboration with The Centre for Child Rights and Business, outlines our approach, and aims to clarify our expectations of supplier partners for the prevention and remediation of any child labour cases should they be identified in Woolworths Group’s supply chain. We will review and update this Addendum at regular intervals to ensure it remains fit for purpose.
In F22, we joined the Centre for Child Rights and Business working group. The working group meets four times a year and brings companies together to collaborate, share best practice, and access the latest information and insights related to child rights. Membership to the Centre also provides expertise on the ground in key risk countries, including a 24-hour response mechanism should a case of child labour be identified in our supply chain.
Woolworths Supermarkets works to support our community, including families and children, through a number of programs from food security to disaster relief and disability.
Find out more here.
Woolworths Supermarkets has a longstanding history of working with Australian children’s charities. Some of these partnerships date back more than 30 years, and in this time millions of dollars has been raised to support our work to help children who may be sick or in need in other ways. Read more here.
Our customers tell us that health is important and want us to make healthier easier for them and their families. Read more about Making Healthier Easier , and in particular about Woolworths’ commitment to helping kids eat healthier with our Fresh Food Kids program.
In November 2020, we became signatories to the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs). Woolworths Group, from the top down, is committed to working collaboratively within multi‑stakeholder networks to foster business practices that empower women, and their children.
Family is an important part of our team members’ lives, our customers’ lives and our community. At Woolworths Group, we want to make things better for families - including supporting our team members while they are growing their families. Read more about our paid parental leave for primary and secondary carers on our Inclusive Workplace page here.
As a member of the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA), Woolworths Supermarkets adheres to the AANA Food & Beverages Code and the Marketing to Children's Code. This outlines protections for children through advertising, and ensures a high sense of social responsibility is maintained.
We take the responsibility of selling alcohol, tobacco and sharp objects seriously and want to make sure that we only sell these items to people of the proper legal age (18+). We have a range of policies complying with legislative requirements, including verifying age in-store and online. See Countdown’s Liquor and Tobacco Policy here.
Read more about our commitment to the responsible service of alcohol and tobacco here.
Agriculture is the backbone of our business and we are committed to working with our partners to encourage sustainable and regenerative practices for future generations to come.
Read more about our principles, initiatives and partnerships related to the responsible stewardship of natural resources in our 2022 Sustainability report here, and follow our progress in subsequent reports as we seek to better understand the impact and dependency of our supply chains on nature.