National 11.8.2016 12:12 pm

WWF and Woolies extend sustainable business partnership

A Woolworths store. Picture: Gallo Images/ Die Burger/Stephen James Williams

A Woolworths store. Picture: Gallo Images/ Die Burger/Stephen James Williams

The partnership will focus on the beginning and end of the value chain.

Following the success of a three-year sustainable business partnership, the World Wide Fund for Nature South Africa (WWF-SA) and Woolworths have announced a second partnership which will take further strides to accelerate sustainable business action through selected Woolworths products and operations.

The outcomes of the first partnership proved that the private sector and the NGO sector can work together on common interests, with far-reaching benefits for both sectoral organisations and their stakeholders. The first partnership was highly productive for both partners and the intention is to build on the momentum created in the various programmes of work.

This second partnership will seek to improve the stewardship of water resources nationally; explore low carbon pathways; reduce the potential negative impacts of agriculture; improve seafood and in particular aquaculture sourcing; and reduce food waste throughout the supply chain. Because the greatest negative environmental impact occurs at the beginning and end of the value chain, the partnership will focus on these stages in the chain.

The partnership’s contribution to better understanding the challenges facing more sustainable value chain management resulted in some firsts for South Africa. Some of the first comprehensive life cycle assessment (LCA) studies in South Africa were enabled, providing ground-breaking insights into the environmental impacts of food products in the country.

Dr Philippa Notten, LCA specialist and director of The Green House, said: “WWF-SA’s respected name and Woolworths’ strong supplier and customer bases are able to unlock the wide array of participation needed in such studies. This full value chain coverage is so valuable in that it allows the focus to be squarely on the highest environmental impacts, allowing an explicit trade-off between impacts to be made, and to design improvement options that deliver real benefits.”

WWF’s senior manager of the policy and futures unit, Tatjana von Bormann, said: “WWF feels that the ground work for the targets has been completed, and that the real hard work will begin in this partnership. This partnership will still meet tangible, immediate outcomes but must, if WWF is to remain accountable to its constituents, test the true transformative potential of such a partnership to be a force for good by influencing social policy and ultimately, system change.”

Woolworths Group head of sustainability, Justin Smith, commented: “A diversified retailer with a complex supply chain, such as Woolworths, encounters a very broad range of sustainability issues that require our response. Many of these issues are far too big or complicated for one company to resolve, so forming effective partnerships is essential if we are to make progress. We are very excited about the next phase of our partnership.”

The next five years of the partnership aims to achieve significant conservation outcomes by bringing together technical expertise, research capabilities, industry insights and networks in helping Woolworths suppliers to produce more sustainable products as well as creating awareness about these products among Woolworths customers.

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