Woolworths (Woolies) has taken six metric tons of plastic out of the system through the introduction of reusable shopping bags, shareholders heard during the 2021 annual general meeting held virtually yesterday. Photo: REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
Woolworths (Woolies) has taken six metric tons of plastic out of the system through the introduction of reusable shopping bags, shareholders heard during the 2021 annual general meeting held virtually yesterday. Photo: REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Woolies stands by its reusable shopping bags that were already introduced three years ago

By Dineo Faku Time of article published Nov 25, 2021

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WOOLWORTHS (Woolies) has taken six metric tons of plastic out of the system through the introduction of reusable shopping bags, shareholders heard during the 2021 annual general meeting held virtually yesterday.

Asked whether the reusable bags had impacted group sales growth, chief executive Roy Bagattini said the reusable bags had not impacted sales negatively. He said lockdowns in Australia and not the introduction of reusable shopping bags had contributed to lower sales during 20 weeks ended November 14, 2021.

In 2018 Woolies first announced it was scrapping single-use plastic bags as part of its vision for all packaging to be reusable or recyclable by 2022. The group introduced the reusable shopping bags retailing for around R6.50 each as part of turning the tide against environmental degradation.

Bagattini said Woolies did not generate profit from the reusable bags. “That bag is produced by a local company that we have established that employs 100 people. They have been our supplier growing from 25 000 bags a week to 700 000 a week now and it is all made out of recycled materials.

“We now have taken 5 to 6 metric tons of plastic out of the system. It has been a process for customers to get used to and we all have extra bags in the boot of our cars,” Bagattini said.

“As a group we had a fairly painful start to our financial year in that 70 percent of our stores in Australia were closed for the bulk of the period and that was reflected in the numbers. “In South Africa our food business continued to grow at just over 3 percent. That is important to consider in the context of the base period.

“Last year this time the food business was growing at 12 percent and 6 percentage points ahead of the market,” he said.

Woolies’ turnover and concession sales for the 20 weeks ended November 14, 2021, decreased by 4.5 percent. Turnover and concession sales at Australian-based David Jones fell by 17.1 percent while Country Road Group sales declined by 5.9 percent.

The food business delivered a below par 3.2 percent sales increase during the period.

The group said last week that the impact of the lost sales, coupled with the absence of government and rent relief initiatives which had supported the prior period base, negatively impacted the results of both David Jones and Country Road Group businesses.

In terms of pay, the group said its policy was not to have a pay gap from a gender point of view.

Unlike many other organisations, Woolies was effectively one that has a majority of women.

Zurina Bassa, lead independent non-executive director, said the group had introduced a fair pay barometer in 2017.

“The objective is to ensure fair and responsible remuneration is paid throughout the group and at all levels of the group across all levels.

“As you know, we are focused on the just wage and we embarked on this journey a few years ago. The journey is not about gender, but on ensuring we eliminate the income gap for our employees across South Africa where we have social injustices and legacy issues”, Bassa said.

All shareholder resolutions were passed with the required majority. The share price closed 2.86 percent lower at R51.92 on the JSE yesterday.

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BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE

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