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Woolworths to go all in on renewables by 2030

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Retailer Woolworths has set its sights on using 100% renewable energy by 2030.

In a statement, the company says in line with its vision to be one of the world’s most responsible retailers, Woolworths is proud to announce its next set of ambitious Good Business Journey sustainability goals.

These include future-focused, measureable targets aimed at making a meaningful difference in critical social, environmental and supply chain issues.

The retailer’s announcement follows president Cyril Ramaphosa’s recent lifting of the threshold for companies to produce their own electricity without a licence from 1MW to 100MW.

Industry players believe Ramaphosa’s move has changed the game for renewable energy – and the entire energy sector – in South Africa.

“Sustainability is core to our business – it impacts everything that we do. It has been entrenched into the culture of our organisation and is put into action through our Good Business Journey (GBJ) programme,” says Woolworths group CEO Roy Bagattini.

“We believe that setting ambitious sustainability goals, such as the ones we are announcing today, not only stretches and challenges our own business to do more, but also inspires others to collaborate and join the cause for good. Profound, sustainable impact and progress requires deliberate collaboration among all our stakeholders. Our new GBJ goals provide a relevant, revitalised platform where our business, employees, suppliers and partners can all work together to create a better future for everyone.”

According to the retailer, the GBJ was ground-breaking in South Africa when launched in 2007. It is the driving force that has already significantly reduced the business’s environmental impact and increased its social and economic impact across the entire value chain, the company notes.

It explains that the GBJ focuses on improving nine key areas of the business – energy, water, waste, sustainable farming, ethical sourcing, transformation, social development, packaging, and health and wellness, with over 200 targets supporting these areas.

“For us, the sustainability imperative is clear and compelling. Alongside the positive environmental and social impact, it ensures our business is more resilient and adaptable to change. Our GBJ has had a cumulative financial impact of almost R2 billion in savings since its inception and we have received global and national recognition for its ongoing meaningful impact,” adds Bagattini.

The primary GBJ goals are to have a fully transparent and traceable supply chain by 2025; all private label fashion and home products designed to be reused, repaired, repurposed or recycled by 2025; all energy to be from renewable sources by 2030; and net zero carbon emissions by 2040.

Woolworths group head of sustainability Feroz Koor adds: “Since its inception, our pioneering GBJ has covered all aspects of sustainability – from responsible sourcing and packaging, to the use of energy and water, as well as vital social development initiatives.

“To maintain relevant focus and keep up our momentum, we have always set ourselves bold targets. Over the last five-year goal cycle, we have realised substantial achievements across all nine focus areas of our GBJ.”

Commenting on Ramaphosa’s renewable energy drive, Graham Abrahams, senior vice-president of Electrification Products Division at ABB South Africa, says: “It’s an important step towards establishing energy security, which is critical for our country’s economic recovery.

“It will enable companies to build their own energy facilities to cater to their own needs. These projects will also be able to ‘wheel’ surplus energy to the grid, which will help ease a prevailing supply deficit estimated to be in the region of 5 000MW.”

Abrahams points out that while the announcement of the new threshold isn’t specifically aimed at renewables, it’s clear that it’s going to provide fresh impetus to South Africa’s renewable energy sector.

“This is at a time when our power grid is facing a major transformation driven by the need to integrate renewable energy, improve energy-efficiency and allow consumers more control over their energy consumption.”

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