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Business organisations around the world are increasingly facing challenges for operating in a sustainable way without impacting the ability of future generations to meet their own needs and demands. Businesses have to incorporate the use of sustainable principles for ensuring the well-being of the environment and society. In this context, social accountability refers to measures taken by business organisations for being responsible towards the civilians. It incorporates the actions and procedures undertaken by businesses for the betterment of society and environment in which they operate. Social accounting refers to the social responsibility initiatives taken by a business organisation for supporting the development of environment and society (Claasen and Alpin-Lardies, 2010). The concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is adopted by business organisations that aim to maintain accountability in their operational activities by disclosing measures taken by them for protecting the societal goals. Businesses are required to develop and publish their CSR report to provide relevant information to its stakeholders about the strategies implemented by them for the welfare of society (Cavusgil, Rammal and Freeman,2011). In this context, the present report aims to examine the social accountability issues prominent in Australian business environment. The report, in this regard, has examines the CSR report of Woolworths Limited for gaining an understanding of its social responsibility strategies.
Woolworths Limited is an Australian based company that is recognised as a market leader in the supermarket of the country. It operates about 961 stores in Australia and is mainly involved in retailing of food, liquor, home improvement and owning petrol stations business segments. The company develops and publishes its CSR report for proving all the information regarding the impacts of its operational activities on environment and society. The CSR report is developed for promoting the welfare of stakeholders through providing them all the details regarding the social responsibility initiatives taken for attaining sustainability (WOOLWORTHS HOLDINGS LIMITED 2015 INTEGRATED REPORT, 2015). The corporate responsibility report showcases the various initiatives taken by the company for promoting the welfare of all its stakeholders as follows:
People: Woolworths employs about 111,000 people in its retail stores and distribution centres for providing high-quality products and services to the customers. Thus, the company has large workforce diversity and the company aims to create a workplace where employees feel valued irrespective of their age, gender, beliefs, disability, sexual orientation and ethnic background (Idowu and Filho, 2008). The company has employed a huge workforce of women and has provided them equal opportunities to carry out executive and management roles. The company has implemented a WoWFlex program aiming at promoting gender equality and flexible work practices as a part of their corporate culture. The company employs about 1,953 indigenous employees and 6,7225 employees with disabilities as evident from its CSR report. The company has implemented effective strategies for promoting equal chances of participation to the respective employee group is decision-making process. The employee engagement survey revealed that employees participation rate in the company is about 80% that has somewhat declined from the previous year. The company, in this context, are strongly emphasising on increasing employee engagement at workplace. The CSR report of the company depicts that it has also developed employee assistance program for providing counselling to the employees for managing all their personal and work-related issues (CORPORATE Responsibility Report 2015, 2015).
Planet: The CSR report of Woolworths demonstrates that the company aims to protect the environment through adoption of sustainable business practices. The most challenging issue present before the company in this context is to reduce its carbon and green house gas emissions. The company is aiming to achieve it through the adoption of effective energy management systems that helps it reduce the emission of various pollutants released from its refrigerators (Thauer, 2014). The company is also adopting the use fluorescent and LED lighting for gaining energy efficiency. The adoption of these socially responsible initiatives has enabled the company to reduce its energy usage by 16,573MWh and carbon emissions by 15,646 tonnes. The company is also strongly dedicated towards effective use of natural resources and minimising waste generation in its manufacturing process for conserving the environment. However, the company has still not achieved its sustainability target of reducing the waste generation by 1%. In this context, the company is carrying out waste audits for attaining its sustainability target of reducing the volume of plastic firm in the waste stream. As such, packaging is a key issue for the company as it results in creation of large landfill waste material that can deteriorate the quality of environment. The company, in this regard, is advocating the use of recyclable material in packaging of products for reducing the waste generation (CORPORATE Responsibility Report 2015, 2015).
Prosperity: Woolworths has also implemented various social responsibility initiatives for ensuring the prosperity of its suppliers and communities. The company is estimated to create about 771,000 jobs in the country and thus effectively contributing to reduce its unemployment rate. It is recognised as the second largest private sector employer in the country. The company also provides good returns to its shareholders and has recorded an increase of about 1.5% dividend in the financial year 2015. The company works in close-association with its suppliers in order to provide best quality products and services to the customers. It has adopted ethical sourcing policy and upholds human rights for employees working in its supply chain network. It also has a good track record in helping communities in the recovery of natural disasters such as drought, floods and cyclones. The company is strongly committed to create value for the customers through providing them best in class products and services in the supermarket of Australia. In this context, some of the initiatives implemented by Woolworths include investing about $200 million in the Australian supermarket for reducing the prices of its products and services. The research undertaken in this context has reflected that the prices of its products and services are cheaper in the last financial quarter of 2015 as compared to the previous year. The company is focused on delivering wide range of products to the customers thus providing them various products in accordance with their needs and requirements. The company’s products are well labelled and incorporate all the information to the customers for increasing transparency in its business operations. The company procures its raw materials for the manufacturing of food products from Australian farmers and growers to provide naturally fresh and sustainable sourced products to the customers. The company involves the use of fresh fruits, vegetable and fresh meat for manufacturing of its food products to enhance their nutritional value (Idowu and Filho, 2008). Woolworths is recognised as the first Australian retailer for adopting the Australian Federal Government’s voluntary Heath Star Rating system for enhancing its commitment to customers for making healthier choices. The star rating listed on packaging of products that facilitates customers to easily compare the nutritional profile in accordance with their needs and demands. The employees are given proper knowledge regarding the use of Health Star Rating System so that they can provide all the relevant information to the customers about their purchasing decision. It is also strongly committed to eliminate the use of artificial colors, preservatives in its Own Brand food products (CORPORATE Responsibility Report 2015, 2015).
As analysed from the social responsibility initiatives taken by the Woolworths, it can be stated that the company is strongly committed in protecting the interests of its stakeholders. It aims to maximise the community welfare through creation of jobs, implementing programs for maximising employee welfare and creating value for customers through providing them high quality products and services with greater ease and convenience. The implementation of energy efficient has enabled the company to reduce its consumption of electricity thereby conserving it for the future generations (Corporate Responsibility Report 2015, 2015). Also, it has facilitated the company to reduce its carbon and greenhouse gas emissions to a significant extent. It supports the economic development of the country through creating jobs for large scale population group of the country. However, the company still needs to improvise on its sustainability initiatives for reducing the waste generation to zero percent and protecting the employee diversity at workplace. The company also need to implement strong measures for maximising shareholder value by increasing the dividend paid to them. As evident from its CSR report, the company has increased the dividend paid to the shareholders but still need to enhance the return to the shareholders. The company’s profitability is declining in the recent years and as such it need to take string initiatives for improving on its financial performance for increasing the dividend paid to the shareholders (Corporate Responsibility Report 2015, 2015).
It can be summarised from the overall discussion held in the report that CSR has emerged as a prominent issue in Australian business environment for attaining social accountability. The analysis of CSR report of Woolworths’ has reflected that it is socially accountable in carrying out its operational activities that has helped it to attain a market leader position in Australia supermarket.
Corporate Responsibility Report 2015. 2015. [Online]. Available at: https://woolworthslimited2015.csr-report.com.au/files/Woolworths_CSR_2015.pdf [Accessed on: 22 September 2016].
Cavusgil, S.T., Rammal, H., and Freeman, S. 2011. International Business: The New Realities. Pearson Higher Education AU.
Claasen, M. and Alpin-Lardies, C. 2010. Social Accountability in Africa: Practitioners' Experiences and Lessons. African Books Collective.
Woolworths Holdings Limited 2015 Integrated Report. 2015. [Online]. Available at: https://www.woolworthsholdings.co.za/investor/annual_reports/ar2015/whl_2015_integrated_report.pdf [Accessed on: 21 September 2016].
Idowu, S. O. and Filho, W.L. 2008. Global Practices of Corporate Social Responsibility. Springer Science & Business Media.
Thauer, C.R. 2014. The Managerial Sources of Corporate Social Responsibility. Cambridge University Press.
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