The introduction of reusable bags in 2004 was an opportunity for Woolworths to preserve the environment as well as support enterprise development. Woolworths range of reusable fabric shopping bags are made exclusively for Woolworths by local factories, one of which had started for the specific purpose of manufacturing for Woolworths. Woolworths prefers to source product locally where quality, quantity and consistency meet the expectations of Woolworths customers, in this way, supports local enterprise development which is a key priority for the business. Craig Ludwig, Divisional Director of General Merchandise at Woolworths explains further, “In line with our Good business journey, Woolworths is committed to identifying opportunities for suppliers to grow with the business. In addition to giving suppliers access to the marketplace, Woolworths also supports emerging suppliers with training that covers best practice in technical and business management skills, organisational development and financing where possible.” Currently the main supplier of Woolworths reusable bags is Isikhwama, based in Maitland, Cape Town. The company was established to produce bags for Woolworths and employ semi-skilled and unskilled people who were previously out of work. Trevor Pothercy, the owner of Isikhwama says, “Starting any new business is a challenge. Through a close partnership with Woolworths, however, Isikhwama has grown from strength to strength and now produces over a million bags a year for Woolworths. Seventy people are employed by the business. The success of the project has exceeded our most optimistic projections. We have been able to train unskilled workers through this project – arguably the most vulnerable members of the labour sector.” The second supplier, the Greater Uitenhage Sewing Co-operative (Gusco) is based in Uitenhage, Nelson Mandela Metropole. Formed by the Uitenhage Despatch Development Initiative, Gusco has been producing and supplying reusable bags for Woolworths since September 2005. Gusco is an amalgamation of three informal community sewing groups. Woolworths was Gusco’s first big retail client and continues to be the anchor client. The co-operative enterprise now employs 27 full-time machinists and a number of seasonal employees. Gusco produces 260 000 reusable bags for Woolworths each year. Nafeesa Dinie, SMME Business Unit Head at the Uitenhage Despatch Development Initiative said, “We hope to grow Gusco’s business this year, by attracting and securing additional contracts and are looking at opportunities to diversify their product line. Initial discussions have been held with Woolworths regarding future potential growth opportunities. With forging strong partnerships and the implementation of a structured best practice business development model, a solid business foundation has been established and has resulted in a successfully and commercially viable co-operative contributing to the local economy and job creation. Ms Dinie adds, “The ladies of Gusco have come a long way from being unemployed, to being business owners and this has been achieved in a relatively short period with the support of all stakeholders. Woolworths was key to this success, and this clearly signals Woolworths commitment to support and contribute to sustainable community enterprise development in our country.” Ends Editor’s notes Woolworths Good business journey Woolworths was named international responsible retailer of the year at the 2008 World Retail Awards in recognition of our Good business journey – our ongoing plan to make a difference in our communities, our country and our world. Woolworths Good business journey is a comprehensive 5 year plan announced in April 2007 to help people and planet. It incorporates a series of challenging targets and commitments centred on four key priorities: accelerating transformation, driving social development, enhancing Woolworths environmental focus and addressing climate change. Woolworths is a passionately South African business with a long tradition of quality and innovation in South Africa. Woolworths looks to other countries only where Woolworths can’t offer customers the right level of quality, value and technological innovation from local suppliers. As an extension of this commitment and in line with the Good business journey, enterprise development is a key focus for Woolworths. Working closely with emerging suppliers, Woolworths is committed to sharing expertise and best practice and helping to identify opportunities for suppliers to grow with Woolworths.