Woolworths is implementing a range of measures to minimise the impact that its information technology (IT) products and equipment have on the environment. Initiatives range from recycling e-waste such as computers, to using energy efficient equipment. Woolworths is also using the opportunities created by IT operations to uplift communities. “Every little bit helps. We could make a huge difference if every business in South Africa were to have a ‘greener’ or more sustainable approach to managing IT resources,” says John Hunt, Divisional director of Woolworths IT services. “Beyond the bottom line, Woolworths is also concerned about the businesses’ environmental and social impacts. At present for instance 98% of our old computers (desktops and laptops) are recycled, re-used or safely disposed of. This is important as computers contain toxic components like lead and mercury, which could pollute the environment” adds Hunt. “We have also helped grow emerging BEE, IT consultancies, like Reagola. Our partnership with Reagola has helped them become an influential IT consultancy with a national reach. Our plan is to identify other development opportunities for our BEE partners,” continues Hunt. To reduce the impact of Woolworths IT operations on the environment and make a difference in communities, the business is focusing on:
  • recycling and re-use of e-waste;
  • reducing the use of paper in the business;
  • promoting energy efficiency of equipment; and
  • providing business opportunities for previously disadvantaged entrepreneurs.
Recycling and re-use of e-waste The safe disposal of old computer equipment – a significant part of what we know as e-waste – is a challenge. E-waste is often disposed of in landfill sites even though it contains potentially harmful materials like lead and mercury. Woolworths is working hard to ensure that computers, printers, screens and peripherals like printer cartridges are properly disposed of:
  • Over the past few years, computer equipment has been donated to The Salesians Institute, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) who, in turn, donates the working equipment to schools in less privileged communities.
  • Equipment that is not fully operational has also been given to the The Salesians Institute, who make use of the computers in their maintenance training courses for disadvantaged youth.
  • Computer hardware that can no longer be used has been safely recycled or disposed of through a network of non governmental organisations, who&nbsp employment with recycling projects for the homeless and unemployed.
In future, Woolworths will work through the Western Cape’s new e-Waste Recovery Facility in order to ensure that old PC equipment is optimally reused or recycled through a pool of partner institutions. Reducing the use of paper in the business and recycling Reducing paper use conserves valuable natural resources. Woolworths has targets in place to ensure that business operations reduce paper usage and favour recycled paper:
  • Paper used at our Head office is made of up to 50% recycled material.
  • Woolworths is phasing out the use of hard copy pay slips for head office employees. This will save about 48 000 sheets of paper each year, which equates to nearly 100 reams or 20 boxes of paper per year.
  • Woolworths is also phasing in duplex printing, to make printing on both sides of the page or two pages on an A4 sheet a default setting.
  • Internal publications, manuals and other administrative materials are gradually moving online.
  • Paper usage in each business unit will soon be monitored. Excessive use of paper will be noted and investigated.
  • To encourage recycling, Individual waste paper baskets have been removed from offices and stores, and replaced with shared recycling bins.
  • Woolworths endeavors to use paper from sustainable sources, like forests with certification from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). FSC is an independent, non-governmental, not for profit organisation established to promote the responsible management of the world’s forests.
Promoting energy efficiency Computers are responsible for a significant amount of power consumption. Woolworths is committed to ensuring that the power consumed by all IT equipment is optimised. To do this Woolworths is:
  • Closely monitoring the amount of energy used by IT equipment and corrective action is taken where equipment is deemed to consume too much energy.
  • Phasing in the use of energy efficient hardware and software. E.g. the new PC and laptop compliment in use in Woolworths head office is energy efficient. The new equipment could result in an average energy saving of 30% per PC or laptop.
Enterprise development Woolworths is committed to transformation across the business by supporting empowered supplier partners and developing new enterprises to add value to the supplier base. Working closely with these suppliers, Woolworths is committed to sharing expertise and best practice and helping them grow with Woolworths. Case studies Reagola In 2005, Woolworths helped two former employees to start their own IT company – Reagola. Reagola was offered a portion of Woolworths outsourced desktop support IT business, ensuring cash flow for the company from inception. Woolworths has also supported with Reagola with technical expertise and business advice. Reagola now manages a number of other IT support services for Woolworths. This consultancy company has grown into a very successful national business, with many other clients. Indima Recruitment Woolworths has established a second partnership with an emerging supplier – Indima Recruitment. Indima was formed by Cikizwa Mzozoyana, an ex Woolworths employee in April 2007. Indima now recruits for Woolworths IT department and manages the department’s independent contractors. In addition to offering business advice, Woolworths has also helped the company acquire office furniture and pay office rental. Indima Recruitment has achieved a healthy profit during their first year of trading. Woolworths is optimistic that the company will continue to grow from strength to strength. Ends Editor’s notes: 1. 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 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. For more information on our Good business journey, please visit: woolworthsholdings.co.za