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Australia’s green supermarkets 2022

Woolworths and Coles are both doing their part to create a more sustainable future – so which one is the Finder Green Award winner in 2022?

Sustainability at the supermarket can cover everything from food waste and animal welfare to packaging, single-use plastic initiatives and the type of power that's used in warehouses, stores and delivery trucks.Picture not described

Both Coles and Woolworths have strong sustainability initiatives around these issues, and many others – including commitments to have 100% renewable energy by 2025. This made it a very tight contest between Australia's two major supermarkets, which were both finalists in the Finder Green Awards 2022.

Winner: Green Supermarket of the Year 2022

Woolworths logo Woolworths won the Finder Green Supermarket of the Year award for the second year in a row in 2022. It scored well across the board but it was the science-based emissions targets and commitment to working with both suppliers and customers on sustainability initiatives that set it apart this year.

Key examples are the ongoing Odd Bunch fruit and vegetables program, battery and mobile phone recycling units, container deposit scheme and a partnership with Origin Energy to encourage people to switch to green energy plans.

We were also impressed with its partnership with Landcare Australia, with more than $3 million being given out in the Woolworths Junior Landcare Grants program. These grants support Australian kids to work on projects with focus areas including sustainable food production, improving waste management practices and enhancing native habitats.

With 15% of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions coming from livestock, Woolworths has focused its buying programs to include more plant-based sources of protein. It also works with community partners to responsibly source products and promote animal welfare.

Beyond initiatives, Woolworths has set ambitious goals for the future including aiming to use 100% renewable energy by 2025 and reducing its operational emissions by 63% by 2030. It also has a high level of transparency around its sustainability work, with accessible resources on its website.

Green Supermarket of the Year 2022 finalist

Coming in a close second, Coles has focused its sustainability initiatives in two areas, known as:

    1. Together to Zero: A program with goals for zero carbon emissions, zero waste and zero hunger.
    2. Better Together: A program with initiatives to support workers, suppliers and the community.

Between these two programs, Coles has established sustainability projects and programs including switching to renewable energy across its stores, responsible sourcing for Coles Own Brand products, diverting food waste from landfill through community programs and clear labelling of recyclable packaging. It also has information and resources that are easily accessible on its website, which are easy to understand.

When it came to comparing the finalists, our judges noted that Coles is leading the way in the race to 100% renewable energy usage. They also scored the supermarket highly for its waste targets, which aim to divert 85% of all waste (and not just food waste) from landfill by 2025.

But it did not offer as much detail as Woolworths in a number of areas. In particular, Coles did not share how much water the supermarket uses or how much of its food waste was diverted from landfill. It also didn't have emissions targets that are aligned with the Science Based Targets initiative

What makes a supermarket green?

Supermarkets are an essential part of life, and there are lots of ways they can become greener. As a shopper, some of the most noticeable ones include:

  • Using renewable energy to power their stores
  • Reducing and removing single-use plastics
  • Reducing packaging
  • Offering "ugly" fruit and vegetables to reduce food waste
  • Promoting in-store recycling programs (e.g. REDcycle)
  • Container deposit schemes
  • Offering lower emissions deliveries for online orders
  • Partnerships with organisations that support people in need (e.g. Foodbank, OzHarvest, Secondbite)
  • Clear labelling for responsibly and sustainably sourced products

Beyond these initiatives, supermarkets can find other ways to reduce the emissions from their warehouses and stores. They can also work with suppliers to address ethical and environmental concerns (such as emissions from freight), and promote the wellbeing of workers in all settings.

When it came to our assessment, here's what we looked at:

  • Current performance and targets (60%)

The bulk of our assessment looked at the supermarket's broad environmental performance. This is made up of its current performance as well as any targets set or accreditations achieved.

In judging current performance, we wanted to know about the overall environmental impact of each supermarket chain. This took into account emissions intensity, the proportion of energy sourced from renewable sources, its water usage, and how much of the waste created avoided landfill.

We also wanted to know what environmental targets the business was striving for in these areas. Additionally, we considered whether the supermarket had received any external awards or accreditations, or had met any additional external benchmarks.

  • Industry-specific environmental criteria (40%)

The final 40% of scoring looked at factors specific to the supermarket sector. Major focus areas were sustainable supply chains, sustainable packaging, food waste practices and any initiatives that encourage customers to be more sustainable.

When it came to the supply chain, we wanted to know if the supermarket also produced any of the items sold and what initiatives are in place to reduce the environmental impacts of that production. Similarly, we wanted to know if there was a process in place for assessing the environmental impact of external suppliers and the impact this has on decision-making. In addition to this, we asked if there is a focus on produce sourced externally to meet any external accreditations.

When assessing sustainable distribution, we looked at the initiatives to reduce the environmental impact of their distribution network, as well as the initiatives in place to reduce the environmental impact of packaging in-store.

Finally, given the breadth of customers that supermarkets have access to, we looked at the initiatives in place to encourage sustainable customer behaviour. Examples of these could be increasing the range of meat-free alternatives, introducing EV charging points in car parks, or offering donations to environmental charities linked to customer spending.

Finder Green Awards methodology

All relevant companies are encouraged to enter the awards and winners are selected each year based on broad and sector-specific environmental metrics. These include greenhouse gas emissions, renewable energy usage and waste avoiding landfill. More details on the metrics we review for each category can be found in the 2022 Finder Green Awards entry criteria document (PDF).

General environmental criteria:Sector-specific environmental criteria:

Current performance: 46%

  • Emissions intensity
  • Emissions intensity (inc. offsets)
  • Energy from renewable sources
  • Water usage
  • Waste avoiding landfill

Environmental targets and reporting: 14%

  • Emissions target
  • Renewable energy target
  • Waste target
  • Public climate change plan
  • External benchmarks/accreditation

Supermarket-specific impacts: 28%

  • Food waste avoiding landfill
  • Packaging and plastic usage
  • Sustainable produce options
  • Initiatives to encourage sustainable customer behaviour

Supply chain impacts: 12%

  • Environmental checks on suppliers
  • Distribution

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