Countdown sets 20 ambitious new sustainability targets

15 November 2017: Countdown has today released its third Corporate Responsibility Report and signalled an ambitious new sustainability focus with the launch of 20 new commitments out to 2020.  

The goals fall under the three categories of People, Planet and Prosperity, and align with the United Nations’ 2015 Sustainable Development Goals, one of the first companies in New Zealand to do so.  

Countdown’s Managing Director Dave Chambers says, “As a large New Zealand business we have a significant role to play in responding to the global rise of environmental, economic and social issues.  

“Not only is embedding sustainability into our core business strategy the right thing to do, it's also a key vehicle for our future growth and will underpin how we measure our success,” he says.     

As one of the largest employers in New Zealand, Countdown has focused one of its three pillars of activity around its people, and its drive to be the employer of choice for Kiwis. Already this year, Countdown has taken a leadership role in introducing a Family Violence Policy for its team members, and was one of the first companies globally to announce a Transgender Transitioning Policy. Within its 2020 targets, Countdown wants to further advance issues like pay equity, diversity and giving young Kiwis great career opportunities.

There are a number of new commitments in Countdown’s second pillar, planet, to help protect New Zealand’s unique environment such as moving towards zero food waste going to landfill and improving the recyclability of Countdown’s own brand products.   In October, Countdown was the first supermarket brand in New Zealand to announce its intention to phase out single-use plastic carrier bags by the end of 2018 as a key part of its broader efforts on waste minimisation.

There are also a number of targets to reduce the business' carbon footprint by a further ten per cent by 2020, and strengthen ethical sourcing.

The third pillar, prosperity, focuses on how Countdown can improve the business success of its suppliers, meet customer expectations around affordable, quality food and contribute to the communities in which it operates.

“We recognise that together with our suppliers, we drive considerable economic activity in New Zealand, producing the food and groceries New Zealanders need, as well as providing a huge number of jobs. These relationships with our suppliers must always be built on fairness and transparency, which is underpinned by our Supplier Charter announced earlier this year,” says Dave Chambers.

Countdown will continue to invest in community initiatives like its Food Rescue programme whereby it diverts almost $6m annually worth of food to food banks and food charities.

As well as launching the new 2020 commitments, Countdown has also released its Corporate Responsibility Report, detailing progress on community and environmental commitments over the last financial year, 29 June 2016 to 29 June 2017.

The 20 new goals out to 2020 are:

  1. At least 40 per cent of executive and senior manager positions to be held by women.
  2. No salary wage gap between male and female employees of equivalent positions on a per-hour rate at all levels of the company, with a step-change improvement in closing any gaps by the end of FY17.
  3. 100 per cent of those responsible for hiring new team members to have completed unconscious bias training.
  4. Continue the focus on driving cultural diversity, with a commitment that by 2020 the Countdown team will truly reflect the communities we serve.
  5. We will develop the careers of the Countdown team with a focus on youth.
  6. We will continue to develop employment policies appropriate to our New Zealand team to provide a supportive work environment.
  7. We are committed to maintaining a workplace that safeguards the health and wellbeing of our people, customers and visitors.
  8. Achieve Rainbow Tick certification in New Zealand, demonstrating our commitment to LGBTI inclusion.
  9. Towards zero food waste going to landfill.
  10. Improve the recyclability of our own brand packaging and contribute to the circular economy.
  11. Source key raw materials and commodities sustainably to an independent standard by 2020. We will raise awareness of sustainably sourced products.
  12. Achieve net zero supply chain deforestation for ‘high impact’ commodities in our own brand products, such as palm oil, timber, pulp and paper, and packaging.
  13. Reduce Countdown’s carbon emissions to 10 per cent below 2015 levels.
  14. Innovate with natural refrigerants and reduce refrigerant leakage in our stores by 15 per cent of CO2 equivalent below 2015 levels.
  15. We will achieve a top quartile favourability ranking with our suppliers as measured by independent supplier surveys.
  16. We will focus on a best practice compliance system according to the Global Compliance Programme. We will collaborate with peak organisations to improve workers lives.
  17. We will invest the equivalent of one per cent of a three year rolling average of total Countdown Earnings Before Interest and Tax (EBIT) into community partnerships and programmes.
  18. We will publicly report social impact to quantify the positive change we are creating with a focus on health, economic development and emergency relief.
  19. We will achieve leading customer satisfaction scores.
  20. We will support and inform our customers to help them to make healthier choices.

 Highlights from the year include:

  • Donated $6.8 million to community partnerships and programmes.
  • Awarded the Ministry of the Environment’s Green Ribbon Award for Business Leadership for Countdown’s Food Rescue Programme.  Last year, Countdown donated $5.8 million worth of food through this initiative: $1.9 million in food donations to The Salvation Army; $1.8 million to other food charities; and $2.1 million donated to farmers as food scraps and stock feed.
  • 1,600kg of salt removed from own brand potato chips
  • Celebrating the second year of Free Fruit for Kids, giving away 50,000 pieces of each week and in total more than five million pieces of fruit over two years.
  • One of the first companies in New Zealand to introduce a Family Violence Policy and Transgender Transitioning Policy.
  • The change to new recyclable meat trays has stopped more than 500 tonnes of black foam from ending up in the landfill.
  • Countdown customers have dropped off 59 tonnes of soft plastic to be recycled through the Soft Plastic Recycling Programme.
  • Continued to lower prices for customers by introducing more than 3600 products onto the Price Down Programme.  Countdown’s annual price inflation was limited to just 0.4% despite significant pressure on commodity pricing, fruit and vegetables as a result of weather.
  • Invest around $500 million over the next three years to grow and refresh our network of stores throughout New Zealand.
  • Introduced The Odd Bunch, a New Zealand-first initiative to cut down food waste at source and make produce more affordable for families.
  • Raised $1.1 million for 11 children's hospitals nationwide through the Countdown Kids Hospital Appeal.  Since the appeal began, Countdown has helped raised $10.4 million to support the health of New Zealand children.
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