NSW: A change in business climate

07 Feb 2008Archived News Energetics in the News

PUBLISHED: AAP Features - by Carrie LaFrenz - Jonathan Jutsen, Executive Director and Founder, Energetics Pty Ltd comments at Sydney climate change forum on energy efficiency targets along with Woolworths Chief Executive Michael Luscombe and other Australian business leaders.


About 18 months ago Woolworths embarked on what chief executive Michael Luscombe likes to describe as a "green journey".

Instead of becoming a landfill-dumping, water-guzzling, greenhouse gas-spewing environmental vandal, the journey will turn Australia's biggest retailer into a model of green corporate citizenship, Luscombe hopes.

"You can do a lot of talking and do a lot of navel gazing if you want to," said Luscombe, who was part of a panel of business leaders debating climate change at a forum at professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers in Sydney this week. But my advice to companies is just get out there and do it. You might not get it all right, but you will learn a hell of a lot along the way." The forum was a sign that corporate Australia is taking climate change seriously.

According to a PricewaterhouseCoopers survey of 303 top executives from companies turning over at least $150 million, 80 per cent of business leaders say the business community needs to take more action on climate change. Seventy per cent want more information, while just two per cent have a high level of confidence about greenhouse gas (GHG) data.

The panel, which included top executives from energy retailer Elgas, greenhouse solutions business Energetics, Investa Property Group and think tank Environment Business Australia (EBA), agreed that reducing a company's GHG output was not only responsible, but could cut costs.

Luscombe said Woolworths had employed a sustainability expert and set up an independent advisory board to make sure the retailing giant hit its targets. He said goals such as zero landfill, addressing water usage, making transport more efficient, and minimising Woolworths' carbon dioxide (Co2) footprint were all on its agenda.
"In 2006 our carbon footprint was 3.7 million tonnes of Co2 equivalent ... and a big part chunk of that was around refrigeration, air conditioning and lighting," he said. "We have set ourselves a challenge to hold our carbon footprint at the 2006 limit. That actually means we will reduce our carbon output by 2015 by 40 per cent."

Woolworths 800 supermarkets are going green. All new Woolworths are to conform to stringent environmental standards while older stores will be upgraded costing $200,000 per store. Luscombe said chronic greenhouse gas leaks from supermarket fridges led the changes, along with high energy consumption.

The changes include using cascade cooling systems for fridges - which replace some of the more harmful gases with carbon dioxide - and better fans and roll-down screens will be used to keep in the cool air. Light-emitting diodes will be used instead of the hotter conventional lights. Luscombe said that by June all stores would have new style equipment. Business opportunities existed in going green, said EBA CEO Fiona Wain. "The business opportunities far outweighs the negative side," she said.

Climate change is adding impetus to the adoption of corporate responsibility schemes, said Energetics founder Jon Jutsen, and investors were taking notice. "We need targets for energy efficiency," he said, adding a 20 per cent energy efficiency target by 2020 is ideal. "Energy efficiency is good business for business."

But changes needed to be made quickly, and at the time of capital replacement, to be most efficient. The Rudd government has assured industry it won't bear the brunt of any push to reduce greenhouse gases.

Climate Change Minister Penny Wong recently foreshadowed that the government would reveal by the end of the year its model for an emissions trading scheme, which it plans to have in place by 2010.

Luscombe says he would like Woolworths to eventually recycle everything coming out of the store. But he's cool on a government proposal to ban plastic bags. "Not sure banning it is a solution, paper is not the solution," he says. "All retailers need to participate in working on finding a biodegradable solution."

Although Woolworths has made strides in the green space, last year it ran into problems over stocking imported toilet paper and tissues sourced from what environmentalists said was unsustainably logged timber.

Woolworths' homebrand Select products had carried labels describing them as sourced from sustainable forestry, but the products were removed from shelves only to return return a few weeks later without the sustainability claims. Woolworths says it has commenced a review of the supply chain for private label products.

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