Wesfarmers team members talk to MD Rob Scott

Riley Schotte, Business Specialist, Officeworks:

2020 has by any measure been an extraordinary year, with the bushfires and then COVID-19. How has Wesfarmers been able to continue keeping team members safe, address environmental impact issues and manage supply chains?

Rob Scott:

Wesfarmers has been around for over 100 years, and during that time we’ve learnt to respond and adapt to an ever-changing environment, and 2020 was certainly one of those years.

We always focus on delivering a satisfactory return to our shareholders, but we realise we can only do that over the long-term if we anticipate the needs of our customers, look after our team-members, treat our suppliers fairly, take care of the environment, act with honesty and integrity, and importantly contribute in a positive way to the communities in which we operate.

This year the community needed a lot of support, through the bushfires and due to COVID. We contributed a very significant amount, around $68 million towards various community initiatives. That contribution included the response to the bushfires, divisional community engagement responses, our ongoing support of the arts at Wesfarmers and also the Bunnings sausage sizzles.

We’ve also maintained our commitment to the United Nations Global Compact, which is a collaboration amongst companies to uphold the universal principles of human rights, labour rights, the environment and anti-corruption. This is an example of when companies get together and unite, they can be a powerful force.

 

Vaninka Vittiglia, Communications Manager, WesCEF

There’s a lot of attention put on big companies in regard to climate change, particularly from team member. In regards to reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions, where does that fit in in terms of Wesfarmers' priorities, and what initiatives are you undertaking?

Rob Scott:

We’ve been on a journey to continue to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions intensity and our emissions across the board and notwithstanding the pressures of COVID, our commitment to this area is as strong as ever. There are a number of things we’re doing.

  • We’re strengthening our reporting, so we have much better transparency of our targets
  • We’re committing to tougher targets around emissions reduction 
  • We are focusing in our industrial businesses on strict emissions intensity targets

The other point to remember is that a lot of the initiatives to reduce emissions, make good commercial sense. So, we’re increasingly looking at ways in which we can not only reduce our emissions, but also save money in the process. Some great examples of this are rooftop solar, entering into more sustainable power purchase agreements, more efficient lighting and in the industrials division, particularly our chemicals business, looking at different catalysts and initiatives to reduce emissions intensity.

 

Catrin Griffiths, Project Principal, Business Development, Wesfarmers

Rob, how has Wesfarmers managed the challenge of looking after its people and developing talent over the past year?    

Rob Scott:

We are a business that’s driven by people, and the last financial year is a great example of that. Our first priority with our team is workplace safety. We’ve made really good progress this year by reducing our Total Recordable Injury Frequency Rate by 23 per cent. That’s only half the story as we have also increased our focus on critical risks and incidents and have much better visibility and plans around reducing those risks going forward.

Another really important part of our people agenda is diversity. Its important that we have leadership teams across our businesses that reflect our customer base and the communities in which we operate. This is an ongoing journey, but we continue to make progress in that regard.

Another important area is gender balance. It is really pleasing that again that this year our Group Board and our Group Leadership Team is gender balanced. We certainly could not say that in years prior. The other area where we still have some work to do is around gender balance in our broader leadership group. In General Manager and above roles we have around 30 per cent women. So, there’s clearly still some work to do there.

The other area that is critical is Indigenous employment. We have been on a journey to increase Indigenous employment over the last decade or more. In the last year we made some great progress, we now have more than 1,850 Indigenous team-members across the group, but we are committed by 2022 to reach employment parity which is 3 per cent. So, I am really pleased that we’ve made a number of key appointments across our divisions and at a corporate level to ensure that we have more focus and momentum in this very important area.

 

Riley Schotte, Business Specialist, Officeworks

There has also never been as much attention placed on our complex supply chains and sustainability. Are you satisfied Wesfarmers is doing enough to look into issues such as modern slavery?

Rob Scott:

Businesses like ours have a key role to play in dealing fairly with suppliers to ensure that we agree sourcing products in a socially and environmentally responsible way. There are a number of things that we do across our businesses to ensure that we have really strong policies in place and also that we have really clear auditing processes. That applies not just in Australia but all over the world, particularly in a number of developing countries where the risks on the social and environmental side are higher.

Not only having an audit program is important but also following up on any audit actions, so we hold ourselves accountable to taking strong responses when we identify problems emerging through the audits. This is all about working in a collaborative and responsible way with our suppliers.

This an ongoing journey and one that we need to stay very vigilant around. Through the COVID-19 period it has been even more important that organisations such as Wesfarmers and our divisions work in a very responsible and supportive way with our suppliers.

 

Catrin Griffiths, Project Principal, Business Development, Wesfarmers

Rob were there any final reflections you want to leave with us on sustainability and the year we’ve had at Wesfarmers?

Rob Scott:

Firstly I know how much all of our team really care about sustainability at Wesfarmers, and I’d just like to acknowledge that every single one of us, every one of our 110,000 team members has an important role to play.  I would value feedback on areas in which you think we can be doing more and doing things more effectively.  Key to this is collaboration between our team, our suppliers and other stakeholders. We also welcome feedback externally from stakeholders with a keen interest in these areas.

 

11 August 2020

GRI 102-14, GRI 102-15, GRI 102-16