Woolworths believes there was a clear underlying theme that defined this period - in both ambition and impact - and that was support for the most vulnerable members of the community.
To support Indigenous communities not usually a part of Woolworths’ supply chain network, the business supported their competitor Metcash with donations, including 15 tonnes of flour, and diverted other stock to them in order to get food supplies to remote communities.
In addition, Woolworths supported local retailers including ALPA, Outback Stores and the NSW Aboriginal Land Council with donations of more than 6,500 basics boxes or about 100 tonnes of essential supplies.
To help vulnerable Australians, some of the solutions Woolworths came up with included a community shopping hour to give senior citizens and vulnerable members of the community a safer in-store experience during COVID. They also ramped up their online delivery and introduced priority access.
To ensure the success of this initiative, Woolworths established a dedicated team to support the thousands of (mainly) elderly Australians that were now, for the first time, utilising IT for their shopping. Call rates more than doubled, from an average of 60,000 calls per week to 140,000.
To recognise the extraordinary efforts of their employees in supporting the community, Woolworths announced a specific team recognition award that has led to 106,000 team members becoming shareholders of the company, creating the largest employee share ownership plan in Australia.
Woolworths also moved quickly to support companies like Qantas and Virgin with 2,200 Qantas employees alone joining Woolworths, and 1,200 remain with the company to this day.
Woolworths Group CEO Brad Banducci said, “…our Prime Minister has spoken of ‘quiet Australians’, just as President Obama spoke of ‘quiet heroes’ when describing those that are not famous, work hard every day, don’t seek the limelight and just try to do the right thing. I am exceptionally proud of Woolworths’ 200,000 ‘quiet Australian heroes’.’’
We could not think of a better recipient for the BCA's Big Impact Award than Woolworths.
When the pandemic struck and most of The Bread & Butter Project's cafe/restaurant sales fell away overnight we reached out to Woolworths for help because bread was flying off their shelves and we knew they were great advocates for refugee employment. With unbelievable speed for a national retailer dealing with a small local social enterprise bakery, we were suddenly stocked in over 15 Woolworths Metro stores. This has since expanded to 27 stores. This kept our ovens full and our trucks delivering and allowed us to retain employment for our 55 employees, many of them refugees and asylum seekers who would not have been eligible for welfare support. Here is a video made at that time.
Since those early days, the partnership with Woolworths has thrived. In November we launched our first Bread Bar in Woolworths' Erskineville Metro store; the first time a national supermarket has outsourced its bakery to a third party, let alone a social enterprise! Woolworths entrusted The Bread & Butter Project with one of the most important sections in the supermarket - fortunately it has been a phenomenal success and will generate at least half a million dollars of sales and sustainably employ 4-5 refugee bakers/trainees. Picture many more of these bakeries across Australia: video
We are immensely grateful to Woolworths and very much looking forward to expanding our partnership so together we can support many more refugees into sustainable employment in an industry suffering chronic labour shortages in Australia.
Gratitude and congratulations must be given to Woolworths who over the past 9 months since covid restrictions kicked in, have helped save our small local business.
When Covid 19 hit we lost 80% of our business as we mainly supplied the Cafe industry. This was absolutely gut wrenching for us. We desperately needed a life line and it was thrown to us by Woolworths.
Having a shortage of supply from other large suppliers because of the panic buying we contacted Jonathan at Woolworths in Sydney and asked if we could help top up the shelves as we were desperate to move some milk. Our prayers were answered and we started filling the shelves at Woollies with enough milk to keep our heads above water. We posted on our social media channels and the community really got behind us. If Woolworths didn't provide us with such amazing shelf space and the ability to restock daily I hate to think where we would be.
Woolworths continue to support our business today and we are most grateful. Not only have we survived this pandemic but we are now flourishing. The impact large companies can have is just amazing, too many people have negative opinions about large multinational companies when realistically they provide amazing opportunity for small business like ourselves.
With the increase in sales due to the support of Woolworths we are able to employ three more full time staff and look at being able to take on more local farmers to which we pay a fair farm gate price.
Our Prime Minister has spoken of 'quiet Australia', just as President Obama spoke of 'quiet heroes' when describing those that are not famous, work hard every day, don't seek the limelight and just try to do the right thing.
I am exceptionally proud of Woolworths' 200,000 'quiet Australian heroes'. Our entry recognises their contribution, first and foremost through COVID-19, and for many off the back of the tragic bushfires of 2019/20.
The Foodbank family cherishes its long-standing partnership with Woolworths Group, and whilst we have always delighted in the passionate, professional and invaluable support that has been displayed from right across the business, we could not be more grateful for the generosity we have experienced from the Woolworths team this year.
When Black Summer bushfires hit, Foodbank was called upon to lead the emergency food relief efforts across all affected states and territories, drawing on stock from every Foodbank warehouse in the country. Once the crisis phase had passed, replenishment of stock was the highest priority to ensure the 815,000 Australians relying on food relief each month could continue to access these essential supplies. In response, Woolworths began weekly donations specifically to help us replenish our stock and reach those most affected by the disasters.
In March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic reach our shores, panic buying not only affected the Australian food and grocery industry, but so too, Foodbank. Supply chain interruption was experienced across a number of key categories, placing inordinate pressure on our already stretched network. At the height of lockdowns, the increase in demand for food relief skyrocketed by 78%, coinciding with a 27% reduction in supply through food rescue. Woolworths stepped up once again to help us find strategic, impactful solutions. Woolworths also donated $300,000 for us to proactively purchase essential items, bolstering our supplies by the equivalent of 600,000 meals to help the newly unemployed, international students and others so significantly affected by the economic impacts of the pandemic.
As COVIDSafe restrictions took hold, we had to revamp our distribution model, shifting to a focus on food hampers. Woolworths supported this challenging process by donating thousands of their innovative Basics Box to help us reach more people both efficiently and safely.
In addition, Woolworths continued to champion their Primary Connect freight support, donating $500,000 worth of transport to move emergency food assistance around the country to where it was needed most.
This year has been a struggle for so many people - especially our country’s most vulnerable - but thanks to Woolworths, hundreds of thousands of families were able to access the food they needed.
The Qantas Group is pleased to endorse the Woolworths Group (Woolworths) for the Business Council of Australia’s Big Impact Award for their significant contribution to provide secondary employment opportunities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the aviation industry and meant that, in March this year, the Qantas Group made the difficult decision to stand down the majority of our people.
As a longstanding partner of the Qantas Group, Woolworths stepped up and offered their support in several ways, including offering priority, short term employment for impacted Qantas Group employees.
Within a week, this suggestion became a reality and in the first 24 hours, 2,500 Qantas Group employees registered their interest to work with Woolworths. Within four weeks, 2,200 Qantas Group employees began working with Woolworths across their stores, distribution centres, and corporate office. As of November 2020, the Qantas Group still has 1,200 employees working at Woolworths.
The generosity that Woolworths continues to show our people has been extraordinary – with every member of the Woolworths team going above and beyond to make the transition as seamless as possible and provide our people with training, development and support. This initiative provided immediate relief to many our people at a critical time and has been our most successful secondary employment partnership.
Throughout the pandemic, the Woolworths Group has shown what it is to be a good corporate citizen – not just through its support for our employees, but for the support they’ve shown to the Australian community more generally.
When COVID19 first struck Australia in April 2020, our business was hit with an overnight business downturn of 30% due to all our restaurant customers having to shut shop and we really had no end in sight as to when this would change. Regardless of what was happening outside our farms, our hens did not know any different and were still producing the eggs every single day. At the same time, most of our local Woolworths stores had bare egg departments and it reignited the conversation of the pros and cons of putting our product on Woolworths shelves.
So back to the drawing board we went and after some insightful conversations with our contacts back at Woolworths, we really felt that they had the best interests of our business at heart. They put the ball in our court, letting us make decisions for our business which we did not think would be an option. For example, the stores we wanted to supply, the days we needed orders to be received, the days we deliver, the frequency of our stock going on the shelves to ensure its freshness and a big factor for us, our trading terms.
Following what felt like a whirlwind of paperwork, we officially had our first dozens hit the shelves of the 15 most local stores to our farm by the start of June 2020 and we have not looked back. The orders are automated and consistent, deliveries are done with ease and we have no problem communicating with the correct members of the Woolworths team at times when we have had to reach out.
All of our concerns we had, giving our family owned brand to a big business like Woolworths have been quashed, and it has allowed us to keep all 16 employees we have at their full capacity of employment throughout the COVID closures and even more so, it has allowed us to stick by our main goal, of not keeping eggs onsite for longer than 48 hours.
The Woolworths team have been great to us and have really made us realise there is a person behind every email and every phone call we have with them.
In 2021, we have fortunately been given further expansion opportunities to appear on Woolworths online as a 'click & collect' option and we are looking forward to expanding into more stores and growing with them in months to come.
Woolworths stacks up as ‘quiet hero’
This article first appeared in The Australian newspaper on Monday 1 March 2021.
When the coronavirus pandemic struck almost exactly 12 months ago, there was chaos in supermarkets across the country as people rushed to stockpile food.
Some commentators worried that the mayhem would damage the country’s social fabric as Australians stripped tins of tomatoes and packets of spaghetti from shelves, and videos emerged on social media of shoppers fighting over packets of toilet rolls.
Panic buying made supermarkets unsafe for some vulnerable Australians. People were fearful they would not have access to food and everyday needs.
Supermarket giant Woolworths snapped into action to manage the onslaught of people along with health and safety requirements.
of business in the community