The retailer has:
– Set out to drastically reduce the amount of water it uses, across the continent.
– Focused on water efficient store, office, distribution centre design – and supplier conduct.
– Discovered a surprising amount of water, lost through unseen store property leaks.
– Found an underground stream, to replace municipal water, at its head office.
Water is a precious – vital for life, development and the environment. While Africa appears to have abundant water supplies in its basins, rivers, lakes, and even ocean, this precious natural heritage cannot be taken for granted.
The challenges are many: rapid population growth, urbanisation, pollution and economic development as well as climate change.
When it comes to water, it is widely accepted that business as usual is no longer an option. As an African retailer, Woolworths is actively working to save water by drastically reducing the amount of water it consumes – in its own operations and those of its suppliers.
Now Woolworths is applying the lessons learnt in South Africa across its African store operations.
Starting a home
Woolworths began its water resource management journey by engaging experts to measure how much water it uses. Since then, the retailer has changed the way it approaches real estate across the continent.
Before Woolworths opens a new store, office or distribution centre it looks at the design of the property to make sure it uses water efficiently. Its stores now include features such as water-saving air-conditioning, kitchens and rest-room facilities. Selected properties collect rainwater. Others recycle it.
The move to sophisticated water monitoring, revealed a surprising amount of water lost through an extensive matrix of leaks, hidden from view, beneath its stores. At one store in Cape Town, Woolworths discovered leaks, which resulted in the loss of 2.5-millions of litres of water a month – that’s as much as an Olympic size swimming pool of municipal water lost a month.
Woolworths now works with property developers and landlords, across the continent to repair leaks and improve water billing.
By the end of 2015, these measures will see relative water use in Woolworths stores cut in half, from a 2007 benchmark.
A stream runs beneath it
Woolworths head office campus in Cape Town taps into an underground water supply. After consulting with the municipality and a range of experts, the company realised that it could harvest the underground water, treat it and use it. This water is used for the building’s bathroom facilities, kitchens, car wash, courtyard fountain and cooling towers. This way, the office campus has saved 28.5-million litres, in municipal water, since 2012. The aim is a 70% relative reduction in municipal water use by 2015.
A complete system
Finally, Woolworths is educating its supply chain and providing valuable water-saving tips to customers and employees. The retailer also regularly measures the amount of water used by selected suppliers and works with them to conserve and improve waste water management during the growing, production and manufacturing processes. The World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) and the United Nations are among some of the other partners Woolworths is also working with to drive water conservation.