Woolworths aims to go renewable as pressure mounts to exit pokies venues 

by Ethan Anderson Last Updated
Woolworths aims to go renewable as pressure mounts to exit pokies venues 

Supermarket and hotels giant Woolworths has committed to using 100 per cent renewable energy by 2025.

The Australian Financial Review reports the new sustainability plan will include the installation of solar panels on the roofs of stores and distribution centres, signing power purchase agreements with wind and solar energy providers and co-investing to build new renewable energy projects.

Australia’s largest retailer has also pushed its emission reduction targets further, committing to make its operations net carbon positive, rather than net neutral, by 2050, if not before.

Chief executive Brad Banducci said moving to 100 per cent renewable electricity is the right thing to do and something a growing number of its customers, team members and shareholders expect.

“We use around one per cent of Australia’s national electricity, so we have a unique opportunity to use our scale for good and make a real impact.

“Over the coming years, we’ll invest tens of millions of dollars into renewable energy partnerships and prioritise new green energy projects to spur growth in the industry and new jobs in the sector.

“We believe this will not only be a positive for our business, but also contribute to a better tomorrow by making green energy accessible to more Australians.”

Woolworths’ move was announced before its annual meeting, where it will come under pressure over its ongoing exposure to poker machines through 85.4 per cent owned hotel and drinks subsidiary Endeavour Group and its plans to open a Dan Murphy’s liquor store near Aboriginal communities in Darwin.

Community and health organisations and the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education have repeatedly called on Woolworths to abandon its five-year fight for the Dan Murphy’s store, which would be 10 times larger than its existing BWS store in Darwin and in walking distance of three ‘dry’ Aboriginal communities.

They are expected to step up their campaign at the AGM after the Northern Territory government introduced legislation to fast track the approval of the 1800-square metre shop, even though the Liquor Commission rejected the application a year ago because of the harm it would cause local communities.

Woolworths lost its appeal against the Liquor Commission decision in the NT Civil and Administrative Tribunal but the NT government introduced special legislation this week that would hand the final say on the application to a director of liquor licensing.

Woolworths has said the proposed Dan Murphy’s store has overwhelming support among Territorians who want access to the same shopping experience and choice as customers in other cities, with the development set to inject $30 million into the community.

Woolworths completed a restructure of Endeavour Drinks and ALH in February, but plans to demerge or sell the combined business were delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, which forced hundreds of ALH hotels to permanently close.

Woolworths will review the future of the Endeavour business at the end of January and the business is expected to be floated in calendar 2021.

Two Woolworths owned pokies operators fined for liquor breaches

Woolworths-owned ALH Group, Australia’s third largest pokies operator, has been ordered to pay more than $172,000 after two of its hotels in New South Wales were found to have systematically supplied pokies players with free alcohol. 

Yahoo Finances reports the New South Wales Department of Customer Service has revealed that Westower Tavern in Ballina and South Tweed Tavern were ‘shouting’ gamblers drinks in order to encourage more playing.

“A system whereby gamblers were given free liquor ‘shouts’ was captured in daily reporting targets and tied to gaming profits and staff performance,” executive director of investigations and enforcement at Liquor and Gambling Authority New South Wales Valerie Griswold said.

“Staff were encouraged to seek out regular and high bidding gamblers for free drinks – a process that was documented and managed through reports and staff emails.

“This practice illegally used alcohol to boost gambling and what it does, essentially, is reduce a person’s control of their gambling.”

Under New South Wales gaming laws, it is illegal to offer or supply free or discounted alcohol to induce gambling.

As a result, both venues were fined a total of $3,500 and an ALH manager was banned from the New South Wales industry for five years.

ALH was formally reprimanded and the hotels banned from operating their poker machines for two weeks.

The company was also ordered to pay $172,692 in costs.

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