“We recently launched Countdown’s 2018 Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) report, which details the progress we’ve made over the last financial year to meet the 20 CSR Commitments we set at the end of 2017.

It’s hard not to feel proud when I read it. The report is both a compelling and very humbling display of what can be achieved when the 18,400 members of our team decide to get behind something.

To be able to do good things for New Zealand at scale is a privilege we all appreciate at Countdown. It is a responsibility we take very seriously and for me personally, the single biggest motivator for me in my role.

For us, being sustainable is making sure that while our business grows and delivers value, we also provide rewarding jobs and a supportive workplace, contribute to our local communities and protect Aotearoa’s unique environment. Our latest CSR report is a demonstration of our ongoing commitment to doing that.

Particular highlights from the report include: reducing our gender wage gap to 1.11 per cent, further reducing our carbon emissions by 8.8 per cent (as compared with the previous year), gaining White Ribbon Accreditation, donating $6.3m of food to our Food Rescue partners and local farmers, and increasing the number of our own brand products with the Health Star Rating to 82 per cent.

But without a doubt, the greatest success of this year has been the work we have done, alongside our customers, to move away from single-use plastic carrier bags.

When we undertook this project, we were uncertain about how easy it would be for Kiwis to transition away from single use carrier bags. Announcing first was a leap of faith, but it was the right leap of faith and we are so delighted to have completed the phase-out of these bags in every single one of our 180 stores two and half months ahead of schedule.

Our focus on removing and reducing unnecessary plastic hasn’t only seen the end of single-use plastic bags.

This year, we have also removed more than 70 tonnes of plastic from our produce section, phased out packs of single-use plastic straws, and moved our packaged in-house bakery products into recycled plastic packaging produced by Wellington-based company, Flight Plastics.

Overall, we have made some great progress, but we also know there is still plenty more to be done and we are very determined to continue to reduce plastic and packaging across our business wherever we can.

Our 2020 CSR strategy gives us a framework to be able to focus our attention effectively on the areas where we can make a tangible difference for New Zealand and New Zealanders.  While our CSR goals are ambitious, they are something our team strongly believes we can achieve.

Importantly, being more sustainable is something our customers, and all New Zealanders, want as well. We have seen unprecedented levels of feedback from our customers wanting us to take even more action when it comes to the environment. Responding to this feedback with action will be a priority for us over the next year.”

By Kiri Hannifin, general manager, corporate affairs and sustainability, Countdown