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Business & Sustainability: Our next #CityTalk

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by Joe Peach

Sustainability enthusiasts often encourage individuals to make small changes in their lifestyles, hoping for more significant change as a result of collective actions. And whether it’s retrofitting unsustainable buildings or improving pedestrian infrastructure, there’s no doubt that individuals can positively contribute to the overall sustainability of a city. However, for society to successfully complete its journey towards sustainability, larger stakeholders such as governments and businesses also need to be proactive in addressing sustainability challenges.

After hosting fifteen #citytalk tweetchats covering topics ranging from heritage to identity, we were intrigued when Woolworths – one of South Africa’s largest retail chains – got in touch to discuss hosting a tweetchat on the topic of sustainable business.

Across the globe, large corporations are beginning to make notable progress towards operating more sustainably. In the UK, Marks and Spencer’s ‘Plan A‘ sustainability initiative has seen a reduction in the company’s carbon footprint and zero waste sent to landfill in 2012. Not bad for a retail chain with over 1,000 stores. In the US, fast-food chain Chipotle is showing up its competitors by insisting on naturally-raised meat, organic beans, and dairy from pasture-raised cows (for 100% of their soured cream and 65% of their cheese) for the 750,000 customers they serve each day.

Woolworths is following an equally ambitious path, or as they call it, their Good Business Journey. Some notable developments include:

  • Deployment of energy efficient lighting that automatically turns off out-of-hours in order to reduce electricity usage by 40%.
  • At Head Office, using an underground water supply that would otherwise flow into the ocean stops the use of 27 million litres of municipal water every year.
  • Installing recycling depots for glass, plastic, paper and cardboard in stores across the Western Cape, Gauteng and Kwazulu-Natal.
  • Offering financial assistance, mentorship and targeted up-skilling to small black-owned businesses.

Crucially, Woolworths has realised that operating more sustainably is about more than their direct actions, inviting suppliers, business partners, NGOs and customers’ to join them on their journey.

Whilst previous #citytalk tweetchats have looked at the economics of sustainable cities and the impact of the global economic downturn on cities, our next discussion will be the first to look at the opportunity for businesses to operate more sustainably. We’re excited to be hosting Justin Smith, Head of Woolworths Good Business Journey and we hope you can join us.

The discussion kicks off at 2PM EST/6PM GMT/7PM CET/8 PM SAST on Monday 18 March. Simply follow the #citytalk hashtag and include it in your tweets to join the discussion.