Australia's 'greenest' supermarket: How Coles beat rival Woolworths

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Many consumers stand firmly decided on their preferred grocery store, but Coles customers now have a leg up on Woolworths in the 2021 Food and Agriculture Benchmark.

The World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA) ranked Coles the number one food retailer in Australia for sustainability — and second worldwide in its inaugural benchmark.

Their supermarket rival Woolworths ranked 7th.

A Coles and Woolworths sign.
Coles has ranked as the most sustainable food retailer in Australia, and second in the world. Source: Getty

It's the first ever Food and Agriculture Benchmark. According to the WBA's website, the benchmark assesses 350 of the biggest food and agriculture companies in the world and ranks then based on their governance, environment, nutrition, and social inclusion practices.

Unilever and Nestle head total ranking

Overall, Coles was ranked 12 out of 350 companies, while the Woolworths Group came in at 31.

Unilever, with brands such as Omo, Ben and Jerry's ice cream and Lipton tea, topped the benchmark overall, leading the way in social inclusion and governance and strategy.

Nestle ranked second overall and French dairy company Danone third. Kellogg's snuck in just before Coles coming in at 11th on the benchmark.

The WBA said these companies showed leadership in relation to food loss and waste, plastic use and soil health and agrobiodiversity. 

Coles showed leadership in sustainability 

Coles was ranked second out of 62 peer food retailers around the world, and 12th out of the 350 benchmarked food and agriculture organisations internationally. 

In the food and beverage manufacturers/processors category, Coles also ranked 10th in the world. 

In the report, the WBA stated that Coles “ranked first among its retail peers in social inclusion, while landing among the top five in nutrition, and top 10 across the governance and strategy.

“Coles’ Together to Zero and Better Together ambitions, as outlined in our sustainability strategy, underpin the steps we are taking to drive generational sustainability,” said Coles chief sustainability, property and export officer Thinus Keevé.

“We recognise the role we have to play but know that we cannot do this alone, and that we need to work together with our many stakeholders to drive positive change. "

Woolworths ranked 7th out of 62, and 24 in the food and beverage manufacturers/processors category.

The WBA stated that the company "provides disclosure across the environment measurement area, with leading practices in animal welfare and time-bound targets to address relevant topics, including greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and food loss and waste."

Aldi South Group, which includes Aldi Australia, ranked 51 on the benchmark and 12th in food retailers.

This years report showed worrying trends

A press release from the WBA said the new benchmark shows that only 26 of the world’s 350 largest food and agriculture companies are working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Coles and Woolworths were included in these companies. 

“The world is becoming ever-more conscious of the environmental destruction our food system is causing. Yet, many companies are not feeling the need to adapt, and smallholder farmers are hit hardest by the climate crisis,” said WBA lead food and agriculture transformation Viktoria de Bourbon de Parme.

“Changing temperatures, unreliable rainfall and land degradation are reinforcing poverty and devastating the natural landscape. For the sake of people and our planet, food companies’ denial must end now.”

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