Getting on the Coles bandwagon

We are going through something of a philosophical journey in regard to our grocery shopping here in Coburg. Step 1 on this path to enlightenment was to begin to feel uncomfortable about the relationship Woolworths has with the poker machine industry. Make up your own mind on the issue, but as a matter of personal choice we have walked away from the store, although I’m not sure they’ve noticed yet. Step 2 was to consider the amount of plastic packaging we were bringing home after a family shop, mostly wrapped around our fruit and veg; the recycling bin was full to overflowing each and every week.

Being confirmed Aldi fans for sometime – a magical shopping duet with the local Woolworths – the time had come to source our fruit and veg plastic free. All it took was a calculator and the receipts from our last supermarket shop to realise that we were spending the same amount of money as a large mixed fruit and veg box from CERES Fair Food. The universe was calling, because once we looked at the details we found our local food host lived directly across the road, requiring a less than 60 second journey door to door on a Thursday afternoon to pick up our box. Sold on the concept, we are a couple of weeks in and loving the variety of seasonal produce, and wondering on occasion what to do with the mystery vegetable of the week (I think its kale, but it may also be the illegitimate offspring of broccolini and rocket).

So we’ve got rid of Woolworths and we’ve got rid of kilo’s of plastic on the road to nirvana, can it possibly get any better? With CERES providing our fruit and veg, and Aldi the bulk of our other needs, we still required particular products/brands that neither supplied to our liking, so ‘hello’ Coles Coburg North. More a marriage of convenience, I wasn’t really expecting to view Coles through the lens of sustainability. It was something of a surprise then to come across the large internal promotion of the stores sustainability credentials

IMG_20160220_132500_6(Image: S.Powell)

There is a part of my brain that is very cynical about Coles embracing the sustainability movement, but to give them their due, they are at least aware of the bigger picture and their corporate responsibility. The broader argument being that there is a growing legitimacy crisis between society’s expectations of business’ social performance and there actual (much lower) performance. This is driven by four key factors, the first being that the social, environmental and economic priorities in which business operates is changing:

  • in the past they could afford to be oblivious to their social and environmental impacts
  • now they have to strive to reduce impacts and project a positive image
  • in the future they have to have positive impacts and provide social and environmental solutions

The second factor is the three waves of environmentalism model proposed by Krupp (1992), in which the business sector is slowly but surely brought to the table:

  • 1st wave: Activism (industry and govt. resistance)
  • 2nd wave: Government Intervention (resistance to regulation)
  • 3rd wave: Market based solutions (business participates)

The third factor is the new logic of business:

  • that the environment is no longer a threat to the bottom line, and
  • green strategies are good for both the planet and business, as they
    • save money
    • minimise risk, and
    • boost competitiveness

Finally, the last factor is the business case for sustainability, or how to do more with less:

  • Cost savings – less waste, reduced material inputs
  • Improved risk management – reduced risk and liabilities
  • Marketing advantage – innovation, competitiveness and differentiation
  • Human resource benefits – better staff morale, loyalty, decreased absenteeism
  • Value creation and protection – improved quality and safety = improved shareholder value

How sincere Coles is, and how far they have travelled done the path of their own enlightenment is a discussion for another day, but its always an encouraging sign to see these concepts seeping into the local business community.


Krupp, F. (1992). Business and the third wave: saving the environment. Vital Speeches, 58(21), 656-659.

Published by

Sean Powell

Sustainability Practitioner

2 thoughts on “Getting on the Coles bandwagon”

  1. Aldi will soon be at our local shopping centre in Warriewood…I would not have thought of shopping there, but will give them a try.
    I’m going to do a bit of research and see if Ceres or an equivalent is available in Sydney!
    Thanks for the article!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s