WHILE supermarket giant Woolworths is selling its plan to phase out single use plastic bags as an important step for the environment, it is also a significant commercial move.
No-one could be genuinely expected to believe that cold hard cash has not played a part in this decision.
In announcing the phase-out on Friday, Woolworths group CEO Brad Banducci said his company was currently giving away more than three billion plastic bags every year.
“Today’s commitment shows we are committed to taking our environmental and community responsibilities seriously,” Mr Banducci said.
“Whilst we know this is a major decision, we will work very closely with all of our store teams to ensure the transition for our customers is as simple as possible.”
However, not only are those three billion bags a potential disaster for the environment and local waterways, they are also a significant slug on the Woolworths bottom line.
When we posted the story on the Western Advocate Facebook page on Friday we naturally attracted a range of views the issue which reflected both those realities.
So while many readers applauded Woolworths’ move and indicated the ban could not start soon enough, many more saw it as a much more cynical exercise.
But Woolworths always knew that any outcry over the bag phase-out would likely to be short-lived.
It was only ever a matter of time until Woolworths’ biggest rival, Coles, announced a similar ban. In the end, it took just a few hours.
That announcement eliminated any risk of Woolworths losing customers over the bag phase-out while also letting them take the moral high ground as the first to make the move.
The supermarket giants’ next biggest rival, Aldi, has never given out plastic bags, a fact that has become a key part of their corporate identity.
It is a matter of pride for regular Aldi customers to drive around with a boot full of reusable shopping bags an such a sight is soon to become the norm rather than the exception.
Just as Aldi shoppers have learnt to come to the supermarket prepared, though, so too will Coles and Woolworths shoppers quickly adapt.
It’s a small price to pay.