We realise that listening openly to our stakeholders is vital to understanding their changing expectations.
Each division communicates with its stakeholders in the most appropriate way for its business, taking into account the needs of its stakeholder groups. At a Group level, Wesfarmers considers the interests of a wide cross-section of stakeholders, determined by the actual or potential impact of our business on their interests. See below for more detail on how we communicate with particular stakeholder groups.
We recognise the importance of providing shareholders with access to up-to-date information and the ability to participate in shareholder decisions of the company. Communication between the Group’s management, our Board, shareholders, debt investors, the media and the broader investment community is encouraged, subject to compliance with continuous disclosure obligations contained in the Listing Rules of the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) and the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth), and our Market Disclosure Policy.
We have dedicated resources to respond to retail shareholder feedback in our corporate office. We also communicate with our retail shareholders through our website, via email and at our annual general meeting. We listen to our institutional investors at post-results road shows, strategy and operational briefing days, periodic site tours of our operations, and other ad hoc meetings.
We hold a number of briefings each year which are open to investment analysts, which include briefings related to the release of Wesfarmers’ half-year and full-year results and also following the first and third quarter retail sales results. These briefings enable investment analysts to ask questions of the Managing Director and Finance Director and, in the case of the half and full-year results releases, Divisional Managing Directors. These briefings are also available to all shareholders to listen to live or delayed via a public webcast.
In addition, the Managing Director and Finance Director hold briefings, both domestically and offshore, with representatives from a number of major Wesfarmers investors and broking groups in the weeks following the half and full-year results releases. Feedback from these briefings, including the areas of most interest to investors and shareholders, are used to guide future market communications.
The main issues that shareholders raised this year relate to the competitive intensity of the industries within which the Group operates, portfolio management and the Group’s growth outlook. Our institutional investors are also interested in understanding our approach to ethical sourcing, supplier relationships, climate change resilience and corporate governance, which are among the topics discussed in investor briefings published on our website.
All our businesses have communication mechanisms for listening to their customers. Customer feedback is addressed within the relevant business in the first instance. In addition to this, customers are able to contact us directly through emails, letters, our websites, telephone calls and personal contact throughout the year. Customers who are concerned or pleased about particular activities in our businesses sporadically communicate their views directly to Wesfarmers. Customer feedback received directly via email is monitored every working day and passed on as soon as possible, to the division which is best positioned to respond.
As at June 2015, we employed 205,001 people. Across the Group, we try to promote an open culture that values empowerment and encourages direct feedback from employees. During the reporting period, we received feedback from our employees through a number of channels, including periodic divisional employee surveys, personal contact, our whistleblower process, our website and via email.
This year, as in previous years, the key messages we have received from employees include ongoing professional development and concerns relating to individual circumstances. Divisions act on the feedback they receive in employee surveys and individual concerns are investigated and addressed. Our whistleblower process is reported to our Audit Committee annually.
Wesfarmers is committed to long-term outcomes that benefit both shareholders and our suppliers while recognising that robust negotiations are a part of normal and acceptable business practice and contribute to innovation, efficiency and the long-term sustainability and competitiveness of all parties.
Our divisions have close working relationships with their suppliers. They also have ethical sourcing audit and review systems for higher-risk suppliers. Our businesses are members of supplier bodies, recognise suppliers through awards and meet with suppliers regularly and as requested.
For discussion of the main issues raised by suppliers directly to Wesfarmers this year, see the Suppliers page of this report.
During the year, as well as Wesfarmers Managing Director Richard Goyder's role as Chair of the B20, we have liaised with federal and state governments through one-on-one meetings, other direct and indirect communications and participation in formal consultation processes in relation to a range of issues that affect our businesses and society, including the following:
- Competition regulation reform: Wesfarmers and Coles provided submissions to the federal government’s Competition Policy Review headed by Professor Ian Harper, and to Treasury in response to the review’s final report. Wesfarmers supported the report’s recommendations to remove remaining restrictions on trading hours, to consider competition policy in planning and zoning rules and to repeal price signalling provisions. Wesfarmers was concerned however by the proposed introduction of an effects test in respect of the misuse of market power law, given the level of uncertainty the proposed amendments would create in the market. Many other opponents of the proposal, believe would inhibit rather than promote innovation and competition.
- Retail trading hours: Wesfarmers, Bunnings and Coles continued discussions with the Western Australian government on the issue of retail trading hours, seeking a liberalisation of the particularly restrictive trading hours regime in that state.
- Liquor licensing: Wesfarmers continued communications seeking changes to liquor licensing laws in Queensland which require liquor store licensees to also be the owners of hotel licences. No other state has this requirement, the effect of which is to involve Wesfarmers in an industry it does not wish to be involved in - gambling, through the presence of gaming machines in hotels without which the hotels would not be financially viable.
- Carbon regulation: Wesfarmers met with the relevant government agencies to discuss issues related to the proposed Emissions Reduction Fund.
- GST on imported goods: Wesfarmers has continued to put the position to the federal government that the taxation provision allowing GST exemption on imported goods to the value of less than $1,000 creates an uneven playing field which penalises Australian retailers.
- Food and Grocery Code of Conduct: Coles engaged in a long process of negotiation involving the federal government, the Australian Food and Grocery Council and other interested parties seeking to develop a voluntary Food and Grocery Code of Conduct. The Code came into effect in June 2015 and Coles adopted it with effect from 1 July 2015.
- Tax reform: Wesfarmers provided a submission to the federal government's Re:think Tax Discussion Paper.
Our divisions work collaboratively with non-government organisations (NGOs) on a range of projects. NGOs engage with us on issues such as human and labour rights and environment and public policy.
We continue to build relationships with accredited and reputable NGOs, such as Oxfam Australia, WWF Australia and Care Australia to identify further opportunities to work together. We also work with a range of industry associations including the Australian Packaging Covenant, the Australian Industry Greenhouse Network, the Business Council of Australia, the Carbon Market Institute, the Plastics and Chemicals Industries Association, the National Retail Association, Australian Retailers Association, Minerals Council of Australia, the Queensland Resources Council, Drinkwise, Alcohol Beverage Advertising Code, Retailer Supplier Roundtable, Efficient Consumer Response Australasia, Better Work, Green Building Council of Australia, The Global Foundation, Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, Allergen Bureau and the Australian Environment Business Network.
Wesfarmers has always believed that a strong business environment is underpinned by a cohesive and inclusive community environment. Accordingly, Wesfarmers has had a long-term commitment to investing in community initiatives linked to long-term social and economic outcomes.
Collectively across the Wesfarmers Group we directly contributed $50 million to community organisations this year, which equates to 1.5 per cent of profit before income tax.
As well as our direct contributions, the Group facilitated donations from customers and employees, totalling $52.7 million this year, which went to a wide range of community initiatives.
As well as requests for sponsorship or other support from the general community, we receive feedback via letters, email and our website. We endeavour to respond individually to all inquiries, concerns and feedback. Where, due to scope and scale, we cannot respond to each item of feedback received, we explain our position. We respond to all requests for sponsorship and donations, guided by our sponsorship policies and priorities.
We work cooperatively with international, national and local media organisations because we believe it contributes to transparency and the reputation of the Group and provides an important avenue for communication with our stakeholders. This includes holding media conferences to coincide with major events and responding to media requests and feedback through our corporate affairs department.
Media commentary and inquiries indicate we are expected to uphold high standards of transparency, integrity, corporate governance and financial and operational performance. The media also expect us to contribute to discussion and debate relating to the economy, business confidence and public policy in Australia
We respond to all media inquiries, guided by what is in the best interests of our shareholders. That response may include declining to comment. Our Managing Director and Finance Director respond to media questions at the time of half-year and full-year financial results. The Managing Director also makes himself available regularly for other media interviews on request.
We hold a minimum of two media conferences each year which are open to all media, following the release of Wesfarmers’ half year and full year results. Media can attend either by attendance in person or by teleconference and ask questions of the Managing Director and Finance Director. Our experience is that media use this forum to ask Wesfarmers about a range of other issues, including relationships with our stakeholders and economic and political matters of interest. Media are also invited to attend and report on our Annual General Meeting.
Stakeholder engagement survey
Every year, as part of our report preparation process, we conduct a stakeholder engagement survey to continually improve how and what we communicate on sustainability-related issues to our stakeholders. We received more than 90 responses from a range of stakeholders, including employees, analysts, media, NGOs and community members. Respondents identified the following issues as areas of concern, which are addressed in this report:
- Environmental impact of our business
- Our investment in coal assets
- Climate change resilience
- Supplier relationships
- Food safety
- Ethical sourcing
We welcome your feedback. If you would like to provide us with feedback on our sustainability performance or reporting, please do so here.
GRI Reference: G4-DMA (Anti competitive behavior), G4-16, G4-24, G4-25, G4-26, G4-27