An independent review into Woolworths Group Ltd (ASX: WOW)’s proposed Dan Murphy’s liquor store in Darwin has criticised the company over a lack of consultation and consideration of social impact.
According to a report in today’s The Age, Woolworths’ Endeavour Group business had proposed building the large bottleshop in a location in Darwin. This was reported to be within walking distance of three dry Aboriginal communities, including the biggest in Darwin.
Today, Woolworths has released the 144-page independent report into this proposal. This was conducted by Gilbert + Tobin managing partner Danny Gilbert. It considered both Woolworths’ decisions and level of consultation over the proposed project.
The report was actually completed earlier this year and was one of the reasons the company decided to abandon the plan back in April. However, the report has only just been released publicly by Woolworths.
Woolworths under fire
It outlined a number of “failings” by the company. The report alleged that Woolworths had a “seemingly single-minded determination” to build the site regardless of significant local opposition.
It also stated that commercial considerations seemingly trumped any other considerations. These included the stores’ social impact on its surrounding community. As well as the possible damage to the Woolworths brand. These considerations were reportedly not even considered until mid-2020 — a good four years after Woolworths initiated the project.
Here’s some of what the report stated:
[Woolworths] failed to give sufficient reflective consideration to First Nations people of Darwin and the Northern Territory with respect to their socio-economic status, their histories and their struggles to overcome disempowerment and disadvantage… More fundamentally, it failed to sufficiently understand that many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples view alcohol as nothing short of a demon that leaves destruction in its wake.
It also stated that had the site gone ahead, it would have been, “another nail in the coffin of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples distressed and dying from alcohol abuse”.
According to the report, Woolworths chair Gordon Cairns, CEO Brad Banducci and sustainability committee head Holly Kramer have come out and stated that Woolworths had “clearly failed” to meet expectations over the project. They have pledged to make changes at the company going forward.
These changes will include executives committing to a number of “wide-ranging and personal” meetings with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities around the country. Woolworths will also appoint an executive to oversee decisions around First Nations issues.
About the Woolworths share price
The Woolworths share price closed the day down 1.89% at $42.63.
Even so, the company is up 5.26% over the past month, and up 6.55% year to date. The current share price gives Woolworths a market capitalisation of just over $54 billion.