We will regularly and openly listen to our stakeholders.
We understand that listening and responding to our stakeholders is vital, so we can communicate effectively with those who have an interest in our business, and so we can continue to operate our businesses consistently with our stakeholders’ 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 in a variety of ways, 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.
Our customers contact us through emails, letters, websites, telephone calls and personal contact throughout the year. Customers who are concerned or pleased about particular activities in our business decisions sporadically communicate their views directly to Wesfarmers. Customer feedback via Wesfarmers information email is monitored every working day and passed on as soon as possible, usually immediately, to the area of the Group which is best positioned to respond. Public customer feedback on the most popular social media channels, including Facebook and Twitter, is also monitored by Wesfarmers every working day and responses are provided, where appropriate and possible.
This year, customers contacted us on various subjects, including sourcing from Bangladesh, support for Coles’ animal welfare initiatives, halal certification of food, use of plastic bags, liquor advertising and chemical use in food production. Where appropriate, we respond directly to the customer or pass the feedback on to the relevant division.
As at June 2014, we employed 207,282 people. During the reporting period we listened to our employees through a number of channels, including periodic divisional employee surveys, discussions with unions, 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 concerns relating to individual circumstances and concern regarding business restructures.
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.
As well as conducting independent assessments of investor perception, we listen to our retail shareholders at our annual general meeting and we listen to our institutional investors at regular post-result roadshows, strategy and operational briefings, results announcements and other ad hoc meetings.
The main issues that shareholders have raised this year relate to balance sheet and capital management, portfolio management and the Group’s growth outlook. We hold a number of tele-conference 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 calls 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.
Our institutional investors are also interested in understanding our approach to ethical sourcing, supplier relationships and broader corporate governance, which are among the topics discussed in investor briefings published on our website.
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 and ethical sourcing audit and review systems for higher-risk suppliers.
Wesfarmers also meets periodically with key industry groups, including farmer representative bodies, trade unions and individual suppliers as requested. Meetings that Wesfarmers representatives have held or attended during 2013-14 include those with senior representatives from the National Farmers Federation, the Western Australian Farmers Federation, chicken producers and the WA Dairy Collective Bargaining Group. Representatives of trade unions have also regularly attended our annual general meeting as shareholders and have asked questions of, and received responses from, the Chairman and Managing Director in relation to issues of concern. In 2013, this included the Transport Workers Union in relation to road transport safety.
For discussion of the main issues raised by suppliers directly to Wesfarmers this year, see the Suppliers page on this website.
We communicate with government on a number of different levels, including directly with federal and state government representatives and regulators and indirectly through industry bodies from time to time.
For an overview of issues raised with Wesfarmers by government this year, see the government cooperation page on this website. As the Chair of B20, our Managing Director, Richard Goyder, has invested a significant amount of time both listening to government and representing the views of the business community to contribute to national and global policy debate.
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, World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF) Australia and the Grattan Institute, 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 Plastics and Chemicals Industries Association, the National Retail Association, Australian Coal Association, the Queensland Resources Council and the Australian Environment Business Network.
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.
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 we are not able to satisfactorily respond to feedback, we explain our position. We respond to all requests for sponsorship and donations, guided by our sponsorship policies and priorities.
Stakeholder engagement survey
Every year, as part of report preparation process, we conduct a stakeholder engagement survey to continually improve how and what we communicate on sustainability-related issues to our stakeholders. Again this year, the majority of respondents considered Wesfarmers to be a good corporate citizen. The following areas of concern were raised by respondents and we have responded in the following parts of this site:
- Building long term relationships with suppliers
- Wesfarmers’ ownership of coal assets
- Ethical sourcing
- Gaming activities in the Spirit Hotels business
For more detail on the results of the survey, click here.