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14 Nov 2019

Dominic Powell, The Sydey Morning Herald

Australia: Coles questioned over affiliation with Business Council 'at odds' with Coles' environmental stance' & supply chain policies

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"Coles questioned on BCA membership, modern slavery at fiery AGM", 13 November 2019

Coles chairman James Graham has defended the supermarket's membership of the Business Council of Australia and admitted it has a "lot more to do" on its supply chain governance after coming under pressure from shareholders over its modern slavery policies.

Mr Graham told shareholders there was "rightly" a focus on the role companies play in addressing climate change, but rejected calls to leave the association, saying it was a "broad church".

"... we are interested in the sustainability of our environment and being a force for good...We view our membership of the BCA as being part of that,"...

...The BCA has said in the past Labor's 45 per cent emission reductions target was "economy wrecking", a view shareholders believed was at odds with Coles' stance...

...The company also faced a shareholder resolution...asking the supermarket to reassess its supply chain policies to reduce reliance on third-party audits, and to consult more with unions. 

Mr Graham [said]...the company had "a lot more to do" on its supply chain governance. "...we're working very hard and in a focused way to make sure that we lift our game,"...

...Mr Graham said the company was willing to work with any unions representing farmworkers on Coles suppliers, however, he dismissed the requests for workers to have oversight on auditing suppliers.

"The decision of who supplies Coles is a decision which Coles must make, so you must hold us accountable as to if we do that properly,"...

...The resolution was supported by 12.8 per cent of shareholders...