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The rising restrictions which the government bodies are taking to curb environmental damage have led companies to undergo organizational changes. The managers have to play significant role in implementation these organisational changes. The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 mandates all commercial organisations including retail stores to abstain from indulging in any action which is capable of damaging the environment. The act has provisions to penalise the defaulting business houses (environment.gov.au 2018). Plastic bags have devastating impact on the environment, both on plants and animals. This is because plastic is non-biodegradable and takes a long to break down, only to release harmful substances into the environment. Plastic bags choke waterways and gradually lead to clogging of water boies like rivers and lakes (Lamb et al. 2018). A colossal amount of plastic bags and broken down plastic particles accumulate in the oceans and float on the surface. The marine animals ingest these poisonous particles conceiving them as food particles and these are passed up the food chain. The debris kill the corals and planktons, thus devastating the entire marine life systems (Van Sebille et al. 2015). As per the British Broadcasting Corporation, the retail sector is one the largest generator of these plastic particles. This is because the retail chains use immense amount of plastic bags to package the goods they sell to their customers (bbc.com 2018). These findings have compelled governments impose plastic bans on the retail chains to curtail this pollution. These restrictions have resulted the retail organisations to bring drastic changes in their modus-operandi. The paper would deal with the two roles which managers at the retail chains would play to lead the employees in the direction of plastic ban. The researcher would consider the Australian international retail chain, Woolworths as the crux of the discussion. He would be comparing the plastic ban in the Woolworths to the retail chains in other markets. They are the Tesco, based in the United Kingdom and the M&S, the United States of America. The paper would explore management of this change at the retail change by highlighting two managerial attributes namely participative leadership and motivation.
The managers at the Woolworths use two ways to lead their staffs towards sustainability and align their customer service with the plastic ban. They use two weapons to lead this organisational change namely, leadership and management.
Lumbasi, K’Aol and Ouma (2016) defines participative leadership as the style of leadership where the leadership encourage their followers to participate in the decision making. This style of leadership is a dynamic method of leading subordinates through tough situations when they have to bring about drastic changes in their modes of operation. The managers of the organisation emphasise on gaining cooperation of the subordinates and the stakeholders, if required to achieve the predetermined goals. The subordinates working under a participative leader are encouraged to take part in the decision making process which boosts their motivation and their consequent performances. Ghaffari, et al. (2017) mention that participative leaders train and mentor their subordinates to boost the skills and competencies of the latter. This results in more proactive participation of the subordinates in decisions making activities. Newman, Rose and Teo (2016) point out that participative leadership style creates trust between the managers and their subordinates. They as a result support their managers in bringing about organisational changes instead of opposing them.
In spite of widespread controversies, Woolworths’ decision to stick to their plan of banning light-weight single use plastics bags and imposition of charges on the use of heavier plastic bags, unlike one of their top competitor Coles, who refused to adopt the strategy, display excellent leadership capability on the part of Woolworths’ administrative body (Zhou 2018). The confidence with which the company decided to play by this rule, is a marker of the close connection and excellent relationship that exist across various levels of the organization. Implementation of such a huge operational change by one of Australia’s top retail chain would have been impossible without the consent of the stakeholders, and the company’s decision to conform to this eco-friendly attitude in such a short notice hints at the effective use of leadership styles of managing their workforce and their network. This phenomena is a marker of their participative leadership style whereby the leaders of the company engaged in strategic communication with the staff as well as the consumers, creating awareness about the benefits of this process and receiving feedbacks from everybody. The cause being generous, the feedbacks in most cases were positive from every sphere. This was chiefly because the awareness was projected by the company effectively through social media and other mediums. This engagement of all the stakeholders in the decision-making, as well as the generous and non-profit-making motive of this process, further enhanced the goodwill of the company (Couriermail.com.au 2018).
Unlike the micromanagement styles of scrutinizing and encroaching into the work of the employees, the managers projected the plastic-ban issue as a shared responsibility towards a better world. Thus it excellently adhered to the parameters of corporate social responsibility, and integrated relative policies so that the changes brought does not hamper, but rather improve, the company’s business prospects. The decision helped the company to win the confidence of various environmentalists and environmental activists, who would cite the company name as an example in their programmes.
Almost 75% of the shoppers supported this eco-friendly move (Woolworthsgroup.com.au 2018). The company not only removed plastic bags from its shelves, but also provided alternative solutions for the same. It promoted the use of re-usable bags, which were to be brought by the customers. In the event of their forgetting to do so, the provision of big and re-usable plastic bags would come for a price of 15 cents. The company also offered to provide emergency foldable bags or ‘Woolworth’s Bag for Good’ at 99 cents (Couriermail.com.au 2018). The also offered provisions of replacement of these bags for in case they get damaged. These alternative solutions acted as masterstroke for the company, allowing it to befriend a large number of customers.
The change which the researcher would explore is the plastic ban in the retail chains like the Australian chain, the Woolworths. The authorities of the Australian retail giant has imposed ban on usage of plastic bags. This move of the Woolworths is far stronger compared to the actions taken by its British counterparts, the Tesco and M&S. The British retail chain has decided to reduce its non-biodegradable plastic bags instead of totally banning them. It can be pointed out that this would require cooperation of the customers and is not easy work. The floor managers of the retail chain encouraged their subordinates to create awareness among customers in order to gain their consent on plastic ban. The managers of the retail chain encouraged their subordinates to maintain regular communication with customers to persuade them to refrain from using plastic bags. The managers motivate these subordinate and also accompany them to speak to customers. This participative style of the managers ensure that the subordinates succeed in motivating most of the customers to refrain from using plastic bags. Thus, the discussion can be closed by stating the participative style of leadership enable managers to bring about changes within their subordinates and ultimately the entire organisational operations.
As observed by Leary and Baumeister (2017) motivation plays an important role in not only to inspire the employees to continue to work in an organisation but also to ensure that once a policy has been implemented it is managed in a proper manner. In the case of Woolworths, the policy of banning plastics needs to be inspired so that the people working in the stores does not provide or indulge in plastic business. It has been seen that the Government of Australia is strict about the protection of the environment and it is essential for a company like Woolworths to abide by the law. The law imposed has provided Woolworths with an alternative to provide customers with the use of canvas bag or chiller bag for its purpose. At the same time, food that involved plastic packaging was also banned by the Australia, thereby providing an opportunity to further its horizons in the market. As stated by Herzberg (2017) it is essential that every employee contribute towards implementing policies laid down by the Government. In the case of Woolworths, the motivation can be done by applying Herzberg’s two-factor theorem in which it is stated that one of the factors of motivating employees is maintaining a proper working environment
In this regard, comparison can be made with reputed companies in other parts of the world. For example, in the UK, a company like Tesco have adopted strategies to remove all plastic packages so that it can provide healthy habits to the people. Instead, the employees have been motivated to adopt packages that are easy to recycle. Although the ban has not been put to effect, customers as well as the Government of the country are optimistic that Tesco can provide a ban on the use of plastics and ensure that it follows the steps taken by Woolworths in preserving the environment (Reeve 2014). The motivation has been provided by moving to a loop that helps in collaborating with the suppliers about redesigning and reducing the packaged materials. Some of the plastics that are hard to recycle are identified as PVC and polystyrene that is used in pizza trays. Lepper and Greene (2015) are of the opinion that the ban in plastics can reduce the cost of manufacturing the products. This in turn can provide motivation to the employees as the extra cost can be used to provide salary to the employees. Hence, this can be considered as a motivation factor that can be used Tesco so that the company can inspire the employees to ban the use of plastics.
At the same time, comparison can be made with a company like Mark and Spencer’s over the ban on plastics. Miner (2015) is of the opinion that Mark and Spencer’s have taken the initiative to reduce the use of plastics in over 140 products that include the consumption of popcorns with the use of plastic bags. Hence, slashing the amount of packages used in the company provides an opportunity for the people in the US, to lead a life with a friendly environment. It has been reported that while making comparison between the achievements made by Woolworths, Mark and Spencer’s and Tesco it has been seen that Mark and Spencer’s have achieved the highest percentage of reduction of plastics. The motivation factor is that with the reduced cost of manufacturing of plastics, the company can save up to 75 tonnes of packaging each year. This can accumulate to paying for the transportation services of Lorries for the transfer of goods from one place to another. Hence, it can be said that the monetary motivation that is provided by Mark and Spencer’s inspire the employees to ensure that ban on plastics is prevailed in the organisation (Nuttin 2014).
As stated by Hanus and Fox (2015) the ban on plastics can have a lot of positive impact on the environment of a country. The manner in which Woolworths can implement the ban on plastics can have a positive effect on the society and other organisations in the country. Therefore, it can be said that with the implementation of the ban, Woolworths can ensure that it maintains its relationship with the Government and encourage the customers to refrain from using plastics.
Therefore we may conclude by saying that the decision of Woolworth to comply with the Australian Environmental Law – Environment Protection and Biodiversity Protection Act – was a masterstroke by the company, in terms of its business expansion. A significant amount of leadership skills and motivational impact went into the successful adoption of this policy. Plastic ban policies have also been adopted by other retail chains like Tesco in United Kingdom and Marks & Spencer in United Kingdom. Following the same path, Woolworth’s huge resources and the maintenance of excellent organizational culture by the leaders facilitated the unhindered integration of the alternatives for single-use plastic bags into its business model. The use of these alternatives significantly motivated the customers to contribute to a better world by reducing the use of plastic in their own lives and shop from Woolworths. This strategy, although apparently did not aim to make any financial benefit through use of alternatives, however, attracted a large number of new customers, thereby expanding its customer base and doing better business. This environmental factor, along with the prospect of a better business in a progressive working environment under friendly leaders acted as significant motivational factors for the employees, thereby leading to the growth and development of the company.
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Hanus, M. D., and Fox, J. 2015. Assessing the effects of gamification in the classroom: A longitudinal study on intrinsic motivation, social comparison, satisfaction, effort, and academic performance. Computers & Education, 80, pp.152-161.
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