Woolworths announces all stores will ban single-use plastic bags within 12 months



In a shocking announcement, Woolworths disclosed that it would shortly commence phasing out single use plastic bags especially in BWS stores, supermarkets and Big W with a complete ban implemented by June 30, 2018. The disclosure by Woolworths was welcomed by most environmental groups, which have been considered to campaign for the plastic bag ban nationally. The long campaigns by the environmental groups prompted the chief competitor Woolworths to follow suit. The same day, Cole also disclosed that they would be implementing a single-use plastic bags ban over the next year. The ban disclosure will bring stores for both Woolworths and Cole in line with those in different territories and states especially where these bags have been legalized (Lucy Cormack, 2017).

Accounting Theory

The legitimacy theory has been considered as one of the most commended accounting theories especially within the environmental and social accounting area. This particular accounting theory plays the role of demonstrating organizations’ behaviour especially when developing and implementing voluntary environmental and social information disclosure with the objective of meeting their social contract that allows for organization survival and objective recognition in an unstable environment. The legitimacy theory asserts that the organisation continues to strive ensuring that they are deemed as functioning within the norms and confines of their particular societies. Legitimacy on the other hand is a widespread perception that the entity actions are appropriate, desirable and proper within socially established set of norms, beliefs and values (Hummel and Schlick, 2016).


The relevant issue within this particular article is the perception that both Woolworth and Cole attempt to generate a good and positive image in accordance to the expectations of the society. Most big stores and big supermarkets have been considered not to particularly operate according to the norms, values and beliefs of the society where they are expected to support environmental pollution reduction. Most big stores and supermarkets have been offering single use plastic bags and most of these stores still do. New laws and regulations have been put in place restricting stores and supermarkets from providing to customers plastic bags particularly single-use plastic bags. Instead, these stores are only allowed to sell specifically thick-skinned bags that can be reused and recycled (Vander Bauwhede, 2007).

Many environmental groups have advocated for the ban on plastic bags especially single-use plastic bags with key victories experienced including the passage into law the Proposition 67. This particular law made the state of California the first state to implement the ban, which is very essential in pollution reduction. Many people different societies still live in places where single use paper bags are still in use and have not been outlawed. According to this article, Woolworth has made an attempt to provide billions of lightweight plastic bags, which has been reported to immensely reduce the overall usage of plastic bags. On the other hand Cole has been making an attempt to implement the use of single use plastic bags at the checkout points and this move is considered as part of their ongoing program to enhance environmental outcomes in their entire business operations (Guthrie and Parker, 1989).

In accordance to the legitimacy theory Woolworth and Cole disclosed that they would be implementing a ban on the single use plastic bags, which is both a social and environmental voluntary information disclosure. Woolworth has been considered adamant and oppositional in implementing the plastic bag ban, but with the push from environmental groups to follow suit, both stores have been able to do so. Woolworths and Cole decided to voluntarily implement the ban instead of awaiting laws to be passed in their jurisdictions so that they can put in place the ban. The stores (Woolworths and Cole) made the decision to play an important role in supporting the society to enable environmental pollution reduction through implementing the single use plastic paper bag usage ban.


In conclusion, after analysis of the article on the single use paper bag ban, it is important to acknowledge that there is an established association especially between the voluntary of disclosure of information on the issue of banning single use plastic bags and the legitimacy theory within the social and environmental accounting area. The legitimacy of both Woolworth and Cole consisted of the general expectation of the society to ensure that pollution is reduced. Both stores (Woolworth and Cole) were able to restore their legitimacy through voluntarily implementing the ban in order to support the expectations of the society (Deegan, n.d.).

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  1. Deegan, C. (n.d.). Financial accounting theory.
  2. Guthrie, J. and Parker, L. (1989). Corporate Social Reporting: A Rebuttal of Legitimacy Theory. Accounting and Business Research, 19(76), pp.343-352.
  3. Hummel, K. and Schlick, C. (2016). The relationship between sustainability performance and sustainability disclosure – Reconciling voluntary disclosure theory and legitimacy theory. Journal of Accounting and Public Policy, 35(5), pp.455-476.
  4. Lucy Cormack, P. (2017). First Woolworths, then Coles announces the end of plastic bags. [online] The Age. Available at: http://www.theage.com.au/business/consumer-affairs/woolworths-announces-all-stores-will-ban-plastic-bags-within-12months-20170714-gxba35.html [Accessed 25 Aug. 2017].
  5. Vander Bauwhede, H. (2007). Book review: Financial accounting theory. The International Journal of Accounting, 42(1), pp.116-118.
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