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Woolworths arbiter appointed to oversee compliance complaints

Woolworths has appointed corporate lawyer Helen McKenzie in a newly created role of code arbiter, spearheading the company’s dealings with its 5400 suppliers – including complaints relating to compliance with the Food and Grocery Code of Conduct. 

McKenzie will settle disputes, create and follow a new complaints handling procedures and prepare annual reports for consumer watchdog, the ACCC, and the independent reviewer that is appointed by the government. The code arbiter replaces the grocery’s code compliance manager role.

“As founding signatories, we’ve been strong advocates of the Food and Grocery Code of Conduct for many years,” said Woolworths Group CEO Brad Banducci. “The code provides a robust set of checks and balances and Graeme Samuel’s independent review found it has helped improve relationships between retailers and suppliers. The introduction of the independent code arbiter role for each signatory was a key recommendation from that review.

“The enhanced dispute resolution mechanisms in the code are now among the strongest in the retail industry anywhere in the world and will provide additional assurances that suppliers can speak up safely and have commercial grievances resolved as objectively and expeditiously as possible,” he said.

McKenzie is an experienced corporate lawyer who has handled whistleblower and third-party complaints in the past.

“I’m delighted to be taking on this role,” she said in a statement. “An important purpose of the code is to ensure that disputes between retailers and suppliers can be investigated and resolved quickly, fairly and effectively. I trust that my long experience in dispute resolution will give suppliers the confidence to raise concerns with me and that I can demonstrate the value of this important role.”

The supermarket giant has a confidential SpeakUp whistleblower service for suppliers who have concerns.

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