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29 November 2002
How do companies know they are getting it right when they report on their environmental performance?
A draft guide released this week by the Federal Minster for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, will help answer that question with a series of indicators and methodologies for public environmental reporting.
The Minister has called for widespread comment on the guide, An Australian Guide to Indicators and Methodologies for Public Environmental Reporting.
The strong business presence at the recent World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg showed that industry is keen to take up more sustainable practices and to respond to the international interest in corporate environmental governance.
A recent KPMG survey of the top 100 companies in 19 countries found that, overall, 45 per cent of the world's top 250 companies now publish a separate corporate report with details of environmental and/or social performance, up from 35 per cent in 1999.
But while Japan has the highest percentage of top-100 companies producing corporate environment or social reports (72 per cent), followed by the United Kingdom (49 per cent), USA (36 per cent) and the Netherlands (35 per cent), Australia lags behind at only 14 per cent.
Over 50 Australian companies have listed their reports on Environment Australia’s public environmental reporting library since it was launched last year. However there are clearly many others that are missing out on the benefits of voluntary public environmental reporting.
Managing and reporting on environmental performance makes good business sense. Companies that are actively looking to reduce environmental risks and impacts are not only more environmentally sustainable but are also potentially more profitable and competitive.
The guide responds to requests by organisations that are keen to deal with the hands-on issues of selecting, calculating and reporting relevant management and environmental indicators. It builds on the Commonwealth’s Framework for Public Environmental Performance and is consistent with the Global Reporting Initiative’s (GRI) 2002 Sustainability Reporting Guidelines widely supported at the World Summit.
The guide complements the development of a Social Indicator guide by the Department of Family and Community Services to inform the broader issues of sustainability and the social dimension of the Triple Bottom Line.
Dr Kemp released the guide at a forum on challenges for Australia in the context of a sustainable Asia, organised by the Business Council of Australia, World Business Council for Sustainable Development and Asia Society AustralAsia Centre.
Ruth Dewsbury 02 6274 1076