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Media Release
Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment and Heritage

5 August 2001

FINANCE SECTOR CAN BE KEY PLAYERS FOR SUSTAINABILITY


Market size, industry awareness and public disclosure are among the challenges for the Australian finance sector as it embraces and promotes sustainability, according to a new report released today by Environment Minister Robert Hill.

The study by PricewaterhouseCoopers was commissioned by Senator Hill to explore the opportunities for the Australian financial sector to contribute to sustainable development.

The issues raised will be discussed by government and industry leaders at a round table in Parliament House this month.

"The study concludes that there is great potential for our finance sector not only to make sustainable practices part of their own core business but to promote sustainability across industry as a whole," Senator Hill said.

"There have been major developments in the past couple of years, with some exciting new products on the market and increasing interest in the area.

"However, there is still a way to go before the Australian sector is as advanced as it is in Europe and North America. In the United States, for example, 13 per cent of the total investment market of $US16.3 trillion dollars is deemed socially responsible.

"The report suggests that the reasons why Australia is taking longer to develop this area include the constraints of a relatively small market, the need to develop more 'green' products and sustainable corporate practices, and the need to expand voluntary disclosure of environmental and social information."

It suggests several steps the finance sector could take to reinforce its ecologically sustainable development. These include:

As well as recommending that the sector take a leadership role, the report calls for more research into the financial benefits of investments in sustainable development.

It also recommends improving and extending the level of environmental and social disclosure by Australian companies, including provision of consistent and comparable non-financial information.

"The Government is keen to work in partnership with the sector to explore the benefits of sustainability for all Australians," Senator Hill said.

"I will look forward to exploring the issues in more depth at this month's round table."

Copies of the report are available at: www.ea.gov.au/industry/sustainable/finance/index.html

August 5, 2001

Media contact:
Belinda Huppatz (Senator Hill's office): 08 82377920 or 0419 258364

Commonwealth of Australia