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Launch of the Environmental Best Practice Training Program
Speech to the ACF/3M Forsite Conference

Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for Environment

Parliament House
29 October 1996

It is with much pleasure that I am here today to launch the Forsite Training Program.

I wish to thank the previous speakers for enlightening everyone here at this conference on the initiatives and importance of 3M's 3P program and how this philosophy will now be carried forward.

I commend ACF for grasping the opportunity to work with one of Australia's leading companies and actively promote environmental best practice to industry in terms that business can identify with.

This initiative is distinctive because an individual company is promoting and sharing what it has achieved in best practice. It is also unusual in being a partnership with a peak environment group - the ACF. This program will give added impetus to Australia's move towards sustainable industry and sustainable production - a cleaner, greener Australia.

This training program is unique in that it focusses on training business managers rather than technical managers. Leadership and 'championing' the integration of the environment into daily and strategic business practices must come from management.

This training program also strongly focusses on business positioning, change management and fundamental coporate competencies. These features are essential for business to develop an understanding of those skills and qualities required to ensure ongoing environmental improvement.

This program aims to provide, and I am sure will achieve, a framework to influence manufacturing industries and senior managers across Australia in their drive to achieve environmental leadership, best practice and improve competitiveness

Australian corporate experience shows time and again that good environmental performance makes good business sense, and can often deliver financial savings in short payback times.

This initiative is in line with the Commonwealth Government's own commitment to fostering environmental best practice and cleaner production in industry as the way of the future.

This partnership between 3M and the ACF and the capacity it will develop in others through the training program is an excellent example of the sort of approach the Government seeks to foster through development of a national strategy for cleaner production, which I will come to again a little later.

Environment protection is a significant priority for our society. The Government is also committed to fostering cooperation and partnerships with industry and community to protect our environment.

It is now accepted that being environmentally responsible is not only the right thing to do in terms of the community - but can also improve an organisation's profitability.

We believe the cooperative path is the way to go to attain effective environmental protection. In fact, there is no better example of what cooperation and commitment can deliver than projects which have been funded by the Government under the Cleaner Production Program.

Cleaner Production is a way of thinking which encourages industry to review environmental impacts of its production processes, to use resources more efficiently, and to implement changes to minimise waste and prevent pollution; after all, waste products are wasted money. Cleaner Production is a continuous process of change, moving forward as technologies and environmental appreciation improve.

In the Australian government's view, cleaner production is an essential element of ecologically sustainable development. It's becoming increasingly significant in the arena of international trade. Sophisticated markets increasingly demand information on the environmental impacts of products, their production and disposal in addition to the now traditional product performance criteria. For these reasons, the Australian Government is committed to promoting cleaner production and improved environmental performance.

Over the last few years there has been a growing awareness of cleaner production throughout Australia. State and Territory Governments have worked with community and industry to develop projects which provide practical assistance in implementing cleaner production.

Industry and business have also shown an interest in cleaner production and waste minimisation with a number of larger companies leading the way. 3M has been a leader for many years. The Australian Chamber of Manufactures has produced environment management handbooks specifically tailored for small industry in each State and Territory.

The Cleaner Production program recognised that best practice involves a process of continuous improvement in what we do. It also recognises that best practice environmental management is about more than just technology.

It requires a cultural change in attitude, both at the individual and management level. Environmental training for management and staff is essential for establishing this culture and undertaking business practice which is environmentally sound.

The importance of training in achieving best practice environmental and business management was recognised by the Government and incorporated into the Cleaner Production Program. Some examples of environmental training from this program are:

Environment Australia has entered into a partnership to document best practice environmental management in mining in Australia. The encouragement of best practice in environmental management is an integral component of ecologically sustainable development.

So far, nine booklets, including one entitled "Planning a Workforce Environmental Awareness Training Program" and a video have been produced. When the modules were launched in Durban (South Africa) last year they were described as "the best example of cooperation between the private and Government sectors ever seen".

The Cleaner Production Program has achieved its aims - to demonstrate to Australian industry and the community the benefits of cleaner production in environmental as well as economic terms. The momentum of initiatives already undertaken by the EPA and others around Australia will now be focussed towards developing an integrated approach to cleaner production based on the combined experiences of Federal, State and local governments, industry and the community and outcomes already achieved.

Planning has begun for developing, in partnership with all interested bodies, a national strategy for cleaner production. The strategy will, in part, seek to identify and build on successful mechanisms to encourage industry to improve environmental performance and move towards economic and environmental efficiency. This training program resulting from the partnership between a major company like 3M and a community group like the ACF is one example of such a successful initiative.

More organisations are seeing the benefits of incorporating environmental considerations and are viewing it as a normal part of business. The general community is also becoming increasingly aware of environmental issues. These two factors alone are expected to prompt a growth in the number of organisations implementing a formal Environment Management System ( or "EMS").

Many 'environmentally conscious' firms will see that having an EMS in place will be helpful in:

(i) building awareness of environmental concerns among employees and management;

(ii) gaining better understanding of the environmental impact of their business activities; and

(iii) gaining benefit from increased profit and improved environmental performance.

Implementing a sound EMS shows good business sense because of its potential to:

(i) minimise environmental risk liabilities;

(ii) maximise the efficient use of resources;

(iii) reduce waste;

(iv) provide a decision-making tool for planning investment in 'cleaner' technologies; and

(v) demonstrate a good corporate image to clients.

An organisation in which all these things are happening can be considered to be operating in accordance with 'best practice'.

Despite this very positive outlook on the value of an EMS, there is concern in some sectors, including that of Government, that unless reviews and audits give high priority to environmental outcomes, rather than simply being concerned with what system elements are in place, the implementation of an EMS may not lead to environmental improvements.

Experience over the past four or five years with international standards on quality assurance has shown that a quality management system does not, of itself, automatically improve or guarantee that a product is of high quality. Care needs to be taken to make sure that the implementation of environmental management systems does not lead to a similar inconsistency with environmental performance outcomes.

Major financial stakeholders, such as banks, insurance companies or pension funds are taking an increasing interest in the environmental performance of their clients. Financial institutions are building environmental considerations into their lending policy and the possession of an EMS may eventually influence the capacity of organisations to raise finance, negotiate loans or attract investment.

Education and training are essential elements if a company is to successfully integrate environmental systems into strategic and daily planning and operations. There is a need to ensure that all employees understand why the EMS is there, what it does, how it helps their image in the wider community and how they can make it work. With full commitment by management and active participation by employees at all levels, implementing an EMS will bring about cultural and attitudinal change towards the environment which, in-turn, can only benefit business and the community.

The Government is committed to fostering cooperative efforts to achieve environment protection. I am referring to the national as well as the international level. Internationally, Australia is actively participating in the programs of UNEP, OECD and APEC.

At the last APEC Ministerial Meeting on Sustainable Development, which I attended, (Manila 11-12 July 1996) Ministers agreed to promote sustainable development through actions which align closely with the objectives of the Forsite Program - namely - promotion of public-private partnerships; supporting local empowerment; sharing of innovative approaches and enhancing capacity through human resource development information sharing.

I am pleased with the success of the Forsite Program. I see inherent within this program as a prevailing awareness that good environmental practice and business can and should be natural partners.

In other words, good environmental practice is good business practice.

Many Australian companies are proving that cleaner production works. For these companies, it is now one of the many components which are factored into producing products efficiently for discerning markets. It is part of their operating environment.

Of course, the benefits of cleaner production extend beyond individual company boundaries.

Clean rivers, clean air, saved landfill space, safe water supplies, clean estuaries - these are the benefits to the whole community and to future generations of cleaner production.

I congratulate those of you involved in this program and commend it to you all. This programme offers a significant opportunity to forward thinking businesses to acquire the most up to date information on integration of environmental management into everyday business practice.

Those managers who take up the training programme are indeed taking a first step towards economic and environmental sustainability for us all. I trust that your commitment will ensure its continuing success in delivering ongoing prosperity to us all while maintaining the quality of our environment both in Australia and overseas.

Let me extend my sincere appreciation to all those participating in this scheme. Best of luck to you all.

Commonwealth of Australia