Ms Deni Greene, Deni Greene Consulting Services
prepared for the 2006 Australian State of the Environment Committee, 2006
There can be little doubt that the role of the Australian private sector in environmental stewardship has changed dramatically in the past 15 years. This pace of change shows no sign of abating. Many factors have contributed to this shift, including globalisation, increased privatisation and the diminishing role of government, corporate scandals and collapses, the explosion of Internet use across the community, the increased participation of women in the work force, and the growing awareness of environmental issues and concern about their consequences.
Even among those who subscribe to the view that ‘The social responsibility of business is to maximise profit for the shareholders’ (Friedman 2000), many would now say that maximising profit involves a number of actions that are embraced by those encouraging social responsibility.
The place of environmental performance in a company’s activities has also changed substantially over the past few years. Today, environmental activities are usually viewed within the context of sustainability, triple bottom-line performance or corporate social responsibility. A good indicator of this is the shift that has occurred in the past couple of years, from companies producing environmental reports to producing sustainability, corporate social responsibility or other types of combined environmental, social and economic reports.
It is therefore difficult to single out roles for the private sector in environmental stewardship without inextricably linking them to their roles in sustainability. Some key roles can broadly be characterised as:
This commentary describes private sector activities related to each of these roles. It will also identify some of the roles of the financial sector, where these are unique to that sector.
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