Australia's environment in context (Emerging role of industry in environmental management)

Independent Report to the Commonwealth Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Australian State of the Environment Committee, Authors
CSIRO Publishing on behalf of the Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2001
ISBN 0 643 06745 0

Australia's environment in context (continued)

Emerging role of industry in environmental management

Since SoE (1996), there has been a significant change in the attitude of many corporations to environmental issues. This shift can be seen, for example, in the uptake of environmental reporting by corporations and the adoption of industry-driven initiatives, such as the Australian Minerals Industry Code for Environmental Management and the Business Council's Statement on Strategies for Sustainable Development.

There is a growing acceptance that strong corporate environmental performance can be a means of delivering additional value to shareholders. Reliable environmental performance is increasingly being valued by the finance sector, as the connections between environmental performance and credit, investment and reputation risks become more apparent. Experience with environmental reporting shows that it is not only an important communication tool, but also can drive improved management systems within companies and help identify areas of poor environmental performance.

Since 1996, there has also been a focus on partnerships between corporations and other stakeholders. Recent examples include the partnership between the ACF and Southcorp to address salinity and the Commonwealth government's partnership programs, such as the Ecoefficiency Agreements. Cooperation between mining companies and Indigenous peoples is increasing, for instance in the Weipa area of North Queensland and in the Pilbara, Western Australia.

Although the shift in corporate attitude is significant, it is not universal. The change is most apparent among major corporations or smaller businesses driven by the personal ethics of their owners or managers. The use of ESD principles in decision-making amongst financial institutions remains unclear.