Aussie businesses to put more resources into environmental sustainability

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Sustainability is seen as a major focus of Australia’s post-pandemic recovery, according to the new research by risk management solutions provider SAI Global.

The 2021 Australian Business Assurance Report noted that, based on a survey of 328 Australian executives, businesses are keen to provide around 57 per cent more budget, time, and personnel towards support for environmental initiatives. In fact, 85 per cent of the businesses surveyed are already taking measures to reduce their environmental impact, particularly with regards to waste management, which 57 per cent say of respondents say their organisations have been able to address.

Businesses are also focused on reducing their emissions, with 48 per cent working to reduce their energy consumption, 24 per cent increasing their local sourcing, 23 per cent reducing travel and product transportation.

Saeid Nikdel, environmental management systems expert at SAI Global, believes the COVID-19 crisis has caused a fundamental shift in the current trajectory and provided an opportunity for businesses to be more sustainable.

“The global pandemic has presented many challenges to businesses, but the silver lining of the crisis is that it allows us to rethink our future and build resilience to other challenges such as climate change,” Nikdel said. “The pandemic also hastened the transition to a hybrid working model, which has resulted in employees avoiding unnecessary face-to-face meetings as well as domestic and global travel, in turn, reducing fossil fuel depletion and the associated impacts on climate change.

“As we emerge from the pandemic, it’s imperative that businesses looking to put more resources toward environmental sustainability create a multi-faceted approach that focuses on a range of measures,” Nikdel added.

Less common measures businesses are taking towards sustainability include efficiency of resource-heavy processes, as stated by 17 per cent od respondents, and improving end-of-life treatment of products, chosen by 14 per cent.

“While many businesses say they are taking strides to reduce their waste management, energy consumption and emissions, not enough businesses are taking a holistic approach to environmental sustainability to also look at the lifecycle of their products, better uses of raw materials and natural resources, and better utilisation of space,” Nikdel said

“The end-of-life treatment of products, how they are stored and how raw materials are acquired and extracted all have an impact on a company’s environmental impact and should be considered when developing an environmental strategy.”

Almost a third, 31 per cent, of businesses have also said that they will review their environmental policy as part of their efforts. However, Nikdel believes this is not enough.

“An environmental policy is simply a statement that outlines an organisation’s commitments to sustainability,” he explained. “Whereas adopting an environmental management system, such as the ISO 14001 standard, will improve an organisation’s ability to develop and implement policies, objectives, procedures and governance to deliver environmentally responsible and sustainable business practices.

“When an organisation successfully certifies to a management system, they don’t just focus on their own people and their own organisation,” Nikdel said. “To properly address sustainability, businesses are best to look across their entire operations, to their suppliers and partners, to ensure there is environmental consideration in the production, design, transportation and disposal – the full lifecycle – of their products or services.”