Australian Organizations Must Adopt Sustainability Reporting

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In a recent research (Geraghty 2010) sites that it is now well known that our consumptions as human beings has gone beyond what the planet can sustain, yet the population continues to grow meaning that consumption will continue going up. She says that for organizations to understand their impact to the environment, they need to make reports on the impacts. To do this, it means reporting on sustainability, through publicly publishing their social, economic and environmental responsibilities within the community. According to Geraghty (2010), upon doing a sustainability reporting publicly, a benchmark can be done with other organizations in the industry. However, to enable benchmarking, a common framework under which the organizations should report has to be in place. This led to the establishing of sustainability reporting guidelines by the Global Reporting Initiative. Through benchmarking, companies are able to make changes from within the organization towards a sustainable development (Geraghty, 2010). The intention of this essay is to emphasize the importance of adopting sustainability reporting for Australian companies, which are in the process; although according to statistics, other countries have gone further than Australia. Geraghty (2010, p 142), cites that, “to compete effectively on a global stage at the same time as respecting the environment and society, … then they need to address issues of sustainability…” Australian firms can only do this through abiding to the Global Reporting Initiative guidelines, which have been adopted my majority of countries across the world. The essay looks at how Australian companies can adopt sustainability reporting as well as reviewing literature review on the topic.

Currently, there have been many financial problems, enough for companies to deal with. Then it emerges why they should bear yet another task of sustainability reporting. Financial problems have been there, both in short and long-term perspectives. However, the issue of environmental degradation has raised concerns across the world, especially considering that consumption is higher than what the environment can produce. Without addressing the issue, very soon the world will be in a crisis. Therefore, it is crucial for all organizations to adopt sustainability reporting (Geraghty, 2010). Sustainability reporting means being in a position to report how the organization is impacted by society and environment as well as how it affects them. This way, a company is in a position to know what it needs to do to manage the effects of its activities on environment, considering organizations have been recognized as the major contributors to the current situation in the environment (Guthrie & Farneti, 2008). In addition, stakeholders are interested in knowing the efforts of a company in corporate social responsibility. People across the whole world are very sensitive about companies that are not involved in caring for the environment (Parliament of Australia, 2010). In addition, reporting has the benefits of meeting the demands of the stakeholders, better understanding their current performance globally through benchmarking, note areas they could improve, which add the credibility of an organization as well as gaining recognition from external stakeholders.

Several approaches to implementing and planning of sustainability reporting have been devised, with different companies having approaches that best fit them. However, there are five steps identified that companies can use in their planning and implementing of sustainability reporting. The first step is preparing for the reporting. With this step, the company is supposed to enter into discussions within the company. This starts at the high management level, and downwards in an effort to identify areas that would need improvement, such as the most negative environmental impacts such as pollution. The nest step involves including the stakeholders concerning what should be included in the report. It is important that stakeholders are involved since the company will be engaging in corporate social responsibility, which affects the community directly (Geraghty, 2010). The third step is allowing the stakeholders to approve what has been discussed by the management in the first step. Here, they approve of the areas identified as negatively affecting the environment and the society, which will need to be changed. This is quite helpful in laying a focus of the report. Each community is different, and areas needing attention could differ, hence, involving stakeholders will ensure the report meets their expectations. They should have a clear consent of why the certain areas should be included in the report, as well as why some may not be included. The fourth step involves monitoring the data that will be disclosed to the public. The final step is communicating the results of the fourth step. Lindberg (2010) identifies six frameworks that can be used for implementation of sustainability. He identifies policy and planning, which involves laying policies. The second is creating the right organizational structure and leadership to implement the plan, followed by creation of “effective management and performance measuring tools …” (Lindberg 2010) as the third step. The fourth step in the framework is coming up with tools and processes for enhancing decision-making. The fifth step similar to the second step identified by GRI is collaborating with stakeholders both internal and external. The final step is providing for a training and outreach program to ensure people are aware of what sustainability means.

Laing O’Rourke has adopted sustainability reporting, and has given much effort to several areas that affect the community as well as the environment. In their last years report, they made a commitment to ensure sustainability of the environment, safety and health of workers and people within the community through educating them, improving their means of doing business and creating a positive legacy to the community. Under the area of environment, the company has laid a strategy to reduce carbon emission from their vehicles. This was undertaken through contracting Green Fleet Review, which gave a report of what measures the company could take to reduce their carbon emission such as choosing low fuel consuming vehicles. On health and safety, the company invested in innovations and sustainable development that ensures its workers are safe as well as training them. Another construction company in Australia practicing sustainability reporting is Westfield Design and Construction Company that is headquartered in Australia, with several branches in other countries. The Westfield Design and Construction Company recognizes that despite focusing on growth, there is a tremendously important need for considering economic, social and environmental sustainability for the future. The company has focused on attaining sustainability through operating business safely, efficiently, optimal use of energy and through minimal wastage, as well as constructing shopping centers that have the least impact on the environment. To do this, the company has realized it needs to come up with ways of measuring and evaluating performance in order to understand a way in which they can make improvements. Its report covers the performance of the company in several areas, which are identified by GRI as crucial in sustainability reporting. The areas concern its assets in the several countries it operates in, with Australia having the largest share. Some of the areas included in the report are environmental issues such as emissions, and energy consumption. The social issues concern safety of workers, engagement of locals in the company issues, while economic issues reported involve the direct value added to the community by the company.

Both companies have recognized the importance of having a sustainability reporting, with both recognizing environment and social areas in accordance with the GRI guidelines. Both companies recognize the need for reduced emissions in the air, and work towards reducing them. In addition, both companies have recognized the social guideline that requires companies to observe safety and better working conditions. Both companies have addressed this issue in their reporting. During the reporting preparations, both companies involve the stakeholders to confirm what is to be included in the report. However, Laing O’Rourke Company does not include information on how the information on selection of the fundamental issues provided in the report. It is not particularly clear whether all information needing to be included from all branches has been included (Woodhead & Euler, 2011). In addition, the company does not provide a clear explanation of the rationale behind the report, which should act to inform all stakeholders of the reason for publishing the report. On the other hand, Westfield Design and Construction has tried to explain how they come about their report, including a copy of the GRI guidelines for comparison with their report. In the report, it states clearly how it measures all areas under the GRI guidelines (Westfield Sustainability Report, 2011).

In conclusion, it is quite evident that sustainability reporting has become a crucial issue across the whole world. All stakeholders, local and international are interested in knowing the affairs of companies in terms of their impact in the environment, community and the economy. This is in an effort to ensure there is a sustainable future considering world natural resources have significantly reduced because of human consumption. Australian companies have also realized this fate, and many are now adopting sustainability reporting to guide them in ensuring sustainability of the planet. In adopting sustainability reporting in accordance with the Global Reporting Initiative, Australian companies will be in a position to measure their performance and benchmark with other global companies. This way, the companies can be in a position to know what measures to take in order to manage sustainability.

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