Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


Australian government offered responsible road map

February 2008

Greater concentration on sustainability reporting and better co-ordination of government corporate responsibility projects are the two areas in which Australia’s new administration will probably show most progress, according to a new analysis.

The prediction is made by the Australian Centre for Corporate Responsibility, which says business can expect profound and positive behind-the-scenes changes in the corporate responsibility policies of the new prime minister Kevin Rudd and his Labor government.

The first likely action, says the centre, is an audit of regulations and financial arrangements dealing with sustainable business practices. Special attention is expected to be paid to subsidies encouraging the use of fossil fuels and to insurance issues involved in corporate volunteering.

Mandatory reporting of progress against government sustainability targets is predicted, along with encouragement for business to observe international ‘de facto mandatory’ standards in corporate responsibility, such as those of the Global Reporting Initiative and the forthcoming ISO corporate responsibility standard. The centre predicts the government may even amend its Corporations Act to compel companies to disclose their sustainability risks.

More pressure for higher corporate standards of responsibility and disclosure may come through approaches to the investment market, it adds. For example, says the centre, the Rudd government may ask the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority to monitor how well superannuation trustees and fund managers are evaluating non-financial risks, and it may expect the Australian Securities and Investments Commission to make an annual statement to parliament on voluntary reporting.

The government may offer guidance through a new corporate responsibility unit within its trade and industry ministry or another business-related department, says the centre. The new unit would probably handle all government CSR projects previously run separately by other government offices.

However, the centre suspects that the government may back-pedal on legislation to bring about the changes. For now, it says, ministers may settle for encouraging voluntary compliance and investing in further ‘capacity-building tools’.

The forecast concludes with the bold statement that ‘with plenty of talent and a clear road map for CSR progress, the new government now has a historic chance to become the best government for CSR the world has seen.’

Australian Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility | Australasia | Government role

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