Business Creatively Meeting the Sustainability Challenge

The sustainability agenda and the economic growth agenda should not be in competition, Business Council of Australia Chief Executive Jennifer Westacott has told a sustainability forum in Sydney today.

“Without growth we cannot invest in the innovation, technology and education that is vital to drive a more sustainable future,” Ms Westacott said. 

“Stifling growth is not a path to a sustainable future.”

The timing was right to reclaim the sustainability agenda by demonstrating the reality that business was the natural home for such an agenda, Ms Westacott said at the forum, ‘The Sustainability Challenge: Business Creativity in Practice’, held at the Sheraton on the Park.

Global developments, the business case for sustainability and business creativity in practice were detailed at the forum, which was held by the Business Council of Australia with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

“The sustainability agenda is a vital agenda for all Australian businesses. I do not know of an Australian business that does not take this very seriously and see it as both a critical issue of leadership, risk management and cost effectiveness,” Ms Westacott said.

Ms Westacott said businesses are already leading the sustainability agenda because:

  • it believes in a leadership role
  • it makes good business sense
  • it is economic reality to want to reduce input costs
  • it’s a magnet for investors and high-quality staff
  • it’s fundamental to the social licence to operate
  • business has the capacity, resources and capital to drive innovation.

She said what business needs is a positive and constructive environment that supports innovation and sustainability. That environment is about lowering costs, reducing regulatory burdens and enabling innovation.

“One of the Business Council of Australia’s concerns with the federal government’s Clean Energy Future carbon pricing package is that it does not yet have the safeguards to ensure lowest cost investment or innovation and this presents considerable risks to our competitiveness,” she said.

The forum heard an address on global sustainability developments from World Business Council for Sustainable Development President Bjorn Stigson.

Stockland Managing Director Matthew Quinn presented the business case for sustainability in creating value for both business and the community. The Macquarie Group Foundation Professor at the Centre for Social Impact at the University of Western Sydney, Peter Shergold, presented on the future of corporate responsibility.

BCA member companies also participated in discussions on how business should respond to the sustainability challenge and specific programs undertaken by Australian companies.

Among the examples of business creativity in practice detailed at the forum were:

  • Adelaide Brighton’s commitment to sustainable development is through actions across a balanced program of business-based initiatives. The company believes actioning sustainability objectives throughout the organisation positions it for long-term competitive performance. The Alternative Resources program operates in all divisions of Adelaide Brighton to conserve natural resources, lower greenhouse gas and energy footprints, and utilise waste and by-product materials. In 2010 Adelaide Brighton used over 800,000t of waste materials, and substituted the equivalent of 40,000t of coal for energy.
  • Stockland is developing its own liveability index to better understand, benchmark and measure liveability in the planning and development of its residential communities. The company sees liveability – affordability, proximity to employment, education, open spaces and cultural and recreational facilities – as fundamental to the long-term success of its business and reflects qualities increasingly valued by residents, shoppers and tenants.
  • Bunnings, which is part of the Wesfarmers Group, has had a zero tolerance approach to the use of illegal timber in its supply chain since 2001 because of a belief it is not only the right thing to do but is expected by customers and team members. Bunnings has partnered with the WWF and Greenpeace on programs to ensure legal timber use, and in 2007 launched its Forest Stewardship Council certified outdoor furniture range. More than 99 per cent of timber purchased is now sourced from low-risk plantations and other verified or certified sustainable forest operations.
  • The Commonwealth Bank of Australia emphasises the need for organisations to embed sustainability initiatives in core business. As a financier it has teams dedicated to carbon markets and financing renewable energy developments. One of its key social sustainability programs focuses on developing the business literacy of start-up Indigenous businesses in Arnhem Land and Central Australia and teaching financial literacy skills to more than 200,000 young Australians each year.

The forum called on business to reclaim a common ground, common sense approach to sustainability to achieve outcomes that are good for the community, for the economy and for business.

Presentations made publicly available following the forum can be downloaded using the links on this page. The Business Council of Australia is not responsible for presentation content provided by other organisations.

Welcome – Jennifer Westacott, Business Council of Australia

Global Sustainability Developments and the Current Priorities of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development – Bjorn Stigson, WBCSD

The Business Case for Sustainability Programs: Recent Thinking – Matthew Quinn, Stockland