Environment sets down roots in the business community

Instead of ferals or what some refer to as ‘tree-hugging hippies’, the room was filled with company directors, business academics and financial planners, gathered to hear the virtues of ethical behaviour from Sustainable Asset Management Group Australia and New Zealand head of research, Francis Grey.

Wilderness Society WA campaign coordinator David Mackenzie said he had noticed support for environ-mental issues was awakened by the old growth forestry debate that led to interest from all quarters of society. In the past three years the Society’s membership has tripled in WA to around 2,000 members.

Mr Mackenzie said the different parts of the community needed different forums in which they could express themselves – something the society was now addressing.

“We are trying to broaden our support base. Everyone can do something positive. Not everyone is into locking themselves to a bulldozer or marching in rallies,” he said.

Mr Grey believes being unsustainable and unethical actually holds a company back from reaching new efficiencies and will have a negative effect on profit.

“It requires considerable amount of effort to think of new ways of doing things. We often take new technology for granted and don’t look for further gains,” Mr Grey said.

“We seem to think that to be rich in this world you have to be a bastard, but if the corporation is doing well, then the society will also being doing well.”

But it is not only environmentalists who are pushing the ethical boundaries. An alliance of corporations in the past two months has been forming a new help support group called the Australian Corporate Citizenship Alliance.

At its first meeting, ACCA acting chairman and Alcoa World Alumina Australia stakeholder consultant, Richard Taylor, outlined the efforts his company, currently embroiled in controversy over environmental concerns surrounding its Wagerup alumina refinery, was going through to become sustainable.

“It’s pushing the envelope. The idea that we as corporations can sit back and say: ‘We pay our taxes what more do you want?’ are dead and buried these days,” Mr Taylor said.

“You aren’t going to get anywhere these days if you don’t have the cooperation and support of the local community. They have the power to impact on your performance.”

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