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Environmental adjustments

TRIPLE bottom line sustainability, the current catchphrase emanating from WA’s mining and resources industry, is presenting an interesting challenge to the State’s environmental service consultants.

According to URS senior principal sustainability, Peter Elliott, triple bottom line sustainability has forced environmental service consultants to adjust their business away from the traditional services of environmental impact planning and assessment towards a more holistic understanding of their clients’ business operations.

“Within URS we are moving away from what I would call traditional engineering environmental services to include things like community engagement and development strategies,” Mr Elliott said.

“We are looking more at tying together economic, environmental and community issues.”

Mr Elliott told WA Business News environmental service consultants now required a broader business perspective than the traditional model. And while he didn’t expect the traditional work of environmental assessment and impact to disappear, consultants working within the mining and resource industry now were placing greater emphasis on economic and social values.

Thiess business development manager John Rich believes an increasing awareness of environmental issues and demands to minimise the impact on the environment will require greater environmental controls and accountability from industry.

“WA is showing a mature focus in encouraging all sectors to a more sustainable use of resources and this is highlighted by the active engagement of renewable energy,” Mr Rich said.

“Environmental approvals continue to pose a challenge to new investment in terms of time and balancing the needs of a vocal minority versus the welfare of WA in terms of triple bottom line sustainability.”

The drivers for triple bottom line sustainability in the mining and resources industry in WA arose from a realisation that companies had to change the way they dealt with the issue of sustainability.

There is a need to develop individual positions with regard to the issue of sustainable development, rather than have it defined by the government or the general public, Mr Elliott said.

He said the public’s perception that the mining and resources industry could not manage itself had led to mining companies looking at sustainability, not just from an environmental perspective but also from a community engagement and development perspective. There was a more social aspect to the debate about practices used in maintaining sustainability, Mr Elliott said.

As a result, environmental service consultancies had developed their business so they could respond to evolving industry trends.

“That has been the trend [for environmental service consultants], to engage people with community consultation skills. You have to mirror what is happening within industry at the time,” Mr Elliott said.

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