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Sustainability awards scheme

A NEW awards scheme for sustainability reporting was launched this week by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA).

The introduction of the KPMG-sponsored awards scheme is another sign of the increasing importance attached to environmental, health and safety, and community issues.

More than 70 Australian organisations produce environmental or sustainability reports, according to a database maintained by www.corporateregister.com

Western Australian companies include Dampier Salt, Hamersley Iron, the Water Corporation and Wesfarmers.

Wesfarmers has been at the forefront of sustainability reporting. It produces an independently verified Environment, Health and Safety Report, providing details of the performance of each business unit in these areas.

WMC was one of the first companies in Australia to produce a report devoted to its environmental performance, starting back in 1995. It now produces a more comprehensive sustainability report, dealing with health and safety, environmental protection and community involvement. In a similar vein, BHP Billiton produces its annual health, safety, environment and community report.

Westpac released its first social impact report this year, covering its performance across the social, environmental and economic dimensions.

A common framework for sustainability. reporting is being developed under the auspices of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), which was convened in 1997 with a mandate to make sustainability reporting as routine as financial reporting. The GRI framework calls for independent verification. WMC, for instance, has engaged PricewaterhouseCoopers and an external advisory panel to assist with verification of its sustainability report.

Within the GRI framework, Westpac has assisted in developing reporting standards specific to the finance and banking sector.

Westpac said its sustainability report is one of the first to conform to these new global standards that involve reporting on approximately 70 social, environmental and economic performance indicators.

The ACCA awards will have three categories, covering environmental reporting, social reporting and sustainability reporting, with the latter covering social, environmental and economic impacts – the ‘triple bottom line’.

Richard Francis, head of ACCA’s Australia and New Zealand Centre, said the aim of these awards was to identify and reward innovative attempts to communicate corporate performance.

“Public environmental, social and sustainability reporting is now an important route through which corporate accountability and integrity can be demonstrated,” he said.

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