Sustainability could be the major focus of Australia’s post-pandemic recovery, finds new research.
According to SAI Global’s ‘2021 Australian Business Assurance Report’, Australian businesses, on average, will put 57% more budget, time and people towards environmental initiatives.
The report finds that 85% of the businesses surveyed are already taking measures to reduce their environmental impact.
Waste management, says SAI Global, seems to be the leading, and most manageable, concern. 57% of the executives surveyed say their organisations are reducing waste management. Processes include reusing, refurbishing, recycling and disposal.
Businesses are also focused on reducing their emissions. 48% of respondents are reducing their energy consumption, 24% are increasing local sourcing and 23% are reducing travel and product transportation.
Large organisations (more than 501 employees) seem to be taking charge in reducing emissions, says SAI Global. 66% are focusing on reducing their energy consumption, compared with 41% of small businesses (less than 50 employees). 29% of the large organisations surveyed are reducing their travel and transportation emissions, compared with 21% of small businesses.
Saeid Nikdel, environmental management systems expert at SAI Global, believes Covid-19 has caused a fundamental shift in our current trajectory and presented an opportunity for businesses to rebuild more sustainably.
“The global pandemic has presented many challenges to businesses, but the silver lining of the crisis is that it allows us to rethink our future and build resilience to other challenges such as climate change,” he says.
“The pandemic also hastened the transition to a hybrid working model, which has resulted in employees avoiding unnecessary face-to-face meetings as well as domestic and global travel, in turn, reducing fossil fuel depletion and the associated impacts on climate change.”
Room for improvement
Less common are measures to improve efficiency of resource-heavy processes. According to SAI Global, only 17% of businesses surveyed are acting on, and improving end-of-life treatment of products.
Mr Nikdel says: “While many businesses say they are taking strides to reduce their waste management, energy consumption and emissions, not enough businesses are taking a holistic approach to environmental sustainability to also look at the lifecycle of their products, better uses of raw materials and natural resources, and better utilisation of space.
“The end-of-life treatment of products, how they are stored and how raw materials are acquired and extracted all have an impact on a company’s environmental impact and should be considered when developing an environmental strategy.”
To help them with this strategy, 31% of respondents said they will review their environmental policy.
However, Mr Nikdel believes this is not enough.
“An environmental policy is simply a statement that outlines an organisation’s commitments to sustainability,” he says.
“Whereas, adopting an environmental management system, such as the ISO 14001 standard, will improve an organisation’s ability to develop and implement policies, objectives, procedures, and governances to deliver environmentally responsible and sustainable business practices.
“When an organisation successfully certifies to a management system, they don’t just focus on their own people and their own organisation.
“To properly address sustainability, businesses are best to look across their entire operations, to their suppliers and partners, to ensure there is environmental consideration in the production, design, transportation and disposal – the full lifecycle – of their products or services.”