Sustainability in this area relates to managing compliance with the range of legislative requirements, codes, standards, reporting schemes, incentive programs and subsidies that are currently in place or proposed around sustainability issues.
The carbon tax and related initiatives are being implemented in Australia and existing regulations also have a direct relationship to sustainability, notably environmental and social sustainability. There are compliance requirements in other areas that connect with sustainability issues, for example occupational health and safety.
Many regulations and voluntary codes are supported by explanations and manuals that can be a useful guide even to businesses that are not required to participate. For example the National Pollutant Inventory has a series of Emission Estimation Technique (EET) manuals covering specific industries. These outline the industry processes and approaches for estimating emissions.
Sustainable practice and compliance
Sustainability practice is directly affected by regulations, standards and reporting requirements. Many of these target environmental issues such as environmental conservation, biodiversity, hazardous substances, disposal of chemicals, emissions of greenhouse gases and pollutants and reducing energy consumption.
Social sustainability – your relationship with people and community – links to regulations that cover areas such as workplace relations, equal opportunity, human rights, indigenous and cultural heritage, ASX requirements and ethical governance and trade practices.
Economic sustainability links to regulations that cover Australian Taxation Office requirements, superannuation, ASX and solvency requirements and financial and other reporting requirements.
Some legislation and regulations only apply when a business reaches a defined threshold. For example:
- The Energy Efficiency Opportunities Act 2006 requires corporations using more than 0.5 petajoules (PJ) of energy per year to apply the program’s framework to assess their energy use and identify energy savings opportunities.
- The Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999 requires organisations with 100 or more employees to plan and report on their programs to ensure that women are given equal opportunities in employment, professional development and promotion.
- The National Pollutant Inventory reporting requirements (NPI) requires businesses to report on their emissions and waste transfers if they trip any of the thresholds including ninety three specified substances, rates of burning waste and/or fuel and the rate and type of electricity usage.
There are voluntary initiatives such as codes, standards, covenants and incentive schemes that can also support your sustainability effort. Examples include the Global Reporting Initiative, the Australian Packaging Covenant, the ISO 26000 Social Responsibility Guidance Standard and the National Carbon Offset Standard (NCOS).
Managing your compliance performance
There are many areas where you could focus your and support your sustainability performance. Things to think about include:
- Which areas in your business are covered by legislation, regulations and mandatory standards at the national and state levels
- The potential consequences of non compliance in terms of fines, legal liability, compensation and rehabilitation arising from employee injuries and environmental damage
- Which voluntary codes, covenants and initiatives can provide guidance in measuring and improving your performance
- Whether there are any funding programs to support you making changes in energy consumption, technology improvements
- Embedding the compliance requirements into routine procedures that benefit your business – by being cost effective and helping to deliver your business goals; focus on any business benefits and make it work for you
- Keeping up to date with requirements, codes of practice by subscribing to email news updates from government departments and regulators.