12 December 2005 at 12:12 pm
The Westpac Banking Group has won the 2005 Australian Sustainability Awards, presented by Ethical Investor, at a special awards ceremony in Melbourne last week attended by more than 300 guests.
The awards recognise outstanding achievement in 2005 in a range of areas of corporate sustainability.
The five company awards this year include: Sustainable Company of the Year, Sustainable Small Company of the Year, plus three special awards for achievement in the areas of Environment, Community/Social and Corporate Governance.
Company Award Winners
Sustainable Company of the Year, Westpac Banking Group; Sustainable Small Company of the Year, Geodynamics; Special Award for Social/Community, Bendigo Bank; Special Award for Corporate Governance, Insurance Australia Group.
In announcing the top award, sponsor Craig Bingham Managing Director for Portfolio Partners, said Westpac’s leadership in corporate social responsibility was born from a desire to restore its lost reputation during the 1990s. Now things have changed.
He said that in November Westpac told a Parliamentary Committee that its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) position is good for business!
Bingham also noted that Westpac received more nominations over the five-year history of the awards than any other company.
He said it has all the CSR boxes ticked with Westpac being the first of the Big 4 trading banks to win the award.
The Best Practice Charity Award was also presented to Save the Children Australia and the Best Community Project Award was given to Mutual Friends, a project of RSPCA Queensland.
The Ethical Fund of the Year Award was taken out this year by Perpetual’s Ethical SRI Fund.
Nominations of eligible Australian stock exchange listed companies were received from nine sustainability research groups: AMP Capital Investors, Centre for Australian Ethical Research, Innovest Strategic Advisers, Monash Sustainability Enterprises, Sustainable Asset Management, Corporate Governance International, Rodger Spiller & Associates (New Zealand companies), Newcastle Business School and Sustainable Investment Research Institute
These groups were asked not to nominate a company that was also its client.
The keynote speaker for the event was renowned environmentalist Paul Gilding who tackled the most controversial topic for 2005 – uranium. Gilding said he is personally unconvinced that nuclear power presents a solution to climate change and questions the logic of a source of energy that produces toxic waste.
But Gilding confronted his environmental peers as well. He said that the ecosytem is beginning to collapse and that, because of this, environmentalists should be prepared to come into the nuclear debate in a different way. Their ideology is a barrier to moving forward with an agreement to tackle climate change.
Gilding also said that a carbon levy or tax was the best way that public policy can influence the energy mix, rather than taking sides on the acceptability of any particular energy source.
The December/January 2005 issue of Ethical Investor Magazine goes on sale on 20 December with detailed stories on all award winners as well as other articles on best practice in corporate social responsibility and socially responsible investment during 2005.