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Union Warns on Sustainability Reporting

31 March 2011 at 1:04 pm
Staff Reporter
Mining and energy union, the CFMEU has called for an overhaul of Sustainability Reporting to prevent what is says is poor reporting of labour practices.

Staff Reporter | 31 March 2011 at 1:04 pm


Union Warns on Sustainability Reporting
31 March 2011 at 1:04 pm

Mining and energy union, the CFMEU has called for an overhaul of Sustainability Reporting to prevent what it says is poor reporting of labour practices.

The Union has released an independent study of the Sustainability Reports of major Australian companies that it says shows they are failing to report adequately or at all on key labour issues like workplace safety, work conditions and job security.

The Report, 2010 Labour Practices in Sustainability Reporting is by sustainability analysts Banarra.

The Union says the report shows the ten major companies are mostly under-reporting their labour practices and thereby undermining Sustainability Reports as an accurate representation of their corporate activity.

The findings have led to Banarra to call for a major improvement in the level and consistency of such reporting, in order to comply with the established global framework for sustainability reporting, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).

CFMEU Mining General Secretary Andrew Vickers says that Sustainability Reporting standards must improve with revelations that the reports of major companies cannot be relied on to have reasonable levels of transparency around social and labour practices.

Vickers says they ought to be able to rely on Sustainability Reports as a public record or evidence of a company’s conduct and it is imperative that such reporting not be poor, inconsistent, or misleading.

He says a commitment to improved reporting would bring these reports in line with the international standards, and ensure that stakeholders are getting an accurate representation of corporate risks, performance and citizenship.

In November 2008 the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and St James Ethics Centre signed an agreement to establish an Australian base for GRI.

GRI’s sustainability reporting guidelines – the G3 Guidelines – allow companies and other organisations to make meaningful public transparent disclosure on their economic, environmental and social performance.

Over 1600 organisations globally use the Guidelines as the framework through which to disclose their sustainability performance. Taken together, this information is increasingly demanded by consumers, employees, industrial buyers, investment analysts and NGOs when making decisions about whether or not to buy from, work for or invest in a particular firm.

The Head of the Secretariat of the Global Compact Network Australia, Rosemary Sainty says a meaningful Sustainability report means a commitment to transparency on how it is implementing the underlying principals.

Lena Geraghty, Manager of the Global Reporting Initiative’s Focal Point Australia, says the Global Reporting Initiative’s Guidelines help all organisations report on their labour performance, including staff turnover, diversity and training. Companies determine what is relevant to their organisation to report on.

In doing so, she says performance can be assessed over time and compared with other organizations.

Geraghty says the survey provides interesting information about reporting practices among the ten organisations selected in Australia.

She says GRI’s mission is to mainstream sustainability reporting, and they encourage all companies to report on their sustainability performance, including on labour issues.

The ten companies selected for the CFMEU study represent a variety of industry sector and have been producing Sustainability Reports for at least three years.

They are: 

  • ANZ
  • BHP Billiton
  • Bluescope Steel
  • Coca-Cola Amatil
  • Fosters Group
  • NAB
  • Orica
  • Rio Tinto
  • Wesfarmers
  • Woolworths

The CFMEU has called on major Australian companies to improve their reporting and engage in rigorous scrutiny of that reporting against established international benchmarks. 

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