CSR Experts Welcome Cabinet Reshuffle
23 September 2015 at 12:09 pm
Leaders in Australia’s corporate social impact space have welcomed the Federal Cabinet reshuffle under new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Australian Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility Managing Director, Dr Leeora Black, told Pro Bono Australia News that there is potential across the new cabinet for CSR objectives to be furthered.
“I’m optimistic that the cabinet reshuffle presents an opportunity to re-ignite the Government’s CSR agenda,” Dr Black said.
“No Australian government has yet had a cohesive approach to CSR and sustainability issues. There was some work that was progressed under the Abbott Government, mainly through Julie Bishop’s portfolio, with recent support for the Shared Value concept and the Global Compact Network Australia.
“Improved stakeholder engagement will be critical discipline for the Turnbull Government, if they’re to make any CSR headway. So we can expect a more conciliatory tone on human rights issues and hopefully more support for the Global Reporting Initiative.”
Black said early indications point to sustainability framed around an innovation agenda rather than economic cost.
“It will be interesting to see how the Government balances that whilst managing unity with its right faction, who are resistant to a climate change policy shift,” she said.
“Greg Hunt’s environmental achievements have been strongly supported by the new PM, but new roles for Josh Frydenberg, now Minister for Resources, Energy and Northern Australia and Barnaby Joyce as Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources will have some overlapping issues across their portfolio areas, with the potential for more influence on the environment agenda, at a time when land use and water rights conflicts are escalating.
“Barnaby Joyce has personal exposure in his electorate on these issues which will make it all the more pertinent for him to manage both localised and broader national interests. The interaction between these three will be an area to watch.”
Dr Black also said with a dedicated Minister for Women and a stronger representation of women in cabinet “gender diversity will progress”.
Professor at Durham University and a Research Fellow at the Centre for Sustainability Management, Carol A Adams, told Pro Bono Australia News that it is vital the new Government takes a stronger interest in CSR.
“I don’t think it’s possible for a Turnbull Government to have a more negative impact on corporate innovation for sustainability and social responsibility than the Abbott Government had,” Adams said.
“In the longer term both the economy and climate depend on mechanisms that encourage innovation and provide a disincentive for activities which create carbon emissions.
“It is the Australian government of today that must act for the well-being future generations. The Abbott government’s encouragement of investment in future stranded assets was at odds with the trend in investment by pension funds, banks and other investors.”
The Business Council of Australia (BCA) was pleased that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull flagged innovation as a focus for Government.
“We welcome Mr Turnbull highlighting critical themes the business community have been raising for some time, such as the importance of a growth agenda fuelled by innovation,” BCA President, Catherine Livingstone, said.
“With massive global forces of change upon us – from digital disruption, to ongoing economic volatility, to a shift in economic activity towards a rising Asia – now is an ideal time to re-energise Australia’s economic and social policy agenda.
“As the National Reform Summit recently concluded, growing the economy by lifting innovation and driving productivity should be the task of economic and social policy.”
However, sentiment was mixed from the small business sector, with concerns that changing Small Business Minister from Bruce Billson to Kelly O’Dwyer could mean the Government has a big business agenda.
“The decision to remove Bruce Billson from the Cabinet and the small business ministry has sent a shockwave through the small business community. A great Minister doing a fabulous job, who has received intense praise from small business for his measurable level of success is no longer in the job – did vested interests in big business successfully have Bruce removed because he created fairness?” the Council of Small Business Australia CEO, Peter Strong said.
“In saying that, the appointment of a woman into this role, who is also in Cabinet, also augers well for the hundreds of thousands of women, probably more than 1.2 million, who run their own businesses. Many of our members know Kelly and have worked with her in the past and look forward to the future. Collectively, we also look forward to working with other ministers in important roles associated with training, corporate issues, employment and red tape reduction.”