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Monday, 1 December 2003
Page: 23269

Mr BILLSON (12:40 PM) —On behalf of the Standing Committee on Environment and Heritage I present the committee's report entitled Employment in the environment sector: methods, measurements and messages, together with the minutes of proceedings and evidence received by the committee.

Ordered that the report be printed.

Mr BILLSON —by leave—The second part of the title of this report encapsulates what is needed for Australian businesses, consumers, organisations and governments to implement the principles of ecologically sustainable development, ESD. The committee sought to inquire into opportunities to boost employment in the environment sector. Early in the inquiry, the committee realised that attempts to segregate the environment sector and simply consider employment opportunities in the environment sector was not the most productive approach.

While there will always be a need for environmental specialists, future growth in environmental employment is likely to be through integrating the principles of ecologically sustainable development across industry. Overwhelmingly, businesses, consultants, industry associations and policy makers affirmed that the growth of environmental employment lies in integrating environment management across all sectors of employment. The finding of the committee is that there is a vital commitment to the principles of ESD. However, businesses and the people of Australia are struggling to translate this commitment into actions and business practices that will sustain our environment into the future.

The report looks at how to initiate the development of a series of practical methods and measuring tools to promote the uptake of ecologically sustainable development. We found that there is a need for better methods to implement ESD principles, more refined measuring tools and greater information dissemination to promote the messages of ecologically sustainable development. Small to medium sized enterprises, SMEs, need assistance with the methods to implement better environmental performance and reporting. An environmental technology verification program would help companies identify innovative and state-of-the-art environmental solutions. The committee recommends the development of a tool kit appropriate to SMEs that provides practical assistance in guiding companies through triple bottom line and environmental reporting.

Measurements are also important. We need to measure progress, assess outcomes, re-evaluate our directions and anticipate market needs. To achieve this, we need the data and the systems that enable robust, consistent and meaningful reporting. There is currently no national collection of statistics on the environmental goods and services sector. The committee recommends that there be an ongoing national survey of the environment industry. Socially responsible investment measures a company's performance across a range of criteria, including environmental outcomes, but few potential investors would understand the screening filters and terminologies that are used. We need to understand how to measure company performance and triple bottom line outcomes and to make that information part of the investment or purchase decision.

The committee recommends the development of standardised methodologies and terminologies that can be used by the investment community and consumers. Above all, we need to promote the messages of ecologically sustainable development and provide greater information in the marketplace to encourage informed choices. As governments, industries, organisations, employers and employees, and as consumers, indirectly or directly, we participate in decisions relating to supply chain management, consumer purchases, energy consumption and investment.

The committee recommends that a national ecolabelling program be established for all consumer goods and that government agencies make use of environmental reporting guidelines for all procurement decisions. Renewable energy is an important means of moving Australia towards a more sustainable development. The committee has recommended that the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target be substantially increased as part of a range of measures to increase supply of and demand for renewable energy. In association with this, the committee recommends the mandatory disclosure for all electricity retailers of the relative sources of supplied energy and the associated greenhouse gas emissions. Australian government leadership is important in demonstrating commitment to renewable energy. The committee recommends that all Australian government agencies be required to purchase a minimum amount of green power, and to report on their compliance with ecologically sustainable development.

This report, Employment in the environment sector: methods, measurements and messages, comes nearly a decade after the 1994 committee report, Working in the environment. The 1994 report considered opportunities to enhance employment in environment remediation work and in specialised environmental industries. The 2003 report considers opportunities to improve business practices and performance across all sectors in order to minimise environmental impact. Very simply, in 1994 we needed to work at repair solutions. While there remains some need for this type of work, in 2003 the focus is on how we can stop causing environmental problems—that is, by making the environment part of every business. In 2003, the message is that the environment is everyone's job, and it is everyone's job to tread lightly and to act responsibly. In commending this report, I would like to acknowledge the work of my committee colleagues Dr Anna Dacre, Rebecca Gordon, Anthony Overs and Marlene and Jeanie in the secretariat. I thank them for their efforts. (Time expired)