Businesses increase sustainability budgets

New research has revealed that Australian businesses, on average, will put 57% more budget, time and people towards environmental initiatives.

2 December 2021

The findings come from the 2021 Australian Business Assurance Report by SAI Global based on a survey of 328 Australian executives.

The report found that 85% of businesses are already taking measures to reduce their environmental impact. Waste management seems to be the leading, and most manageable, concern: 57% of executives say their organisations are reducing waste management processes including reusing, refurbishing, recycling and disposal.

Businesses are also focused on reducing their emissions. Almost half (48%) are reducing their energy consumption, 24% are increasing local sourcing and 23% are reducing travel and product transportation. 

Large organisations (more than 501 employees) seem to be taking charge in reducing emissions, with two-thirds (66%) focusing on reducing their energy consumption, compared with 41% of small businesses (less than 50 employees). More than a quarter (29%) are reducing their travel and transportation emissions, compared with 21% of small businesses.

Saeid Nikdel, environmental management systems expert at SAI Global, said the COVID-19 crisis had caused a fundamental shift in our current trajectory and presented an opportunity for businesses to rebuild more sustainably

“The global pandemic has presented many challenges to businesses, but the silver lining of the crisis is that it allows us to rethink our future and build resilience to other challenges such as climate change,” he said. 

The pandemic also hastened the transition to a hybrid working model, which has resulted in employees avoiding unnecessary face-to-face meetings as well as domestic and global travel, in turn, reducing fossil fuel depletion and the associated impacts on climate change. 

“As we emerge from the pandemic, it’s imperative that businesses looking to put more resources toward environmental sustainability create a multi-faceted approach that focuses on a range of measures,” Mr Nikdel said. 

Less common is taking measures to improve efficiency of resource-heavy processes, which only 17% of businesses are acting on, and improving end-of-life treatment of products, chosen by 14%.

“While many businesses say they are taking strides to reduce their waste management, energy consumption and emissions, not enough businesses are taking a holistic approach to environmental sustainability to also look at the lifecycle of their products, better uses of raw materials and natural resources, and better utilisation of space,” Mr Nikdel said. 

“The end-of-life treatment of products, how they are stored and how raw materials are acquired and extracted all have an impact on a company’s environmental impact and should be considered when developing an environmental strategy.”

To help them with this strategy, almost a third (31%) of businesses said they would review their environmental policy. 

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