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Sustainability reporting in the public sector*

‘Embedding sustainability in your organisation – challenges and solutions’ will be discussed at a roundtable as part of CPA Australia’s International Public Sector Convention from the 20th—22nd February 2013 in Brisbane.

John Purcell, Environmental Social Governance Policy Adviser at CPA Australia, shares some of his reflections on the current state of play in sustainability reporting: “The public sector provides many examples of high-quality leadership in sustainability reporting. Significant contributors can be identified in local government, water utilities and government business enterprises (GBEs).

“CPA Australia’s survey of Australian sustainability reporting practices identified more than 50 discrete public sector sustainability reports. If trends in the private sector can be drawn upon, it can be anticipated that current levels of sustainability reporting have doubled since 2005.

“The compelling reasons for such leadership can be explained by a range of factors, which relate directly to public sector entities’ core purpose for existing, and thus a rationale for reporting to stakeholders. These include such diverse responsibilities as delivery of community services, provision of essential services, maintenance of vital infrastructure and oversight of critical natural resources. However adoption of these reporting practices is in no way universal and the quality of reporting is highly variable.

“Parallels can be drawn between challenges confronting private sector entities and those encountered within the public sector in the pursuit of better penetration and quality of sustainability reporting. This includes issues around embedding sustainability in decision-making, confusion over organisational ownership and responsibility, absence of information integration and the disconnect between external rhetoric and internal reality.

“As with the private sector, the growth in penetration of sustainability reporting has been underpinned by the maturing of reporting frameworks, particularly the ‘Global Reporting Initiative’s (GRI) sustainability reporting guidelines’ (2011). The public sector will have been further assisted by the promulgation by the GRI of the ‘Public Agencies Sector Supplement’ (2010).”

Learn more from our State of Practice case study:
*Copy supplied by CPA