ASX working group instructed to establish 10 CSR reporting principles

Source: Ethical Investor, 11 November 2005

The chairman of a Parliamentary enquiry into corporate social resposibility (CSR) says best practice guidelines for corporate sustainability reporting will be developed under the auspices of the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) and with reference to the Global Reporting Initiative.

The comments were made as the world’s largest international accounting body, the ACCA (association of Chartered and Certified Accountants), today launched its Australia & New Zealand Awards for Sustainability Reporting in Sydney.

Allan Blewitt, the Australian Chief Executive of theACCA, hosted the launch and reiterated the main aim of the Awards, which are to ‘reward transparency in sustainability reporting’ for both for-profit and non-profit organisations. Blewitt admitted that the accounting profession had been ‘complicit in the process of environmental and social degradation” in the past.

Whilst stating that the ACCA does not necessarily endorse ‘black letter’ or mandatory reporting of sustainability criteria for Australian companies, he made clear his view that ‘the Federal government could do more to encourage a climate that is pro-disclosure” for the good of the companies in question and for society as a whole.

Senator Grant Chapman, who is leading the current enquiry into CSR and sustainability reporting (as part of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services), provided more detail on the government’s plans. Recognising that the focus of CSR in Australia was progressing from the ‘business case for the adoption of CSR’ to louder demands for regulation and policy initiatives, Senator Chapman said the enquiry had so far received 119 submissions, which is ‘on the high side for a public enquiry of this nature’.

Senator Chapman also made clear that the Federal government is not inclined towards the course of compulsory CSR reporting. However, he revealed that the ASX has formed a working group on the matter, which met for the first time in October. The working group is addressing the use of the Global Reporting Initiative as a guideline for Australian companies’ sustainability reporting.

He also said the group is also to develop ‘10 key non-financial issues as well as further guidelines’ to assist Australian companies in the production of consistent and clear sustainability reports.