New report shows more financial organizations are integrating sustainability into their business practices

Australia’s financial sector made good progress early on in aligning the country’s financial system with a more sustainable future. But leaders say more work is needed to ensure the sector better meets the needs of financially vulnerable groups like First Nations people.

Last november, the Australian Sustainable Finance Initiative (ASFI) released an industry-led roadmap calling on financial organizations to embed sustainability into their practices, facilitate the transition to net zero and help Australia achieve sustainable development goals (SDGs).

ASFI has now published a report on progress in implementing the 37 recommendations of the roadmap, which were designed to reshape Australia’s financial system to be more resource efficient and inclusive in the part of the ongoing COVID recovery.

The report found that there was a promising dynamic in the industry for organizations to embed sustainability into practice – for example by measuring the social and environmental impact of investments – and to support individual and community resilience against shocks. acute such as COVID or bushfires.

He noted several examples of organizations taking action, including the NAB training bankers to identify climate-related financial risks, and HESTA and Australian Super using the roadmap to inform their ESG and stewardship strategy.

ASFI Co-Chair Simon O’Connor told Pro Bono News he was pleased with the progress the industry has made so far.

“It’s great to see how many different organizations and [industries] have stepped up to start implementing some of the roadmap recommendations, ”O’Connor said.

“But even more, some important collaborations with civil society, academics, governments and regulators are also progressing very strongly.

“Because what we know by doing the work on the roadmap [is] that the only way we are really going to achieve the goals of this is if action is taken by all stakeholder groups.

Sector in a hurry to better meet the needs of First Nations peoples

The report noted that more action and collaboration is needed to make further progress in several key areas, including strengthening the financial resilience of First Nations communities.

“First Nations peoples are overrepresented among financially vulnerable Australians and while the financial sector is striving to develop and implement action plans for reconciliation, it is still in the process of developing and implementing reconciliation. at an early stage of development, ”the report says.

“It is anticipated that this will require a significant level of additional collaboration and action to ensure that the financial sector meets the needs of First Nations in a fair and equitable manner. “

Responsible Investment Association Australia – of which O’Connor is CEO – and Reconciliation Australia are committed to developing a Framework of the action plan for reconciliation for the financial sector.

This would focus on how the financial sector engages with First Nations peoples and ensure that racial equity and racial healing are further integrated into organizational structures and plans.

O’Connor said this was an area he was eager to see further progress.

“We really wanted First Nations voices and recommendations to be deeply embedded in this report as one of the key social sustainability issues facing Australia,” he said.

“While there is a very good initial momentum there, there is still a lot of work to be done to really strengthen the contribution the financial services industry can make to First Nations groups in Australia. “

ASFI will now also focus on creating a permanent sustainable funding body to oversee the implementation of the roadmap and ensure that it is implemented effectively.

O’Connor hopes to establish this ASFI body by mid-2021.

“We need this established standing body to continue to build momentum and ensure that we are on the road map and reporting on it,” he said.

“We have seen such momentum globally in policy developments around sustainable finance, but we need an organization that can help the whole industry navigate it. “



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