“Sustainable” business practices are being touted, or even required, more and more by western society. What is ANZ’s sustainability policy and how is this congruent (or not) with cutting edge sustainability thinking and theory. Does this thinking and practice change across borders? And if so, how does the ANZ’s Australian head office engage with it? Does what they espouse align with the reality of their practice?
Over the past few decades, sustainable business practices have become more prevalent and required in corporations. Australian organisations are required to be responsible for being sustainable socially, economically and environmentally, here we focus on the environmental factors. Australia’s government is constantly coming up with new way for its people and businesses to follow more sustainable programs. Western society as a general believes that sustainable business practices are an essential part of any business policy. Pushes through meeting between world leaders, countries are now more than ever expected to upkeep sustainable conventions. Although almost all large corporations claim that they have strong sustainable business practices and policies, not all corporations espouse what they preach. It is difficult for any corporation to achieve sustainability at a level which pleases everybody, however most organisations are noticing that having sustainable business practices is rewarding both financially and at a customer satisfaction level.
Meeting the needs of a business and its stakeholders, while at the same time managing it’s effects on society and the environment are core to business sustainability (Pojasek 2007). The culture we live in thrives off of new and improved ways of living. Finding the most sustainable option, in every case, allows organisations and their customers to grow. This generation will not stand for ignorance and insensible approaches to sustainability in the corporate world. Large businesses must be aware that the decisions they make will often impact beyond the walls around them, and that they must answer for the damage they cause. Organisations that shy away from sustainable options, be it due to finances or ignorance will see themselves placed under immense pressure from government organisations all the way down to the consumers. This push for a better tomorrow, is being incorporated around the world on a business and personal level.
Burke (1991), lists ten characteristics for a sustainable society, such as using renewable resources and linking development with conservation, these when applied to an organisation build a trust and a loyalty with stakeholders who align their morals with the companies they choose. If everyone were to stand by these rules, the prospect of the population doubling in the next fifty years may not seem so daunting. However not everyone abides, as it is not always economical or immediately beneficial to be sustainable and some corporations cannot see the footprints they are leaving behind for the next generations to deal with. Corporations need to see the potential for improving business value through sustainability, starting internally with management, before reaching out. The general consensus is that sustainable business practices are vital in the longevity of any organisation and needs to be taken seriously. Australia is ranked quite highly when it comes to cutting edge sustainability thinking and theory. In fact the most sustainable company in the world in 2014 is Westpac Banking, which is an Australian corporation (Smith 2014). With four companies placed in the top hundred, on the most sustainable companies list, one can see that Australia’s expectations for business’ to adopt sustainable approaches throughout all their business operations is taking effect.
The government uses many tactics to make sure that businesses are using sustainable business practices. One method is the annual Australian business award for sustainability, this is useful, as it is important to commend sustainable companies and it encourages a healthy competition to have the best continual business model and be more aware and proactive in regards to the environment. The Australian government is active in its move to promote and push for sustainable business practices, one of their more recent resolutions is the Clean Energy Legislation, which is made of individual bills covering levys on green house gases and fuel tax, this enforces corporations to oblige and making a move towards being green (Griffiths, 2012). However this means that certain organisations will do the bare minimum of what is required of them by law and nothing more. There are other initiatives in place to encourage sustainable business practices which are not legally binding, such as Sustainable Business Australia, who provide policy recommendations and resources for sustainability challenges (SBA, n.d).
Companies who become members with SBA are held in high regards by their stakeholders as they abide by the recommendations regarding carbon action and resource solutions. There is also an emphasis on the people, and their crucial role in creating business value. Previously people were satisfied with just their basic needs being fulfilled, but no longer, we now see Maslow’s hierarchy of needs triangle unravelling as people require more to feel satisfied with themselves and what they do in their work space (Kiel, 1999). With encouragement from government and local communities, Australia is making an effort with great determination towards having the best sustainable business practices. ANZ (2013) asserts that it endeavours to recognise the environmental impact within its work places and branches, following social and environmental pressures to reduce them. ANZ makes it clear that they are aware of their environmental impact directly through their buildings, structures and employees, as well as indirectly through their lending.
They are certified carbon neutral with the National Carbon Offset standards and create progress reports biannually regarding their impact on a variety of areas such as gas emissions, water and paper usage and resource efficiency among others, they have been doing so for ten years (ANZ 2004). Although ANZ has variety of KPIs and targets to meet, they cannot always fulfil their requirements. One of the targets for 2013 was to reduce paper usage by converting everything into electronic statements, New Zealand successfully did so, however Australia did not reach that target, and has set it as a goal for the year to come (Nash 2013 p.68). ANZs sustainability policy is very broad and covers a range of issues, beginning with educating sustainability, it is seen as vital to begin by reaching out and teaching staff so they are aware of the impacts they have on the environment, directly and indirectly.
The policy goes over safety, fairness and responsibility as well as maintaining an environmental management system and integrating government and community needs in regards to sustainability (ANZ 2004 pg.2). ANZ’s sustainability policy goes above and beyond what is required of them by law, this is the case through to stakeholder. ANZ works closely with its stakeholders through collaboration and engagement, progress is reported to stakeholders regularly and based on responses, ANZ makes public commitments which they aim to accomplish (ANZ n.d.). Questionable practices and unethical behaviour would have stakeholders removing themselves from being associated, for this reason ANZ aims high to please its stakeholders which intern promotes sustainability and business continuity. Crossing borders to the rest of the world we find variations in sustainable business practices from commendable nuclear recycling in France to disgraceful toxic waste dumping off the Ivory coast. Every country has a different set of laws and legislations set up that can affect the way one runs a sustainable business.
An Australian based corporation with locations around the world, still has to abide by the countries laws that they are set up in. Luckily more and more people are realising the benefit of sustainable business practices around the world such as Ray Anderson (Ted Talks, 2009) who claims, “The biggest culprit in this massive mistreatment of the earth by the human kind…that culprit is business and industry”, and that the only solution is for businesses to take responsibility of their actions and move towards more sustainable resolutions. In 1997 many of the worlds countries met in Kyoto, Japan to discuss greenhouse gas emissions, through this the Kyoto protocol was created with the aim to help avoid global warming (Gang 2007).
Through these worldly events and meetings between leaders, countries are becoming more obligated to be vigorous in their attempts to create a sustainable future. As the governments accept new world protocols and create their own, businesses must oblige and follow suit. Overall western societies are all on the same page when it come sustainability, as they can afford to take steps to preparing for a greener future. It is a struggle with third world countries who do not have the funds to improve on their sustainability, such as the upfront costs of solar power. What must be realised that no matter poor or not, one cannot afford to be wasteful or carless with resources on this planet.
Since 1835 ANZ has branched itself all over the world, originating in the United Kingdom, then Australia and now in the Asia Pacific region amongst other areas. Considering that business is being conducted in these areas, and major lending does occur, the effects of this must be contemplated. ANZ proactively adopts a program called the sensitive sector policy, which regulates who ANZ lends to. Employees who are working in the lending field at ANZ are thoroughly trained in social and environmental risk and how the people and companies they lend to will affect the standard of living and the environment in the country that they are in. This training goes on, and is consistent in all of ANZ’s branches across the planet from Australia to Hong Kong and Singapore (ANZ n.d.). ANZ does put an effort in to having a globally sustainable business policy, not just within their company but also through the communities it works in.
In 2013 one of ANZ’s global key aims was to have their staff do at least 100,000 hours of volunteering in the districts that they operate in. They hit ninety precent of their target, which is an achievement (Nash 2013). What ANZ is seeing is that businesses need to seek sustainable solutions internally as well as externally, as they have an affect on whichever communities they are in. They use a geocentric view, which is more world orientated and find people from around the globe who are best suited to knowing what is needed in the communities that they are in. ANZ uses an accommodative approach to corporate social responsibility. Luke (2013) says that CSR is a type of political agenda, a way to deceive people that one is doing good for good, even so the social impact programs and the environmental outreach, whether a form of coercion to be seen as a good and successful company, still has a positive effect even if the intentions weren’t so.
ANZ also partners with WWF, which is aimed at creating awareness, providing information and education in regards to the environment and sustainability within the corporation and to the customers it serves (ANZ, n.d.). ANZ aspires to have and uphold sustainable business practices globally and believes that it is. Although companies aim to achieve the best sustainable business policies, often they cannot hold true to their word. Unfortunately for ANZ due to their investments in projects which will have an adverse affect on the climate and natural habitats of the Great Barrier Reef, their customers are protesting, threatening and are indeed changing banks (Vincent, 2013).
In fact ANZ is Australia top lender when it comes to coal and gas projects, they have already lent a whopping $1.1 Billion to the undertaking of finding fossil fuels in the Great Barrier Reef (Charlie, 2013). Interestingly though, ANZ’s attitudes on the subject of coal and fossil fuel investments are not negative. ANZ actually approaches the subject of their investments in coal and fossil fuels as a positive, even though this area is receiving a large amount of negative publicity on the news and from a variety of NGO’s. They do not try to hide their investments either. Their argument is that coal is one of Australia’s main sources of energy and is also our second largest export, therefore helping finance the country (Nash, 2013). Although they do fund many of these fossil fuel and coal schemes, they do control where they invest, ANZ has recently not agreed to lend to three coal and gas-fired power prospects, because of various reasons including the level of greenhouse gas involved and incompetent business practices (Nash 2013).
Whilst the intentions of most large corporations are for the good, often the product of their doings is not seen that way. To continue to be a successful business, one must always seek to improve and to look towards a sustainable future. ANZ has done an outstanding job at doing so, winning awards in innovation and excellence, and coming in as a finalist in the award for the best sustainable development in the new buildings category. All architects and builders now look towards creating a harmony between building designs and being environmentally conscious. Studies have shown that using sustainable building methods can be more cost efficient in the long term (Sims, Rogner & Gregory, 2003). ANZ has gone above and beyond in 2009 when they completed the work on their accredited six green star ANZ headquarters, situated in the docklands of Melbourne. This building includes a myriad of environmental features such as solar power, wind turbines, tri-generation black water recycling, and use of the river cooling (Puchalski 2011).
One of ANZ’s objectives for the coming years is to increase their lending to lower carbon emission power and financing new energy opportunities. While it was uncovered that one of ANZ’s customer was attaining oil from illegal palm oil plantations, ANZ identified the situation, and through delicate discussion, cleared the air and made sure that all practices were completely certified (Nash 2013). ANZ has many goals and KPIs both financial and non financial that they set and aim to achieve every year, a surprising amount of these are part of their sustainable business policy. As a corporation they are doing more good than harm. Whilst countless organisations aim for profit growth, the need of sustainable business practices means that choices may be made that might not necessarily maximise capital, but will be beneficial for society and the environment.
Sustainable business practices are essential to all organisations, even more so in the western world. Sustainable technology is constantly growing as the need for it expands. However it is not always simple to comply and meet everyone’s expectations when it comes to sustainability, even so through world incentive corporations are being pushed to take the matter seriously. Although there are set policies for what is appropriate and approved, businesses have the ability to surpass what is expected of them and in doing so help nurture a sustainable future.
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