Sustainability Leaders Summit –Transforming business for the better

BDO was proud to be a gold sponsor of the recent Sustainability Leaders Summit, held in Melbourne on 1-2 March 2023.

Over two days, nearly 500 sustainability leaders from across Australia and around the globe came together to “delve deeply into the challenges and opportunities behind the ultimate goal of transforming business for the better”.

It wasn’t easy to narrow down the sheer volume of interesting and inspiring insights, but here we share our top three takeaways.

One: Sustainability is not new, but it is the new frontier

For two days, we were gifted with sharing knowledge and learnt experiences from speakers and delegates alike. Many took the opportunity to showcase success and celebrate meaningful careers in sustainability. It was a wonderful reminder of the progress and hard work forged across decades. Because while sustainability might seem like a new practice, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

What is new, however, is the groundswell of support that sustainability is now getting. It is galvanising us, providing renewed energy for the seasoned professionals who have long fought the good fight.

It serves as a reminder that it’s never too late to learn. Whether your organisation has a highly sophisticated and mature approach to sustainability or you’re yet to start, we all have a role to play, and more to do. Some organisations, for example, have focused on being ‘greener’ as their sustainability approach and could focus more on social or governance activities to improve their impact. Others have been on the Corporate Social Responsibility path for some time and could benefit from a focus on environmental impacts.

For the growth-minded, a wonderful thing about working in sustainability is that there’s always much to learn from each other. ‘Sustainability’ is a journey of continuous improvement, and we’re lucky to have a stalwart of inspiring leaders heading up the voyage.  

Two: Mandatory reporting will require ‘all hands on deck’

Mandatory sustainability reporting is a hot topic, and the summit was superbly timed in the context of this conversation.

The International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) is close to releasing the first two standards developed by the sustainability arm of the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) Foundation. Meanwhile, the Australian Government’s recent consultations suggest that mandatory reporting could be on the cards for some Australian organisations in the not-too-distant future.

Not allAustralian organisations are expected to be required to disclose their climate-related activities immediately. However, there is a feeling that the market could dictate that a broader scope of organisations ‘need’ to measure and communicate carbon footprints. For accurate climate-related disclosures by regulated organisations, entire supply chains may be requested to provide carbon footprint data. For example, larger, mandated organisations may look to influence smaller organisations to provide accurate data to contribute to the larger organisation’s scope 3 calculations, and ensure their continued participation in that supply chain.

Education and communication will be critical. Time will tell if a collaborative approach is taken. For example, organisations with greater available resources or advanced ESG maturity could support smaller, lesser-resourced organisations in their supply chain to upskill and deliver the required data.

Three: Sustainability is a whole-of-company initiative, we all have a role to play

To date, delivery of a sustainability report in Australia has been seen as anything from a ‘nice to have’ to a social licence to operate. While frameworks abound, and expectations are high for the validity and authenticity of sustainability reporting, repercussions of ‘doing it wrong’ have been limited—until recently.

The ISSB is preparing to launch IFRS S1 - General Requirements for Disclosure of Sustainability-related Financial Information and IFRS S2 - Climate-related Disclosures. With a finance organisation at the helm, sustainability professionals are also preparing for a shift in approach to reporting.
Naturally, nervous anticipation underlies the discussion about the future of sustainability reporting—after all, it’s human nature to resist change. But overall, there’s an openness to the structure and rigour that the introduction of IFRS S1 and S2 will provide and the confidence that alignment with established financial reporting practices can deliver.

Regardless of the reporting mechanisms, it’s inherently clear that sustainability (and finance) professionals can’t do it alone. We all have a role to play in designing, implementing and participating in sustainability initiatives in our workplaces and our lives in general. While the current spotlight on climate change and net zero strongly focus on the critical, urgent needs of the planet, it’s also opening conversations in other vital areas.

A new collaboration is on the horizon, and finance professionals could just be the unexpected heroes leading us into the next chapter of the sustainability story.

Talk to us today

If you’d like to talk about starting or progressing your sustainability journey or the impacts sustainability regulations might have on your business, don't hesitate to get in touch with a member of our national sustainability team.