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Public departments are lagging behind business

29 November, 2004

Core public sector departments are lagging behind business and local government in sustainability reporting

Peter Neilson, Chief Executive, New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development (the Business Council) told participants at the Public Sector Accountants Convention today that the public sector is lagging behind in sustainability reporting.

He advised public sector organisations to learn from the smarter businesses that are recognising the need for multiple objectives, which embrace social and environmental impacts as well as the traditional financial bottom line.

“Business is increasingly seeing itself as being accountable for its triple bottom line performance. State Owned Enterprises, Crown Research Institutes and local government trading entities are leaders in triple bottom line reporting. The core public sector is now the laggard rather than the leader in reporting on the triple bottom line impact of its own operations.”

“New Zealanders do care about social and environmental issues. In contrast despite 20 years of debate about our need for better economic performance this just doesn’t resonate with the man on the street. The Growth and Innovation Board’s market research indicates that New Zealanders don’t see a link between better economic performance and the things they do value - improving incomes, enhancing our quality of life by preserving or enhancing the environment, or to pay for the programs that provide opportunities for all.

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“If Government and Business cannot present what they contribute through a triple bottom line as the public understands it, then much of what Government and business does will not be understood or supported.

“Successful societies require competent responsive government as well as a healthy business sector. As incomes increase communities want not only improving material living standards but also an improving quality of life.

“New Zealanders want improving living standards, while maintaining a pristine environment along with social conditions that allow all to participate and belong.

“Public Sector Accountants can assist society if they help measure and audit what matters”
We have just run another successful series of workshops part funded by the Ministry for the Environment, which help companies produce their first triple bottom line report. We invite public sector accountants to join our 2005 series.


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