Economy

Policies that matter to small businesses

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Business owners are increasingly concerned about climate change and the environment, which was revealed in yesterday’s SmartCompany poll. In a surprise result, almost 19% of business owners named climate change, the environment and water as the key concern that is not being addressed by either party. This was well above other issues such as tax, the economy and interest rates.

But what exactly is bothering business? Is it the regulations that will come with addressing climate change? Is it long term concerns about how climate change will affect consumers? Or are business owners concerned that the community is facing an unprecedented challenge?

According to industry groups and business think tanks, these concerns and more are unsettling businesses.

Fiona Wain, the CEO of think tank Environment Business Australia, says there is much more information available from both the science community and from economists that could be having an impact.

She says there have been two reports out in the last two weeks highlighting that climate change is the biggest threat to the economy and there is no precedent to deal with this. “We are on track to see a six degree average global temperature rise by 2030. We are realising that we can avert this by taking action.”

She says there has been incremental awareness growing suddenly to this point where they are beginning to say with one voice: “This is really urgent.”

She says that major banks around the world and financial institutions were recently at a meeting asking for strategy and firm regulation. “Business needs clarity of intent. They need to know the goal posts and framework so they can address risk.”

She says that while Labor has campaigned strongly on climate change and the Labor response is well ahead of the Liberals, people are disappointed that they have commissioned a study on the impact of climate change rather than doing more to address it.

Paul Ritchie, spokesperson of NSW Business Chamber, says green-tape is an issue. Different government bodies are seeking to regulate on this issue. “But there is no co-ordination and you have overlaps and conflicting standards.

He agrees climate change is now on the radar of business owners. “They know it’s coming and there is more regulation to come – yes, they’re concerned as citizens, but as business people more is being required of them and managing that is a challenge, especially with the national emissions trading scheme on the horizon.”

He says they want greater leadership to improve the Australian economy’s sustainability, but in a way that doesn’t strangle businesses.

Noel Dyett from the Real Estate Institute of Australia says he would be surprised if there are any real estate agents not concerned. “It is becoming a huge issue,” he says.

“If there is going to be increasing regulation – it’s important it’s done in the right way. Having said that, if it is required to address a world-wide problem than so-be it; we’ve got to be prepared to deal with it and work with it.”

He says the building sector is already seeing huge change in building codes to allow for the construction of green buildings.

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