Australian ESG for SMEs Symposium

27 March 2024

Bruce Billson, former Minister for SME, in his new capacity as Australian Small Enterprise and Family Business Ombudsman, has organized a Symposium on ESG for SMEs in Camberra on 19-20 March with the aim of showcasing best practice case studies to build competence and confidence and produce a right-sized ESG guidance and tool kit for ready use by small and medium-sized businesses. The symposium saw high-level speakers such as the Secretrary General of the OECD Mathias Cormann and John Lyndon of the Sydney University of Technology.

In his introduction Hon. Billson stated that Small and medium-sized businesses are keenly looking for right-sized and relevant guidance on how best to credibly identify and report their ESG performance. They are anxiously hearing regulator’s high-profile warnings about penalties for unsubstantiated claims, responding to calls for accuracy and timeliness with expanded reporting expectations and reacting to demands for information from other enterprise and counterparties with whom they do business.   Yet most of the limited guidance available is designed for larger corporates and sophisticated entities, with a focus on what not to do rather than positive engagement with credible ESG reporting.

Mathias Cormann, OECD Secretary General stressed that a recent survey found that 75 per cent of SMEs complain risk reporting  and compliance with Zero net targets imposed by the Green transition.  The offer of sustainable finance is expanding, but SMEs have difficulties to access this opportunity due to their limited ability to provide sustainability performance data, develop financing instruments and meet reporting requirements.

In the EU the implementation of the new Corporate Sustainability Reporting Standard Directive for banks does not yet apply to SMEs, however commercial banks are already considering climate and environmental risks in the selection of credit. The OECD is working at an online measurement of carbon foot print to alleviate the administrative burden for SMEs and also to design a globally consistent matrix to counter the current fragmentation and avoid green washing by sharing experience among jurisdictions.

Source: INSME Secretariat

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