Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Public sector still needs convincing

We were lucky enough to have Phil Hughes visiting us this week in Amsterdam. He traveled over from Melbourne to meet with various members of the GRI staff to reflect back on our three years of partnership and look ahead to the future. GRI helped to co-found the Centre for Public Agency Sustainability Reporting, which Phil now directs, with ICLEI-ANZ, City of Melbourne, and State of Victoria's EPA.

We were comparing notes on the rate of uptake of the GRI Guidelines among public sector organizations (such as municipalities, federal departments, other public agencies) and the rate of uptake among businesses. The practice has been slow to take hold in the public sector, and Phil surmises that it is (at least in part) due to the lack of recognition of the three dimensional role these agencies play, and the size and complexity of their impacts.

But I reflected that it was not that long ago that companies were in the same place. We seemed to have crossed over from that lack of awarness (whether purposeful or not!) to an understanding that companies do have complex impacts (postive and no-so-positive) on societies, economies, and the environment - and we are moving into an era of action. Maybe public agencies are a few steps behind, but Phil and I decided we had reason enough to remain optimistic that they would move along this curve some point soon as well.

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