Written by Jason Robertson, ARA Director of Sustainability and Impact

This is the first article in a new series that will provide regular updates to members on the key sustainability issues that are most important to our sector.  

This follows a recent member survey about sustainability priorities, in which 84% of respondents said that continued advocacy and engagement with government was the best way for the ARA to help Australian retailers become more sustainable. The survey also confirmed that the ARA has an important role to play in providing information that helps to educate members and build capability across the sector.  

In providing these updates, our aim is to help retailers navigate the sustainability landscape in Australia and ensure that the ARA can make data-driven, member-centric contributions to the development and implementation of new government policies. 

Natural Capital 

  • Earlier this month, we published an article about the different approaches that different states are taking to the phase-out of single-use plastics. To find out more, please click on this link

  • In addition, the WA government has published dates for community consultation in relation to the next phase of its plastics ban (commencing on 01 January 2022) and the Queensland government has stepped up engagement activity ahead of its plastics ban coming into effect on 01 September 2021. 

  • There have also been recent announcements in relation to the further expansion in waste and recycling capacity in NSW, a new four-bin recycling system in Victoria and new investments in plastics recycling in Tasmania.

  • The Productivity Commission recently published a draft report about the need to make it easier for consumers to exercise their right to repair, which will play a key role in the transition to a circular economy.  

Climate Action 

  • The ARA congratulates the Palaszczuk government on the recent launch of its Climate Action Plan for Queensland. The plan commits the state to deliver 50% of its energy needs through renewables by 2030, with net zero emissions by 2050. The announcement was supported by helpful resources that provide Queensland businesses with information about the ecoBiz program, renewable energy options and science-based targets. 

  • The NSW government has announced its strategy for electric vehiclesincluding incentives for buyers. More recently, the ACT government announced a $25 million investment in charging stations and ARENA announced its first funding round under the Future Fuels Fund, to expand Australia’s network of fast charging stations for electric vehicles.

  • In Victoria, the state government announced a new energy saver program for small business and a $31 million investment in energy  efficiency for larger businesses. And the City of Yarra has launched its innovative Chats in the Chair campaign that encourages  hairdressers and barbers to talk about climate change with their clients.

  • H&M, IKEA, Walmart and Kingfisher recently joined forces to launch the Race to Zero campaign, encouraging retailers to outline their commitments to a net-zero future that limits global warming to 1.5 degrees. 

Ethical Trade 

  • A private member’s bill was introduced into Federal parliament that seeks to amend the Customs Actbanning Australian businesses from importing goods made from Uyghur forced labour. Following a Senate inquiry, a subsequent bill has now been introduced that expands the geographic coverage of any future Act beyond Xinjiang and China, to anywhere in the world. The Bill is scheduled to be tabled in the Senate in late-August and, if passed, would then go to the House of Representatives. Irrespective of whether the bill passes the lower house, the Senate Inquiry report has raised the profile of the issue, highlighting the scale and nature of the risk for Australian businessesIt is also a good indication of where legislation relating to forced labour may be headed. 

  • Choose Cruelty Free (CCF) has announced that it is now part of the global Leaping Bunny family, following its merger with Cruelty Free International (CCI). For Australian brand owners currently certified by CCF, this provides the opportunity to become approved under the global Leaping Bunny program.   

  • In addition, the peak industry body for Australia’s hygiene, personal care and cosmetics industry has launched a voluntary Code of Conduct to support the Australian ban on animal testing for cosmetics.   

Strong Communities  

  • With an aging population and the ongoing impact of Covid-19 on the jobs market, the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has launched an online resource hub to support employers “build and maintain successful multigenerational workforces.” Click on the link to find out more about this resource and the AHRC’s campaign to raise awareness about age discrimination.   

  • With 7/10 small business owners reporting that the past 12 months has been more emotionally draining than any other year, the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman has launched an awareness campaign about  mental health support available for small business owners, in partnership with Beyond Blue’s New Access program.  

  • This federal program has been complemented by Head4Work, a free online mental health platform for Tasmanian small business owners, and additional support to minimise out of pocket expenses for Victorians requiring support from mental health professionals.  

Of course, not all these issues are relevant to all members but it’s clear that the number and impact of sustainability issues continues to increase for the sector, and we’re committed to helping Australian retailers navigate the ever-changing sustainability landscape.