By Lyn Drummond

21 September 2011 – Sustainable Business Australia and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s APEC secretariat are developing a carbon capability program for Vietnam and Indonesia.

Chief executive officer of SBA, Andrew Petersen told The Fifth Estate:  “We have had discussions with the APEC branch and will develop it through an AusAid program in a year to 18 months”.

There was a great appetite among Asian countries to build capacity – and several were knowledge sharing –  but a lack of resources, time, money and skills on the ground was a deterrent, Mr Petersen said.

SBA’s target for 2012 was to focus on Australian green growth in this, “the Asian Century”, he said.

“Sustainability is on every business agenda this century. Growth in countries such as China, India, Indonesia is linked to sustained performance not only economically, but in terms of natural resources.

“We as an organisation are focused on education, the incubation and promotion of the Australian business role in growth opportunities in the Asian sector next year. We want to build the capacity to manage the future footprint in the use of biodiversity.

“The way we will do that is through a variety of discussions around the carbon debate, the formulation of policy and future of the business role under the Rio 20 summit negotiations next year and the role and the growth of the environmental goods and services sector in Australia.”

Trade was starting to emerge in areas like water, products and services, energy and efficiency, carbon accounting and reporting.

SBA describes itself as the peak body for the low carbon and environmental goods and services sector. The organisation is also a think tank focusing on new markets, new industries and new jobs.

It began 20 years ago this November as The Environment Management Industry Association of Australia, was renamed Environment Business Australia in 2001, and adopted its present name last year.  

A large part of SBA’s work involves raising awareness about the scale and relevance of major environmental challenges and the commercial solutions that business and industry can provide.

SBA’s membership, now about 100, includes investors, bankers, technology and infrastructure developers, consultancy and engineering companies involved in all areas of the economy.

Mr Petersen said SBA expected to mark its 20 years by calling on policy makers to develop a national economic assessment to ascribe a value to Australia’s natural assets.

Andrew Petersen

“The three fundamental elements of any successful enterprise are, land, money and people and we need to properly value the first one.

“When we place a price on carbon we need a discussion on what biodiversity really means.”

An environmental planning lawyer and consultant in climate change and sustainability, Mr Petersen became the CEO in March this year.  He is encouraged at how SBA has grown year by year, based on a community of purpose rather than industry or sectoral positioning.

“The number of companies from other sectors, some unlisted some not, present the whole snapshot of sustainability,” he said.  Some like AGL, NAB and Fujitsu are  developing sustainable services from core capabilities and products.

The importance of getting sustainability into the market place had accelerated because of the carbon debate. It was a catalyst for businesses to identify where the opportunities were, he said.

But taking advantage of these opportunities was being hampered by the mind set of policy makers, and certainty or otherwise of government frameworks around such issues as carbon and water.

Once those frameworks were in place and developed, they would underwrite the number of companies where opportunities lay for creating efficiency in their businesses and the need to develop a business model into a new market place, he said.

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