Mike Cannon-Brookes

Move over government, business and their staff need a share of the action, a new survey from Atlassian shows.

Two things from Atlassian this week: One is that if you think the past few months are going to pass us by with next to no impact on our way of life, think again.

Another is that co-founder pf this Aussie bred global tech company Mike Cannon-Brookes has quite possibly instinctively known that his staff want him to speak out as vocally as he has done on climate and energy issues, and that his company will be rewarded with greater loyalty if he does this.

A new report commissioned by Atlassian, The Return on Action, commissioned conducted by PWC and based on a survey of 1200 Australian employees found that employees want the companies they work for to at least care about societal issues and, even more, to “hold politicians to account on them”.

About a third would resign from their jobs if their employer acted in ways that are contrary to their values.

Unsurprisingly the tech giant found that the items at the top of employees’ concerns are fairly fundamental: cost of living, drought and access to water, access to health care, cost of healthcare and mental health and wellness.

And climate change. Around 65 per cent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that “the impact of climate change” will become significantly worse in the next five years. And even more, 69 per cent, said they believed that Australian business has the ability to significantly improve the impact of climate change if they act now.

Social issues also were top of mind with 75 per cent of survey participants saying they acted on at least one or more such issue in the past 12 months.

Mr Cannon-Brookes  said Australian businesses had reached a tipping point and sitting on the fence was no longer good enough.

“As business leaders, we have an awesome responsibility. Employees want us to ensure we are making the planet better, not worse. Faced with government inaction on some of our biggest problems, it’s the business community that can step up and drive meaningful change.”

Co-founder Scott Farquhar said times had changed. “As business leaders we should listen to the views of the workforce. Focusing on our impact on society delivers a return of its own”

Chief executive of PwC Australia Luke Sayers said the challenges were now too great to rely on governments alone.

“Businesses must have a voice, contribute insights, take a position and innovate,” he said. “It’s what most employees expect of their employers and it’s also the only way we are going to find the right solutions and build a secure and sustainable path for future generations.”

Key findings include:

  • 62 per cent of employees surveyed agree or strongly agree big business have increased responsibility, now more than ever, to address key societal issues facing our country
  • 67 per cent agree or strongly agree business leaders should hold politicians to account on major issues
  • 69 per cent agree businesses should be just as concerned with their societal impact as they are with their financial performance
  • 65 per cent agree or strongly agree the impact of climate change will become significantly worse in the next five years
  • 78 per cent agree or strongly agree businesses need to take full responsibility for their environmental impact
  • 74 per cent agree or strongly agree that business should invest in and use renewable energy, instead of fossil fuels like oil and coal
  • 31 per cent of employees agree or strongly agree that, “if my employer were to act in a way that didn’t align with their values they would quit their job”.
  • Among baby boomers, 69 per cent agree or strongly agree that businesses have the ability to significantly improve the impacts of climate change if they act now
  • businesses should use their resource and influence on to drive change in waste and pollution
  • 78 per cent agree or strongly agree that businesses need to take full responsibility for their environmental impact
  • Only one third of all employees are satisfied with the levels of action taken by employers
  • 57 per cent say a “business known for speaking out on issues that are important to me is more attractive as a future employer
  • Only 19 per cent of Australian employees disagree with the statement “I trust businesses to be genuine when speaking out on societal issues”

Alan Davis has joined Mott MacDonald as Australian sustainability lead ­– built environment. In the past few years he’s held senior sustainability roles at WSP in both Australia and the US.

Tony Wong has stepped down as chief executive officer of the CRC for Water Sensitive Cities (CRCWSC) after seven years. He’s not leaving the CRCWSC and the Water Sensitive Cities Institute (WSCI) but devoting efforts to delivering projects, translating research outputs into policies and works on-ground, and developing business opportunities for the institute. He’ll also chair the Water Sensitive Cities Think Tank.

Our pick of the jobs

The Living Future Institute of Australia is recruiting: it needs both a technical manager and a technical officer. Both roles can be based in Sydney or Melbourne with potential for flexible working arrangements.

There’s a job going in northern Tasmania’s largest city, Launceston. The City of Launceston is looking for a sustainability officer to implement its 2019 Sustainability Strategy.

Greening Australia has launched a fundraising campaign called Reef Aid to improve the water quality flowing onto the Great Barrier Reef. It’s looking for an environmental consultant as part of the campaign.

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