Holding the corporates to account on sustainability spin

Published: 12 Mar 2019

Our Union will play a leading role in holding multinational companies to account for accurate reporting on sustainability and workers’ rights, with the appointment of CFMEU Mining and Energy’s National Research Director Peter Colley to the Global Sustainability Standards Board (GSSB).

The appointment is a significant recognition of the CFMEU’s leading role in sustainability debates and fighting for workplace human rights.

The GSSB is the 15 member standard-setting body for the Global Reporting Initiative, the leading standard used by most of the world’s larger companies for their sustainability reports.

Peter was nominated to the GSSB by the Council of Global Unions and is one of just two global union nominees on the Board. He commenced a 3 year term in January 2019.

The GRI standards cover the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) issues that dominate company sustainability reports, with unions being most concerned about the “S” component that covers impacts on workers and communities. Trade unions have long been concerned that company sustainability reports have failed to present an accurate picture of their respect for, and compliance with, workplace human rights, let alone good employment practices.

The classic current example is that mining companies produce sustainability reports that present their employment practices in a highly favourable light, even as they have reduced permanent employment in favour of insecure and lower paid casual labour hire. Or even more harshly, seek to prevent or reduce collective bargaining with unions even while claiming to respect workers’ rights to join unions and bargain for a fair deal.

Peter’s job on the GSSB will be help improve the GRI standards so that these (and other ESG) contradictions become clear and companies lift their game so that their top-level commitments around workplace human rights are genuinely reflected in their operations.

While the GRI standards are officially voluntary, there is a global trend towards requiring companies to report on their ESG risks and impacts, including in Australia. It is therefore critical that unions take part in order that workers’ rights and entitlement to decent work are prioritised.