The AICD’s upcoming Climate Governance Forum will help boards tackle the fast-moving policy, strategy and risk landscape associated with climate change.

    On 1 August, 1300 AICD members will gather in Sydney and online to share expert insights and board strategies to respond to the risks and opportunities associated with climate change. The forum, part of the global Climate Governance Initiative (CGI) Australia, will include sessions on the extent of the economic transformation needed to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050, the opportunities for Australia available from the transition, insights on climate disclosure and reporting, stakeholder considerations, scenario analysis and risk management pathways — as well as international board practice.

    Penny Bingham-Hall FAICD — non-executive director of Bluescope Steel, Dexus Property Group and Fortescue Metals — who will address the forum, says the outcome of the recent federal election has given the new government a mandate to move fast on climate change and energy transition policy. The government has committed to a 43 per cent emissions reduction target for 2030.

    “It always takes time, obviously, to get policy changes there, but I think it will happen reasonably quickly,” she says. “The corporate sector has been quite frustrated for a while about the lack of progress in this area, so the government should expect great support from business on this topic.”

    Bingham-Hall says while different organisations are impacted differently by rising energy prices, the energy transition is going to create a number of complexities for boards to think about. “The recent energy crisis on the east coast and what’s going on globally is only going to increase the pressure to address it sooner, rather than later,” she says. “What we are seeing at the moment with the energy crisis, with rising energy prices, it certainly makes everyone a lot more cognisant of what’s happening with the energy transition. It is certainly creating a degree of urgency for boards to think about energy and decarbonisation, renewable energy and how we think about climate change.”

    Zoe Whitton, a partner at climate change investment advisory Pollination, will also speak at the forum. “In a number of sectors, the transition, exercise and dealing with the energy crisis are actually the same set of solutions,” she says. Other speakers include Stephen Dunne FAICD, chair Investor Group on Climate Change, and Geoff Summerhayes GAICD, chair Beyond Zero Emissions.

    Energy Roadmap

    “Australia is experiencing a complex, rapid and irreversible energy transformation,” says Australian Market Energy Operator CEO Daniel Westerman. AEMO’s 2022 Integrated System Plan outlines a 30-year investment roadmap for the National Electricity Market (NEM). It says investment is required for a ninefold increase in grid-scale wind and solar capacity, triple the firming capacity (dispatchable storage, hydro and gas-fired generation) and a near fivefold increase in distributed solar. Annual electricity consumption from the grid is forecast to double and 60 per cent of coal generation to have exited by 2030.

    Modern slavery review

    Three years after the introduction of Australia’s modern slavery regime, the federal government is reviewing the Modern Slavery Act 2018, with an issues paper expected to be released shortly.

    In its pre-election platform, the ALP committed to strengthening the Act including introducing penalties for non-compliance, requiring entities to prove certain imported goods have not been made with forced labour, and establishing an Anti-Slavery Commissioner. The statutory review will consider issues such as compliance practices to date, whether to lower the current $100m revenue reporting threshold, and mandatory reporting criteria. The review is scheduled to be completed by 31 March 2023.

    Talent blockers

    Wages and Ages: Mapping the Gender Pay Gap by Age, new data from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) provides fresh insights for boards and management to tackle persistent gender gaps in pay and workplace progress. Although Australian women enrol in/complete higher education and enter the labour market at a higher proportion than men, the data shows they are substantially less likely to work full-time across all age groups — and less likely to reach the highest earning levels.

    In 2021, at no age were more than 50 per cent of women working full-time, yet higher-paid management opportunities were almost exclusively reserved for full-time workers. In all age groups, more than 90 per cent of managers were working full-time.

    A divergence in working patterns occurs from the age of 35 onwards, when men are predominantly working full-time and women are predominantly working part-time or casually.

    WGEA director Mary Wooldridge notes that in the midst of a skills shortage, too many employers are missing out on a huge talent pool by not encouraging and enabling women to work additional hours or in the managerial ranks. “Our research with McKinsey and the Business Council of Australia shows that on average, companies with more part-time managers have more women at executive levels,” she says.

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