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Managing impact of business on natural resources

The development of a more consistent national approach to manage the impacts of small-medium enterprises (SMEs) on natural resources was addressed at a conference in Canberra earlier this month.

CleanBiz Industry Liaison Officer Damien Blackwell joined 20 other delegates to identify the issues, impediments and potential common elements/ themes that could be further developed and applied on a national scale.

Damien gave an overview of the DTAE’s resource efficiency program, particularly the aspects relating to SMEs, such as the King Island CleanBiz sustainable business project.

Preliminary results of the Victorian Employers Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s new Grow Me the Money (GMTM) program provided an interesting comparison.

Launched in April 2007, GMTM’s aim is to help SMEs plan and conduct effective environmental-saving initiatives through measuring resource consumption, taking action and planning for long-term sustainability. Though similar to CleanBiz, GMTM’s services are delivered largely via the internet and include a loyalty scheme and business-2-business mentoring.

The Adelaide and Mt Lofty Ranges Natural Resource Management Board showed how better catchment results had been achieved through partnerships with local councils.

Damien said the Board’s approach showed the importance of separating SME compliance and advisory services and highlighted how the Board was evolving from a water-quality centred group to include energy and water conservation, waste (landfill) and associated efficiencies.

Delegates identified a number of issues on which natural resource management (NRM) practitioners could collaborate at both a local and national level:

• To define, develop and market to federal departments (such as Department of the Environment and Water Resources) a clear position statement about a national NRM framework for assisting SMEs with natural resource impacts

• To develop and market a communication strategy that includes key messages for SMEs, identifies stakeholders/ partners and how to convey key messages

• To initiate and maintain an open-forum dialogue (web-based) between workshop delegates, allowing continuing exchange and discussion of measures to assist SMEs manage their NRM impacts

Delegates also recognised that given the workshop was the first of its kind, it was critical to identify and engage with other NRM groups, decision makers and policy professionals around Australia (who manage sustainability programs for SMEs) to increase the likelihood that workshop resolutions would be pursued.

Damien said workshop organiser and host, Tony Soteriou (Program Manager, Swan Catchment Council), was both relieved and extremely pleased with the support and degree of engagement shown by workshop attendees.

"He was delighted with the enthusiasm and practical input from participants," Damien said.