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Mercedes writes for The Australian Financial Review and BRW from the Sydney newsroom. She has an interest in technology, politics and travel writing.

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Top Aussie companies come good on sustainability reporting but slow guys named and shamed

Published 10 May 2013 10:51, Updated 13 May 2013 07:52

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Top Aussie companies come good on sustainability reporting but slow guys named and shamed

ACSI chief executive Ann Byrne says the impact of environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks on companies and their long-term viability is huge. Photo: Glenn Hunt

The majority of Australia’s biggest companies have scored top marks in an annual study of sustainability reporting with BHP Billiton, Telstra, Woolworths and Westpac all lauded in a new report.

The Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI) on Thursday released the report showing mining giant Rio Tinto, Qantas and three of the big four banks were leaders in the past four years.

ACSI chief executive Ann Byrne says the impact of environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks on companies and their long-term viability is huge.

“To enable investors to effectively price and manage risk during their analysis of an investment, there is a need for relevant information, and companies must understand the form that information should take – commensurate with the risks specific to their industry sector,” Ms Byrne says.

The percentage of ASX 200 companies that reported a detailed or comprehensive level was 36 per cent up from 23 per cent last year.

Named and shamed

In a bid to encourage better reporting, ACSI has provided a list naming and shaming the laggards for the first time. Making that list are eight companies which have failed to report sustainability risks for four or more years. These include Abacus Property Group, CuDECO, The Reject Shop, Platinum Asset Management and Carsales.com, ACSI says.

Also notable is that 45 per cent of the companies in the study rated “no reporting” or “basic reporting”.

Ms Byrne warns the slow take-up of companies reporting to a comprehensive level increases is discouraging.

“Even more disappointing is the fact that if the number of companies reporting to a comprehensive level continues to increase by the same annual rate it has in 2013, it will be almost 20 years before all ASX 200 companies are disclosing ESG risks at this level.”

On another note, ACSI also found that there were fewer women on the boards of companies with poor sustainability reporting practices.

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