BCA defends climate stance amid claims of rising revolt


Those dissident companies were in addition to another six BCA members which have announced, or have conducted, reviews of their business association memberships in light of diverging views on climate change.

Those conducting reviews include Rio Tinto, BHP, Westpac and now Telstra which announced on Friday that it has “commenced an alignment review of our key industry memberships in relation to climate change”. The review is expected to be completed in the second half of the year.

Jennifer Westacott, chief executive of the Business Council of Australia.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

“We understand that in response to activist pressure some companies are reviewing their membership of industry associations,” BCA chief executive Jennifer Westacott told the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age on Wednesday.

“Our long-held position on climate and energy policy is that Australia needs a realistic, pragmatic plan for transition to a lower carbon economy which includes a market-based, economy-wide mechanism to reduce emissions to give businesses the ability to plan for the future and meet our international commitments.”

She also pointed out that BCA members are involved in developing its policy.

“As has always been the case, the Business Council’s policy and advocacy agenda is developed by our members, through our system of committees and at our regular meetings,” said Ms Westacott.

As has always been the case, the Business Council’s policy and advocacy agenda is developed by our member.

BCA chief executive Jennifer Westacott

But Telstra questioned whether industry bodies should advocate on topics where there is no consensus.

“We believe industry associations should refrain from advocacy in areas where no broad industry consensus exists – in these areas individual members are best placed to advocate their views independently,” said Telstra’s chief sustainability officer Tim O’Leary in the blog post on Friday announcing its review.

Telstra noted that where there are material differences between its position on climate change policy and the positions of its industry associations saying: “we will engage directly with them.”

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A spokesman said the company had not made a decision to leave the BCA.

Westpac has also commenced a review of its industry association memberships with climate change policy one of the areas of interest.

“We will be finalising this review in coming months and it’ll be made available on our website and communicated to stakeholders,” said a Westpac spokeswoman.

A report from The Australia Institute in March said at least 16 BCA members were part of investor initiatives on climate.

This included seven companies which expected to stop their lobby groups “from undermining the Paris Agreement, or from lobbying at all on climate issues, where members’ interests are not aligned.”

BHP left the World Coal Association in 2017 after a review of its business association memberships, but remained members of the US Chamber of Congress and Minerals Council of Australia after changes to their climate positions. No action was taken on its BCA membership.

Colin Kruger is a business reporter. He joined the Sydney Morning Herald in 1999 as its technology editor. Other roles have included the Herald’s deputy business editor and online business editor.

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