Warning and Disclaimer

So this is just a blog I'm using to upload a bunch of the essays and assessment tasks I wrote for my various uni degrees. Basically I put a lot of effort into some of these and it seems a waste for them to only be read once... so I figured upload them onto the web and see if anyone looks at them.

did ok at most of my essays, some better than others so copy the ideas at your own risk... Given the slow increase in my marks over the years clearly it took me a while to get started. You can probably work out when I wrote each assessment based on the length of the reference list (and there's probably a correlation with the marks I received for that assessment too)

I had a glance over the cover sheets and don't think there's anything stopping me uploading them as I don't think the uni claims ownership over them. You sign off saying that the work has never been submitted before, not that you won't do anything with it later.

That all being said, if you do find these useful for your own uni work... DON'T copy them (not because I care about you copying them) but because you WILL get done for plagarism yourself... Take some of the main points if you want, definitely steal my reference lists, but don't copy text from the essay because you will get done...

So yeah, read on if you're interested, follow up the references... but don't copy if you know what's good for you

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Conceptualisation of Sustainable Development

Sustainable development is a concept that has been debated in the international community for over twenty years and it has become one of the small set of concepts that has almost worldwide support (Hattingh, 2002). Our Common Future, known commonly as the Brundtand report was published in 1987 (United Nations, 1987) and since then sustainable development has been an issue debated without much consensus. Within sustainable development literature the concept of sustainable development is described as the “supreme global political issue of this century” (Prugh & Assadourian, 2003) and despite a feeling of preaching to the converted it has received attention from many different national governments and international organisations, despite this however there is still little wide scale action or change taking place. An impression of inaction and uneven implementation is felt about sustainable development policies in high consumption societies (Sneddon, Howarth & Norgaard, 2006). Australia itself is seen as being far from achieving sustainability and facing immense challenges (Australian State of the Environment Committee, 2001). The reasons given for this include the wide range of sectors that can be covered within sustainable development. A proposed Australian sustainability charter is to cover at a minimum; the built environment, water, energy, transport, ecological footprint, economics, waste, social equity and health and community engagement and education (The Parliament of Australia, 2007). These sectors are the responsibilities of different levels of government within countries and the conflicting responsibilities between these levels of government is another reason often given for the lack of progress towards sustainable development (Smith, Blake & Davies, 2000, Nelson, Howden & Smith, 2008 and Buhrs & Aplin, 1999). Another reason for a lack of wide scale action is there are a variety of conflicting opinions on what exactly sustainable development is and what the aims of it should be, especially when combined with the difficulties environmentalists can have in even expressing why they feel the environment deserves protection. There is no single consensus on what the positive value of the environment is, nor is there a shared vision of the future in which people live in a more harmonious existence with the environment (Norton, 1991). In fact it appears that there has been an entire industry created centred around defining what sustainable development means to various groups (Kates, Parris & Leiserowitz 2005).

The most widely quoted definition of sustainable development is the definition that comes from the Brundtland report, and that is “Sustainable Development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (United Nations, 1987). The ambiguity of this definition means that differences in what sustainable development means exist between the developed and developing world, people holding anthropocentric views and people holding ecocentric views and advocates of a strong interpretation of sustainability and those in favour of a weak interpretation of sustainability. This has lead to a variety of different theories on what sustainable development is, what it is trying to achieve and how it can achieve those aims (Hopwood, Mellor & O’Brien, 2005). Some feel that due to the wide variety of definitions that sustainable development is at risk of becoming meaningless, overused or even corrupted (Hopwood, Mellor & O’Brien, 2005 and Prugh & Assadourian, 2003) but a more positive view is that trying to force a single definition is neither productive or desirable and that sustainable development should in fact be viewed as a discourse instead (Buhrs & Aplin, 1999 and Harding, 1998).

Johan Hattingh (2002) has proposed a series of values questions that the different interpretations of sustainable development are trying to answer. These are, what is so important that we should strive to maintain it forever? With a view to whom or what should we pursue the sustainability of this valuable something? How should we pursue sustainability? And finally how would we know that we have moved nearer to or further away from sustainable development?

When reflecting on these questions the first thing that must be understood is the variety of viewpoints that can be found within the broad headline of sustainable development. Often these views can be quite different, so these views should be examined further.

One of the fundamental differences in peoples theories of sustainable development are anthropocentric views and ecocentric views. Anthropocentric views are centred on the environment existing to serve people and that the value of it is for the services it can provide for us. Anthropocentric views are often very technocentric too, that is the majority of environmental problems are able to be fixed technologically enabling a business as usual approach by most people (Beder, 1996). This faith in science and technology can often result in very top down expert management approach to sustainable development which can be criticised for its non partipatory nature (Hattingh, 2002, Buhrs & Aplin, 1999 and Nelson, Howden & Stafford Smith, 2008). “Science provides us with the knowledge we need. Now we need the wisdom to direct our collective action” (Adams & Jeanrenaud, 2008) is a quote that shows the fundamental faith in science and technology that can be found throughout much sustainable development literature. From an anthropocentric viewpoint the value of the environment is utilitarian, in contrast to the intrinsic value that the environment has from an ecocentric point of view. The intrinsic value given to the environment from this ecocentric view is very difficult to quantify and will differ greatly between groups and individuals, and has been identified as one of the environmentalist’s main dilemmas (Norton, 1991).

With regards to sustainable development the contrast of weak vs strong sustainability is also important. Weak sustainability is characterised by the notion that sustainable development has been achieved if the overall stock of capital has been maintained over time (Hattingh, 2002). The criticism of this viewpoint is that all environmental capital that it is not economically valuable could be traded for enough built or economic capital. Literature produced by groups with a very pronounced weak view of sustainability like the Development Assistance Committee of the OECD (1996) can almost entirely ignore the natural environment in favour of building economic and social capital. A model of five different and interchangeable capital types; natural, human, social, manufactured and financial capital (Forum for the future, undated) shows how a weak view of sustainability can on the surface appear to be moving towards sustainable development but the weakness is that with enough rewards in the other areas of capital significant depletion can occur to the worlds stores of natural capital. A strong view of sustainability however requires that a store of natural capitals be maintained over time with a view towards intergenerational equity, feeling that the provision of economic, social and built capital alone will not make up for the loss of the natural capital for future generations. A weak view of sustainability cannot be used to challenge patterns of current production and consumption and that damage ecosystems but have high financial rewards (Hattingh, 2002) as it is linked quite closely to anthropocentric and technocentric views aimed at maintaining the status quo. While a stronger view of sustainability recognises the natural environment as having an intrinsic value could be used to challenge current patterns of production and consumption its very nature makes it a more controversial view as it challenges the status quo and would require some changes to decision making processes. A stronger view of sustainability would try and value the services the environment offers rather than just the products and anything that we cannot replace and cannot live without could been possibly seen as having infinite value (Hawken, Lovins & Lovins, undated). The environment was even shifted away from the centre stage at the UN World Summit on Sustainable Development at Johannesburg in 2002, relative to the position it occupied at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 in favour of issues such as poverty alleviation (Tilbury, 2003). This doesn’t mean the environment is the sole focus of sustainable development however as issues such as food security and economic inequality can very easily lead to conflict which is disastrous for sustainable development. “When half the world is starving and the other half’s on a diet I can tell why we’ve gone to hell and it’s time to start a riot” (The Disables, 2005).

A final conflict of what is required for and by sustainable development is between developing and developed countries. Sustainable development requires the countries of the world to be working together as a minority of countries moving towards sustainability with the majority continuing to develop and grow unsustainably if fundamentally unsustainable. This requires at least broad agreement in approach by the majority of countries, which in turn requires the agreement of both developed and developing countries and this has been an area of conflict in previous years. At the World summit in Johannesburg Thabo Mbeki even singled out the growing gap between developing and developed countries as a global apartheid (Tilbury, 2003). Inequalities have increased within and between societies which makes achieving social and environmental goals difficult (Sneddon, Howarth & Norgaard, 2005). The difference between developing and developed countries had been observed as a heavy “environmental” agenda by developed countries and a heavy “development” agenda in developing countries at the Rio Earth Summit (Fien & Tilbury, 1998). While the world is a better place to live now than ever before, the lives of some people are better and the lives of others are worse both absolutely and relatively. This means that human security and welfare has not necessarily improved over the years that sustainable development has been being discussed (Khosla, undated). Development cannot been seen just as the increase in Gross Domestic Produce but rather a reduction in insecurities of the people in the world (Sen, undated) both within countries and in particular between countries, like those between the developed and developing world. As early as the Brundtland report however it was recognised that there is no set of villains and victims in the debate of inequality relating to sustainable development (United Nations, 1987) it also identified that growth is more important in developing countries than developed ones as it is in these countries where the links between economic growth, poverty reduction and environmental protection are most closely linked. Economic growth is a necessity for sustainable development, particularly in developing countries as a zero growth model would trap developing countries and people living in poverty in those circumstances due to the unequal distribution of resources (Hattingh, 2002), thus a steady state zero growth economy occurring in particular in the developing world would not lead to sustainable development. This means that while the developed countries environmental protection agenda is important to achieve sustainable development, the growth agenda of developing countries is also valid as it is aimed at alleviating the inequalities felt by these countries, inequalities that if not addressed could lead at worst to conflict and at the very least an unsustainable existence.

These conflicts highlight the diversity of opinions as to what sustainable development is and should be and how to achieve it. There have been three pillars of sustainable development widely identified; the environment, the economy and equity as the goals and targets of a transition to sustainable development (Leiserowitz, Kates & Parris, 2004). In Australia it has been proposed that a sustainability charter be introduced with a definition of sustainability in an Australian context included (The Parliament of Australia, 2007). So 20 years after the Brundtland report first defined sustainable development the very definition of it within countries is still being discussed. One thing that is agreed upon within much of the sustainable development literature is that following the status quo will not achieve sustainability and that widespread institutional change is necessary for progress towards a more sustainable society and that significant political will is needed for this to occur (Adams & Jeanrenaud, 2008, Hawken, Lovins & Lovins, undated, Kates, 2005, Runnalls, 2008, Sneddon, Howarth & Norgaard, 2005, Hopwood, Mellor & O’Brien, 2005, Buhrs and Aplin, 1999). These authors may not always agree what institutional change is necessary but they all feel that at least some form of institutional change is required, if not a complete value change. The difficulty of bringing about this change is acknowledged by some authors and while transformation may not immediately be possible a degree of reform now (with an eye towards transformation later) is seen as better than nothing at all (Hopwood, Mellor & O’Brien, 2005). This is why Prugh and Assadourian (2003) feel sustainable development will be one of the supreme political issues of the century. The institutional change required alone would be a momentous political issue both requiring both strong political leadership and will at the international level within the United Nations and at the various government levels within individual countries.

When returning to the questions asked by Hattingh it is an ideological value judgement being made when we provide our answers. As such this will vary from person to person (Hattingh, 2002). Hattingh’s questions were; what is so important that we should strive to maintain it forever? With a view to whom or what should we pursue the sustainability of this valuable something? How should we pursue sustainability? And finally how would we know that we have moved nearer to or further away from sustainable development?

An obvious and relatively simplistic yet unsatisfactory answer would be life itself is what we should aim to maintain forever. Apocalyptic literature has provided many end scenarios for humans as a species, indeed 99.9% of all species that have existed on earth are currently extinct (Prothero, 2004) but it is felt that as a species humans are in no immediate danger of extinction even due to a cataclysmic event (Prugh & Assadourian, 2003). A more appropriate answer may be that we should attempt to pursue a satisfactory quality of life for all people. History offers many examples of human culture that were unequitable and unjust yet managed to survive for a long time (Prugh & Assadourian, 2003). A baseline future common to most future thinking groups generally is one of a both high and equitable quality of life for all people (Hicks, 1996). To achieve this quality of life not only does the environment need to be protected (to support the life itself) but equity is required to minimise any conflict and economic growth will be needed to help achieve this equity, especially for developing countries. For one of the most common generators of conflict is inequality and conflict can push back development in a country by generations (DAC, 1996).

If increasing the quality of life is the aim of sustainable development the view we are pursuing it for would be for the community of life in its entirety, but a particular focus is being maintained on human life. This focus on human life would require an intergenerational approach with a strong view of sustainability to help maintain not only economic and social capital but natural capital as well, due to our inability to predict the needs and desires of future generations.

A traditional top down centralised expert model of decision making for sustainable development has been identified as undesirable and less effective (Buhrs & Aplin, 1999, Nelson, Howden & Stafford Smith, 2008 and Smith, Blake & Davies, 2000). A bottom up consensus model also has problems, technical expertise cannot entirely be replaced by local knowledge and the process can be much more time consuming and regionally less effective due to different approaches taken by local groups and their successes and failures (Smith, Blake & Davies, 2000). Both top down and bottom up strategies have good and bad points so an ideal would be a combination of the two approaches, which would require removal of the obstacles to these processes occurring, particularly within a federal system of government like Australia’s (Buhrs & Aplin, 1999).

Finally the recognition of whether or not sustainability is being achieved cannot be made solely by financial indicators, as these give no indication of whether these gains to capital are being shared equitably. Indeed GDP has increased markedly over the last few decades but so has income inequality worldwide, GDP in the United States increased by 92% between 1970 and 2000 yet the GPI increased only 4% (Prugh & Assadourian, 2003). Regardless of the indicators chosen however they do not read themselves, nor do they register whether or not something is sustainable, the process of constructing and interpreting indicators requires collaborative judgement (Foster, 2001) and this requires input from all stakeholders in the decision making process. If indicators are to be taken from a list of things that are wished to be sustained and things wished to be developed an extraordinarily large list of indicators is developed reflecting both the malleability of sustainable development and the internal politics of the measurement efforts. A brief summary of indicators used for sustainable development with a variety of initiative shows a variation of between 6 and 255 different indicators for a single sustainable development initiative (Kates, Parris & Leiserowitz 2005). The Department of Economic and Social Affairs uses energy, industrial development, atmospheric pollution and climate change as the main indicators in its Trends in Sustainable Development document (United Nations, 2006) but these indicators do not cover all aspects of social and economic development and equity necessary to achieve sustainable development. It is clear that each initiative will require its own set of indicators developed by the stakeholders involved in the process.

Sustainable development is an extremely complicated concept, it is favoured by nearly everyone worldwide yet means different things to different people worldwide too. For a truly sustainable society to develop there needs to be institutional change at a variety of scales across the globe as following the status quo will not result in a sustainable society. The reason sustainable development is such an important political issue is due to the fact that for the institutional change to occur there needs to be a significant push from the worlds political leaders. While sustainable development cannot be everything to everyone as it currently seems to be proposed to be, largely due to the wide variety of interpretations if pursued correctly it definitely has the potential to help change the future of the world by not only protecting the biosphere but also alleviating the inequalities felt by people worldwide.


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Fien, J. Tilbury, D. (1998) Education For substainability: Some questions for reflection

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Climate Change and Sustainable Development

Two of the most topical political and environmental issues in the world today are Sustainable Development and Climate Change. A search of the internet gives approximately 30,200,000 results for Sustainable Development and 58,300,000 results for Climate Change. Comparative search data displayed in graph 1 shows that as a topic Climate Change is twice as searched for as Sustainable development (google, 2009).
Graph One (not included here)- Search Trend Data

Climate change is responsible for some of the most destructive mass extinction events in the Earth’s history. The extinction of the Pleistocene megafauna between 11 and 20 thousand years ago has been linked to the transition of the planet from the last glacial maximum and the current interglacial period. An even more dramatic mass extinction linked to global climate change is the Permo-Triassic extinction event that resulted in the loss of 96% of marine species and 80% of the marine genera at the time and occurred relatively rapidly on a geological time scale, taking between 165,000 years and as little as 10,000 years with global climate change the most likely culprit (Prothero, 2004).

Anthropogenic climate change has become an increasingly important issue in the world since it was first recognized as a problem in 1992 at the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro (van der Gaast, 2008). The most important aspect of human induced climate change has been the changes caused by the emission of Greenhouse Gasses. Carbon Dioxide, Methane and Water Vapour are all found naturally in Earth’s atmosphere and provide a natural greenhouse effect (Australian State of the Environment Committee, 2001). The amount of these gasses in the atmosphere has increased since the industrialisation of human society with their effect on the global environment evident since the mid twentieth century (Steffen, Crutzen & McNeill, 2007). Evidence that these gasses that are causing an advanced human induced greenhouse effect that is the responsible for much of the observed climate change in the world is unequivocal (Runnalls, 2008), global warming is already changing the world in ways that researchers can measure and quantify (UNEP, 2003). In recent years the has been a shift in debate away from whether or not the change is occurring and if human activities are to blame towards the best means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and how to adapt to the inevitable climate change (Wilkenfeld, Hamilton & Saddler, 2007).

When contrasted with the international debate on Climate Change, Sustainable development has been discussed internationally for much longer. The Brundtland report (United Nations, 1987) which has been widely recognised as giving the first and most widely used definition of sustainable development gave very little attention to greenhouse gasses and climate change specifically, especially when compared to the attention that Greenhouse Gas emissions and anthropogenic Climate Change has received since the Kyoto Protocol of 1998. Fossil fuels were mentioned in the sense that the use of them prevents future generations from the opportunity to use them, but the consequence of their use on the atmosphere is not covered by the report.

Despite this Climate Change has become increasingly linked into the Sustainable Development agenda and is recognised as a Sustainable Development issue (UN, 2008). Sustainable development has three main pillars that need to be equally balanced, environmental protection, economic development and social equity. Global climate change affects all three of these pillars.

Environmental consequences of global climate change are the most obvious and severe. Climate induced changes have been documented in 100 physical and 450 biological processes (UNEP, 2003). Climate Change will affect agriculture, biodiversity, coastlines, forests, settlements and water resources. Climate change influences and is influenced by agricultural systems (Commission on Sustainable Development, 2008). Agriculture will be affected both directly and indirectly in very complex ways, ranging from heat stress on livestock and decreases in rainfall, increases in severe weather events to exacerbating other natural resource management challenges like soil erosion and weed management (Department of Climate Change, 2008).

There is evidence that climate change has already had an affect on biodiversity in Australia. It affects distributions, abundance, life cycles and physiology of plants and animals. It has been linked to increases in coral bleaching, increased numbers of snow gums in alpine meadows and mangrove intrusions into freshwater swamps (Department of Climate Change, 2008). Despite this the greatest stress on wildlife is still the conversion or degradation of habitat and some species may prosper in a climate changed world (UNEP, 2003).

The coastal environment and dune system has naturally been able to adapt to changes in climate and sea level over long time periods. The forecasted change however is expected to be much faster than has been seen before and with development on the dune system preventing the landward movement of the coastal dune system means that climate change is a major coastal management problem (Department of Climate Change, 2008). Sea level rise is predicted to be between 18 and 59cm by 2099 and the shoreline retreat from this could be between 50-200 times the vertical sea level rise, dependant on coastal geomorphology (Australian Greenhouse Office, 2007). Sea level rise will also have a severe effect on coral reefs such as the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland (UNEP, 2003).

The effect of climate change on forests has the potential to be both positive and negative. Increases in Carbon Dioxide may be beneficial to forest growth, however potential decreases in water availability and nutrients could limit this growth. The speed of the climate change may also be faster than some species are able to adapt to, leading to changes in biodiversity (Department of Climate Change, 2008).

The physical effects of climate change on Australian settlements are centred around water supply to population centres, severe weather events, particularly on the coast where the majority of the Australian population lives and possible increases in the range of vector and food borne diseases. There will be considerable variation in the effect of climate change on settlements in Australia because of the different locations and sizes of settlements (Department of Climate Change, 2008). In addition water quality in coastal aquifers and estuaries is expected to decline as salt water finds its way in these locations due to sea level rise (UNEP, 2003).

The most severe physical effect of climate change on the Australian environment will be on Australia’s water resources, with any water shortage also potentially affecting food production (UNEP, 2003). Evaporation rates are likely to increase due to higher temperatures and with reduced stream flow across most of the country there will be a decrease in the national moisture balance and greater water stress (Australian Greenhouse Office, 2007). Australia is the driest inhabited continent water and is already a scarce and often over utilised resource. Added pressure due to climate change will have severe effects anywhere in Australian where this occurs (Department of Climate Change, 2008).

The economic effects of climate change are less obvious at a first glance, but are just as severe as the environmental effects. The effects of climate change will be felt on all industries from smokestack industries to investment banking and even sceptical industries and businesses need to be concerned about climate change, because so many people are concerned with it and this in itself has wide ranging implications. Even in countries like the United States who have been traditionally slow at regulating and controlling greenhouse gas emissions there is a slow shift in debate from whether climate change legislation is needed to when does it need to be enacted and in what form. Any company that can mitigate its exposure to climate change risks and take advantage of the new opportunities that arise will gain an advantage over their competitors despite scepticism over climate change (Lash & Wellington, 2007). The unexpectedly high growth of the world economy in the early twenty-first century and the energy requirements of that growth has put extra urgency on the need for action regarding climate change (Garnaut, 2008).

The economic impacts of climate change will occur throughout all countries, unevenly distributed across regions and within society and economies. While there will be some positive effects of climate change for the economy, negative effects will outweigh the benefits for the sectors providing essential goods and services to societies. Budgets in the public sector will be stretched and secondary effects on the economy from climate change will include higher prices, reduced incomes and potential job losses (CIER, 2007).

In businesses, environmental risk is generally managed as a problem of regulatory compliance, potential liability and pollutant release mitigation. For business the main distinctions to be made when considering environmental risk is not distinguishing between sectors but between companies in those sectors, as these strategies can create a competitive advantage for the company (Lash & Wellington, 2007).

With regards to the economy and climate change the obvious area of impact will be related to the regulation of greenhouse emissions by products or the processes required to make those products. There can also be a regulatory affect upon supply chains for a company whilst there may be opportunities created for new climate friendly products and technology (Lash & Wellington, 2007).

Greenhouse gasses arise from almost every conceivable economic activity due to the use of fossil fuel based energy or changes in land use (Kok & de Coninck, 2007). For companies producing significant amounts of greenhouse gasses there is the potential threat of lawsuits, similar to what has occurred in the tobacco, asbestos and pharmaceutical industries. While a less obvious cost can be the impact on a companies’ reputation, this is especially severe in industries where brand loyalty is an important attribute and asset.

Finally the physical effects of climate change and the associated extreme weather events will have an economic affect, both in physically affecting locations and industries but also through raised costs of insurance (Lash & Wellington, 2007). Developing countries are most vulnerable to natural disasters and their associated costs and a rise in disaster costs in the last decades can be explained with the explosive growth in human population (UNEP, 2003).

It is felt that the economic effect of climate change on the world can be significantly increased by inaction on this issue (CIER, 2007). For this issue delayed action is just as dangerous as inaction as there are potentially unknown thresholds that may be crossed. The dominant approach to climate change adaptation options is to calculate the cost and benefits of the adaptations incrementally and finding the optimum level at the point the benefits of adaption are equal to the costs of the adaption. It may be more appropriate however to view these adaptation costs as investments in natural, human and social capital aimed at maintaining or enhancing the services provided (CIER, 2007).

The least studied effect of global climate change on the pillars of sustainable development is the effect it will have on social equity. One of the major causes for the growth in greenhouse gas emissions is due to the growth in affluence of countries worldwide (Saikku, Rautiainen & Kauppi, 2008). It is neither justifiable nor feasible to remove environmental pressures by limiting the world economy to a steady state zero growth economy. By doing so we are trapping people in the developing world to a socially inequitable situation with the unjust distribution of resources and no hope of improving the quality of their lives or their material standards of living (Garnaut, 2008 and Hattingh, 2002). Social equity concerns in developed countries often revolve around the effect of emission reduction targets and their effect on vulnerable citizens and groups, such as lower income citizens and small business. These groups are seen as being vulnerable if National governments are penalised for missing targets or need to raise taxes to avoid penalties (DEFRA, 2007).

Climate change can also be seen as an international human rights issue, which closely aligns it with the social equity pillar of sustainable development. As a human rights issue climate change is most often linked with small island states, which are almost entirely developing countries and the fact that climate change will have severe effects on the populations of these islands. The human rights of these environmentally displaced people are the first to be severely affected on a mass scale by climate change but it will eventually impact on the human rights of almost the entire population of the planet to varying degrees (Knox, 2008).

All estimates are that sea levels will rise due to climate change, which will have a severe effect on low lying islands like the Maldives. Rising waters will increase sea and storm surges, affecting flooding risk and severity. These rising waters will also affect peoples’ rights to life, property, health and adequate standards of living. The size of these states also means that they are unable to protect their population from climate change as if they stopped producing greenhouse gasses entirely it would have no discernable impact on global warming. In the face of this human rights law requires states to cooperate with each other to address climate change, both to reduce greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere but also to assist states affected by changes that cannot be avoided and will affect the rights of their population (Knox, 2008).

Human health will be directly affected by new patterns of extreme weather events, cold snaps, heat waves, floods, droughts, local pollution and allergens. Indirect changes to infectious disease, freshwater supply, food production, population movement and economic activities will also affect human health. Climate change will affect air quality and combined with increased frequency and intensity of heat waves will have an especially strong effect on the elderly and urban poor (UNEP, 2003).

There are many obstacles to addressing climate change effectively in the world. The main obstacle is that climate change will not affect all industries equally and this means that the potential losers will fight to retain their advantages and privileges. Some companies even seek to profit from ineffective or counter productive solutions. Misinformation spread both deliberately and accidentally can affect public opinion and even government policy (Wilkenfeld, Hamilton & Saddler, 2007).

Programs like the Clean Development Mechanism face problems in achieving a distribution worldwide. The design of programs like this as voluntary market based mechanisms means that the investment activities tends to concentrate where opportunities are high and the cost of transactions and the risk is low. These financial factors can limit project development and implementation in Less Developed Countries (Sieghart, 2008).

The market based solutions prioritised by organisations like the World Bank as methods for dealing with problems of climate change in developing countries have been criticised as the market exacts no penalty from the producers of the greenhouse gasses transforming the climate. This means that the projects do nothing to keep pollution in check as economies grow. These flexible mechanisms can be seen by developing countries as ways for the developed world to avoid or delay reducing the greenhouse gas emissions (Shamsuddoha & Chowdhury, 2008).

Barriers to changes in individuals’ behaviours can also be seen as obstacles to effective action on climate change. Cost both monetary and time, confusion and lack of information and the difficulty of changing other members of their households behaviour are all seen as barriers to beneficial behaviour change, despite an eagerness for people to do their bit (DEFRA, 2007). Addressing the underlying social causes of problems such as motor vehicle use in developed countries is difficult, technological fixes often just shift the problem elsewhere. Powerful interest groups often resist attempts to change behaviour and combined with the convenience of personal car use limiting the use of motor vehicles is a very difficult change to bring about (Beder, 1996).

Attempts by countries to determine responsibility for climate change are also an obstacle. A variety of methods can be tried most often pitting the developed world or Annex 1 countries against the developing world. A method of allocating reductions of greenhouse emissions based on cumulative historical emissions was proposed but not accepted at the Kyoto protocol negotiations, many developing countries favoured this method but developed countries that would share the burden of this proposal understandably were not in favour (Muller, Hohne & Ellermann, 2007). These blame shifting debates clearly affect the ability of the world to address climate change effectively.

The opportunities that climate change presents for sustainability are limited when compared to the obstacles and challenges. One opportunity in tropical regions is the using tropical forests as carbon sinks to help combat both climate change and deforestation (Canadell & Raupach, 2008). Other ways of combating climate change that connect to other policies beneficial to climate change include through health and air quality policies, poverty reduction, agricultural production and risk prevention (Kok & de Coninck, 2007). Opportunities may also arise with new climate friendly industries and products or by an individual company gaining a competitive advantage by adopting climate sensitive policies (Lash & Wellington, 2007).

The Kyoto protocol was the first concrete global agreement to combat climate change in 1997. 9 years later it came into force when enough countries ratified it, with developing countries being exempted from commitments to limit emission reduction. Since then there have been negotiations for a post Kyoto protocol but the Kyoto protocol is still currently the most important agreement relating to climate change worldwide. Without a supranational government able to decide on commitments, policies and enforcement regimes global climate policy making is complex. It is a long term global problem with no single sector responsible and seen as a difficult and less urgent problem by many politicians (van der Gaast, 2008). Gasses listed in the protocol as Greenhouse gasses were Carbon dioxide, Methane, Nitrous oxide, Hydrofluorocarbons, Perfluorocarbons and Sulphur hexafluoride with the main source categories listed as energy, industrial processes, agriculture, waste and solvent and other product use (United Nations, 1998).

The successes and failures of the Kyoto protocol have received much scrutiny. Greenhouse Gas emissions from Annex 1 countries decreased, but this was largely due to lower emissions from economies in transition. Some countries such as Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia managed to make large reductions of up to nearly 80% of their emissions; however other countries such as Monaco, Finland and Canada had their emissions increase by up to nearly 60% in the same time frame (United Nations, 2006). Data has shown however that the 4.7% decrease over all has been reduced as Annex 1 country emissions have grown by 2.3% since the year 2000 (van der Gaast, 2008). Transport has the fastest growing level of emissions of any sector with North American and Developing Asia increasing their emissions rapidly. However the growth emissions in the emerging economies of Asia were slower than their economic growth (United Nations, 2006). The mixed results of this agreement therefore show that new action is needed to significantly address climate change and its effect on sustainable development.

There are many opinions on what needs to occur next in the international debate on climate change and sustainable development. Most agree that policies need to include adaptation to changes and not just attempts to mitigate the effects of greenhouse gasses. In the transition to sustainability Adams and Jeanrenaud (2008) feel that the first thing that needs to be done is to decarbonise the world economy. Delaying action on climate change is thought to only increase the cost and national policies for immediate action to mitigate emissions combined with efforts to adapt to those impacts that will be unavoidable is the only way to reduce the cost of climate change significantly (CIER, 2007).

In Australia both short term and long term strategies are needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Actions that will lock in high levels of emissions for a long term, such as new coal fired power stations and car dependant infrastructure need to be reduced or ceased entirely. A permit system with the emphasis on emission reduction and not just offsets also needs to be put into place along with emission standards for power and efficiency standards for appliances and motor vehicles is also required for Australia to significantly reduce its’ greenhouse gas emissions (Wilkenfeld, Hamilton & Saddler, 2007).

Due to the long lead time needed to develop new technology, better use of existing technology will be crucial with the short term to achieve 2020 emission targets. But even so radical improvements in intensity of use and emission intensity will be required for the ambitious reduction targets like those set by the European Union, the chances of these targets being met are not good currently given a declining trend is yet to begin. For targets to be met the reduction in emissions would need to be between 1.9 and 2.6 times faster than the years 1993 to 2004 (Saikku, Rautiainen & Kauppi, 2007).

In the United States of American mandatory approaches to reduce emissions from major sectors are seen as important, along with flexible approaches to establishing a price signal for carbon with a cap and trade system and finally approaches that create incentives to encourage actions by other countries. These actions are seen as needing to be enacted by decision makers sooner rather than later. A carbon dioxide level of around 450 ppm is needed to prevent drastic climate change and this is the proposed target of both the European Union and United States (USCAP, Date unknown, van der Gaast, 2008).

As it is a global issue climate change needs to be tackled at a global level too. The Commission on Sustainable Development has singled out Climate Change as the most pressing issue of our generation with urgent action needed now and this entails cooperation beyond short term political manoeuvring (CSD, 2007). International agreements on atmospheric pollution have a precedent of being highly effective, concerted global action guided by multilateral agreements have been able to effectively phase out CFCs (United Nations, 2006) so there is no reason to believe that the same would not be possible for greenhouse gas emissions if there was significant political will to make the necessary decisions. One of the most important requirements for an effective climate change action that is connected to this is participation of the United States, for history shows us that ideas on a global scale like this do not move without leadership from the United States (Runnalls, 2008).

Clearly climate change is an issue that receives huge amounts of attention worldwide due to the global effect it will have. It is connected intimately to sustainable development due to the effect it will have environmentally, economically and socially and it is often not even recognised as a aspect of sustainable development but an entirely separate problem. Very limited progress has been made in addressing climate change as an issue with only minor reductions to greenhouse emissions made since the Kyoto protocol and far more drastic measures are needed to prevent large scale climate change. For these measures to occur there needs to be a recognition of how severe this issue is and long term strategies developed on a global and national scale to reduce and mitigate emissions and also to adapt to the unavoidable consequences. These measures will need to be different for developing and developed countries but will need to be made by all nations on Earth before unalterable changes take place.
“When our rivers run dry and our crops cease to grow

When our summers grow longer and our winters won’t snow

From the banks of the ocean and the ice in the hills

To the fight in the desert where progress stands still
When the air that we breathe becomes air that we choke
When the Marsh fever spreads from the swamps to our homes
This is our chance to set things straight
To bend and break rules back into place.”
(Rise Against, 2008)

Adams, W. Jeanrenaud,S. (2008) Transition to Sustainability: Towards a humane and diverse world Gland:IUCN http:/data.iucn.org/dbtw-wpd/edocs/2008-017.pdf (accessed May 2009)

Australian Greenhouse Office (2007) Climate Change Adaptation Actions for Local Government. Report by SMED Australia to the Australian Greenhouse Office. Department of the Environment and Water Resources. Canberra. Australia.

Australian State of the Environment Committee (2001) Australia State of the Environment 2001, Independent Report to the Commonwealth Minister for the Environment and Heritage, CSIRO Publishing on behalf of the Department of the Environment and Heritage, Canberra.

Beder, S. (1996) The nature of sustainable development 2nd edition. Scribe Publications. Newham.

Canadell, J.G. & Raupach, M.R. (2008) Managing Forests for Climate Change Mitigation. Science. Vol 320

CIER Center for Integrative Environmental Research (2007) The US Economic Impacts of Climate Change and the Costs of Inaction. University of Maryland.

CSD. Commission on Sustainable Development (2007) Economic and Social Council. Major groups’ Priorities for Action in energy for sustainable development, industrial development, air pollution/atmosphere and climate change. Commission on Sustainable Development Sixteenth Session

CSD. Commission on Sustainable Development (2008) Economic and Social Council. Discussion papers submitted by major groups. Commission on Sustainable Development Sixteenth Session.

DCC. Department of Climate Change (2008) http://www.climatechange.gov.au/impacts/nccap/index.html accessed May 2009.

DEFRA. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (2007) Climate Change Citizens’ Summit End of Day Report. Citizen’s Summit on Climate Change.

Garnaut, R. (2008) Garnaut Climate Change Review: Interim Report to the Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments of Australia Executive Summary. Garnaut Climate Change Review.

Google Search Data, (2009)
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(http://www.google.com.au/search?hl=en&safe=off&q=climate+change&btnG=Search&meta= accessed May 2009
http://www.google.com/trends?q=sustainable+development%2C+climate+change&ctab=0&geo=all&geor=all&date=all&sort=0 accessed May 2009

Hattingh, J. (2002) On the imperative of sustainable development A philosophical and ethical appraisal in Janse van Rensburg et. Al. 2002 Environmental Education, Ethics and Action in Southern Africa. Pretoria

Knox, J.H. (2008) Climate Change as a Global Threat to Human Rights. UN Consultation on the Relationship between Climate Change and Human Rights. Geneva. Switzerland

Kok, M.T.J. & de Coninck, H.C. (2007) Widening the scope of policies to address climate change: directions for mainstreaming. Environmental Science & Policy 10. 587-599

Lash, J. & Wellington, F. (2007) Competitive Advantage on a Warming Planet. Harvard Business Review. March 2007

Muller, B., Hohne, N. & Ellermann, C. (2007) Differentiating (Historic) Responsibilities for Climate Change: Summary Report.

Prothero, D. (2004) Bringing fossils to life: an introduction to paleobiology 2nd ed. McGraw Hill. Sydney.

Rise Against (2008) Collapse (Post-Amerika). Appeal to Reason (audio CD) DGC Records. California.

Runnells, D. (2008) Our Common Inaction: Meeting the call for institutional change. November/December 2008 issue of Environment Magazine.

Saikku, L., Rautiainen, A. & Kauppi, P.E. (2008) The sustainability challenge of meeting carbon dioxide targets in Europe by 2020. Energy Policy 36. 730-742

Shamsuddoha, Md. & Chowdhury, RK. (2008) Architecture of the World Bank Climate Investment Funds: again a top down approach. Equity & Justice Working Group.

Sieghart, L.C. (2008) Towards an Effective Implementation of the CDM in the Middle East and North Africa Region- A Perspective from Yemen. CIM. Yemen.

Steffen, W., Crutzen, P.J. & McNeill, J.R. (2007) The Anthropocene: Are Humans Now Overwhelming the Great Forces of Nature? Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Ambio Vol. 36 No. 8.

United Nations (1987) Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future http://www.un-doduments.net/wced-ocf.htm

United Nations (1998) Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. United Nations

United Nations (2006) Trends in Sustainable Development. Department of Economic and Social Affairs. New York

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UNEP (2003) How will global warming affect my world? A simplified guide to the IPCC’s “Climate Change 2001: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. United Nations Environment Programme. France.

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Van der Gaast, W. (2008) The Challenging Task of Negotiating a Climate Protocol. Foundation Joint Implementation Network. Energy Delta Convention. The Netherlands

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Sustainability Change Management Plan- Woolworths Ltd


The purpose of this report is to assess the organisational sustainability characteristics of Woolworths Limited. Both human and environmental sustainability characteristics will be assessed using the Sustainability Phase Model. The current performance of Woolworth Ltd will be assessed and recommendations for progression further through this model will be made.

What is Sustainability?

Sustainability and Sustainable Development is a concept in the world that achieves nearly universal approval (Hattingh, 2002), however it is also a concept that has no universal definition. The wider ranging debate and discourse over what sustainability and sustainable development means however shows that there is much common ground in between the large number of definitions being produced.

Most definitions expand on the initial definition produced by the United Nations (1987) in the Brundtland Report. This definition attempts to balance the needs of the current generations with those of the future generations. Another common feature of many of these definitions is balancing environmental, social and economic elements, these three elements often being referred to as the “three pillars” of sustainability (Leiserowitz, Kates & Parris, 2004). A broad definition of sustainable development would be balancing these three pillars both between each other and between generations, with most differences in definition being in the specifics of this balance rather than this core of the definition.

Organisational Sustainability

Business and Industry has been recognised as a group with a major role to play in the world’s transition towards sustainability (United Nations, 2007). Organisational Sustainability is the attempt by organisations (primarily business organisations) to make the organisation more sustainable. How individual organisations view organisational sustainability will change depending on the outlook of the organisation, the industry it is in, or the country the organisation is based in. Organisational sustainability policies and initiatives can have a variety of different names, be either formally or informally recognised and have varying levels of acceptance. In Australia it is quite common for Corporate Social Responsibility policies to be the main driving policy for organisational sustainability. Corporate Social Responsibility can be driven by a range of factors and the heightened focus on CSR has not always been voluntary (Porter & Kramer, 2006) however CSR is limited in its ability to influence total sustainability due to the focus it holds on the “social” pillar of sustainable development.

The Phase Model

The phase model is an abstract tool designed originally to provide the ability to compare organisations behaviour relevant to environmental and social sustainability (Dunphy, Griffiths & Benn, 2007). The assumption being that the third pillar of sustainable development, economic development, is represented by the business remaining profitable and is a concern of all corporations regardless of their position in the phase model.

There are 6 phases in the phase model (Dunphy, Griffiths & Benn, 2007);
  • Rejection
    • Characterised by an attitude that all resources exist to be exploited for economic gain.
  • Non-Responsiveness
    • Characterised by a lack of awareness focused on business as usual and creating and maintaining a compliant workforce
  • Compliance
    • This phase focuses on reducing the risk of not meeting minimum standards and avoiding legal or community backlash.
  • Efficiency
    • This is the beginning of the process of incorporating sustainability into the core of the business. At this phase human resource and environmental policies are used to reduce costs and increase efficiency.
  • Strategic Proactivity
    • By making sustainability an important part of the corporation’s business strategy. In this phase sustainability is seen as potentially providing the corporation a strategic advantage and being part of the firms maximisation of long term profitability.
  • The Sustaining Corporation
    • The final phase is one where sustainability is internalised in the ideology of the organisation where people and the environment are seen as valuable for their own sake.
Woolworths Limited

Woolworths Limited is the world’s 26th largest retailer, with the major brands of the corporation in Australia Woolworths, Safeway, Caltex/Woolworths Petrol, Dick Smith Electronics, Powerhouse, Tandy, BWS, Dan Murphy’s and Big W. Woolworths Ltd is Australia’s largest private employer and one of Australia’s largest publicly listed companies (Woolworths Limited, 2008a). Over 188,000 people work for Woolworths Limited in Australasia, over 110,000 of these employees found in the supermarket division with an approximately even spread of full-time, part-time and casual employees (Woolworths Limited, 2010a). Approximately 50,000 of Woolworths Limited employees are located in rural or regional areas of Australia (Woolworths Limited, 2008a).

Expanding the reach, Woolworths Limited has over 3000 separate suppliers of different sizes with 100% of the fresh meat and 95% of the fresh fruit and vegetables in the supermarkets being sourced from Australian producers. Out of the total produced in Australia (including produced for export) Woolworths Limited sells 12% of the Fresh Fruit and Vegetables, 15% of the lamb and 6% of the beef (Woolworths Limited, 2008a, Woolworths Limited 2008b, Woolworths Limited, 2010a).

Sustainability at Woolworths

The size of this organisation, combined with the extended reach it has through suppliers, customers and employees gives Woolworths Limited a potentially massive role it could play in both the corporate and wider sustainability debate in Australia. This is both direct influence on internal operations such as staffing and private label sourcing and indirect influence on both suppliers and customers. This is a field that as yet Woolworths Limited has not taken a leading role in, especially given the organisations size and potential influence. There is a division between Corporate Responsibility reporting and the Woolworths Limited Annual Report, with extremely limited reference to the corporate responsibility reports or the Sustainability Strategy goals, especially when compared to the financial details given in the Annual Report (Woolworths Limited, 2010b). This division would indicate that organisational sustainability is still seen as a secondary pursuit by the organisation.

Independence assurance statements can be found in all the Corporate Responsibility Reports for the organisation (Woolworths Limited, 2010a), however whilst annual Corporate Responsibility Reporting is now conducted by the organisation the report focuses mainly on Social aspects of sustainability with the financial benefit of this strategy being highlighted. There is a lesser focus on environmental issues with the majority of issues limited to the direct impact of the stores. Division between the various environmental, social and economic aspects of Organisational Sustainability also limits the ability of the organisation to recognise the interconnected nature of many of the issues.

Reluctance by Woolworths Limited to engage with suppliers over environmental or social issues also means the organisation is not fulfilling the potential it has to be a leader for sustainability in Australia. Competition between the leading supermarkets in Australia often results in the use of the strategy of loss leading to attract customers with the price of milk becoming subject to a senate inquiry in 2011. Loss leading can have a severely negative effect on producers and suppliers. Loss leading was also used on cartons of beer in 2011 where the supplier Fosters (itself a major Australian corporation) pulled their stock from the marketplace in what was described as a risky move so they could avoid the negative effect of the major Australian supermarkets using their product as a loss leader (Ferguson, 2011 and Ferguson & Rosenberg, 2011). The ability of Woolworths Limited to conduct large scale loss leading strategies and the inability of suppliers to resist this (even other large corporations) clearly shows the influence that Woolworths Limited can have on its suppliers. Loss leading also shows the willingness of Woolworths Limited to influence its supply chain for financial goals. Additionally using products that can be linked to social problems such as alcohol displays a willingness to sacrifice long term social goals for shorter term financial gain.

Woolworths Limited and the Phase Model

An assessment of Woolworths Limited would place the organisation at a compliance level with regards to both Human and Ecological sustainability according to the phase model. This means that financial and technological factors still dominate business strategies despite senior management attempting to comply with all environmental laws and viewing the organisation as a decent employer (Dunphy, Griffiths & Benn, 2007).

For Woolworths Limited Human Sustainability is firmly within the compliance phase with emphasis firmly on complying with legal requirements relating to industrial relations, safety and workplace standards (Dunphy, Griffiths & Benn, 2007). Whilst training and other human resource functions occur there is little evidence of integration between these programs and many of the programs focus on small aspects of the total Woolworths Limited workforce (Woolworths Limited, 2010a). Evidence of community concerns only being addressed when there is a large amount of negative publicity can be seen in the slow response made by the corporation to issues such as palm oil (Woolworths Limited 2010c), and the limited nature of that response given the power Woolworths limited has over suppliers or the response to community outcry over the relationship between Woolworths Limited and Asia Pulp and Paper (Hance, 2008).

Woolworths Limited is in the compliance phase regarding Ecological Sustainability too, however there are elements of the efficiency phase to be found in some of the policies by the organisation. Financial and technological factors dominate business strategies however there are elements of poor environmental practice being seen as an avoidable cost, especially with regards to completely internal environmental issues. Energy emissions are being reduced with the pay off for the company being seen as reduced energy costs rather than intrinsic environmental benefits. Reductions in water usage where they can be measured are also valued for cost savings rather than intrinsic reasons (Woolworths Limited 2010a). Evidence of environmental issues being ignored is not seen as generating strong community action or generating avoidable costs can be shown by the reluctance of Woolworths Limited to engage suppliers over environmental issues.

Overall there is little integration between Human Resource and Environmental functions of the organisation. The majority of both Human and Ecological sustainability initiatives of the organisation exist for financial benefit or to maintain a “good citizen” image.

Progressing through the Phase Model

Woolworths Limited can be located in the third (compliance) phase of the Phase Model for issues relating to Human Sustainability and much of the issues relating to Ecological Sustainability, this gives it great potential to make large improvements in corporate sustainability. For the corporation to advance to the efficiency phase there needs to be a shift in the upper levels of the corporation that there are significant advantages to be gained by proactively instituting sustainability practices, advantages that go beyond minimising risk and meeting minimum community demands. Profits involving a social purpose represent a higher form of capitalism (Porter & Kramer, 2011) and this view could be taken up by Woolworths Limited to great benefit of both the organisation and Australian society as a whole, given the size and market share of the corporation.

The size of Woolworths Limited both in staff numbers and the geographical spread of the organisation means that a change program needs to be something supported and directed by higher level management. Without significant support and direction from upper management there will be difficulties in spreading change of any form in between the 3000 stores in the corporation. There are views that for truly successful corporate social responsibility policies top level management needs to see social responsibility as a strategic choice and this strategic view is most likely to come from a transformational leadership perspective (Waldman & Siegal, 2008). This is important to note because the most common corporate response to CSR is not strategic, or even operational, it has in fact been cosmetic with public relations, media campaigns and glossy separate CSR reports (Porter & Kramer, 2006), similar to those produced by Woolworths Limited.

This would indicate that change for greater organisational sustainability is likely to need to come from the upper level of Woolworths Limited management if it is to be successful and spread throughout the entire organisation. The construction of new “green stores” indicates there is limited support from upper level management already, but more can be done. A correlation has been shown between the level of integration of CSR into the business and the benefits gained from it (Legendre, 2008) which means greater integration of CSR principles into the Woolworths Limited business would see greater benefits for the organisation.

This would all indicate that the change management approach that would potentially have the best results for Woolworths Limited would be for upper level management to take on a “Coach” perspective. A coaching image the change manager is assumed to have the ability to intentionally shape the organisations capabilities in particular ways. However unlike the dictating approach of the director perspective the coach perspective relies on building the right set of values, skills and drills that organisation members can then utilise to achieve the desired outcome (Palmer, et al., 2009). A coaching perspective from Upper management at Woolworths Limited would enable greater integration of CSR into the business strategy with the ever increasing benefits that this entails. It would also begin to influence the large staff of the organisation to more sustainable practices both at work and in society. A more integrated CSR policy would also help Woolworths Limited spread organisational sustainability from beyond it’s already considerably sized organisation to the wider supply chain it has, enabling the organisation to become a leading force for sustainability in Australia.


Currently Woolworths Limited can be found primarily in the compliance phase of the Phase model of Organisational Sustainability, however the integration of CSR principles into the business strategy provides great potential for Woolworths Limited to progress further through this model. Greater integration of CSR principles alongside a coaching image of change management would give this organisation the potential to not only become a leader in Organisational Sustainability, but to become a leading force for sustainability in the greater Australian Society. This is due to the size and spread of the organisation, the large widespread staff, the large supply network and the close contact the organisation has with the majority of Australian society. Greater integration of CSR principles will provide the business with a number of benefits and the power the organisation has to influence the supply chain it has means greater wide ranging beneficial changes could occur with sufficient will.

Dunphy, D., Griffiths, A. & Benn, S. (2007) Organisational Change for Corporate Sustainability, 2nd Ed. Routledge, London

Ferguson, A. (2011) Beer wars as Foster’s takes on chains to stop sale of $28 cases, The Sydney Morning Herald, March 23rd page 1

Ferguson, A & Rosenberg, J. (2011) Grocery giants to get grilling over grog wars, The Sydney Morning Herald: Business Day, March 24th page 3

Hance, J. (2008) Australia’s Woolworths greenwashes rainforest destruction in Indonesia allege activists, Mongabay.com http://news.mongabay.com/2008/0708-Hance_woolworths.html last accessed June 2011

Hattingh, J. (2002) On the imperative of sustainable development A philosophical and ethical appraisal, in Van Rensburg, J, et. al. 2002 Environmental Education, Ethics and Action in Southern Africa, Pretoria

Leiserowitz, A., Kates, R. & Parris, T. (2004) Sustainability Values, Attitudes and Behaviours: A review of multinational and global trends. CID Working Paper No. 113 Harvard University

Legendre, A. (2008) Drivers for Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainable Practice in Australia, Green Capital, Sydney

Palmer, I., Dunford, R. & Akin, G. (2009) Managing Organisational Change- A multiple Perspectives Approach, 2nd ed, McGraw-Hill, New York

Porter, M. & Kramer, m. (2006) Strategy and Society: The Link Between Competitive Advantage and Corporate Social Responsibility, Harvard Business Review, 84 (12)

United Nations (1987) Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future found at http://www.un-documents.net/wced-ocf.htm last accessed June 2011

United Nations (2007) Economic and Social Council: Commission on Sustainable Development 15th Session, Major Groups’ Priorities for Action in Energy for Sustainable Development, Industrial Development, Air Pollution/Atmosphere and Climate Change.

Waldman, D. & Siegel, D. (2008) Defining the Socially Responsible Leader, The Leadership Quarterly 19

Woolworths Limited (2008a) Doing the right thing: Sustainability Strategy 2007-2015, Woolworths Limited, Sydney

Woolworths Limited (2008b) The Facts about Grocery Retailing at Woolworths, Woolworth Limited, Sydney

Woolworths Limited (2010a) Corporate Responsibility Report 2010, Woolworths Limited, Sydney

Woolworths Limited (2010b) Woolworths Limited Annual Report 2010, Woolworths Limited, Sydney

Woolworths Limited (2010c) Sustainable Palm Oil Action Plan, Woolworths Limited, Sydney, found at http://www.woolworths.com.au/wps/wcm/connect/website/woolworths/about-us/woolworths-news/news-content/palmoilactionplan last accessed March 2011

Sustainable Water Plan- Sydney Region

Sustainable Development of Water Resources

Fresh water is a matter of life or death in the world. It is a resource essential for life on Earth and required for virtually all environmental processes. Worldwide it is used by humans for consumption, food production, in industrial processes, in energy production and a variety of recreational activities in additional to the natural environment’s requirements (Aplin et.al., 1999).

Water has been a critical factor in development of Australia and whilst it is scarce in many parts of Australia it is in ever increasing demand. Past and current mismanagement has put even greater stress on this resource in many parts of Australia (Australian State of the Environment Committee, 2001).The demand and intensity of debate about water resources rises and falls with not only economic and social pressures but in line with natural fluctuations such as drought (Young, 2000), indeed water is never far from the public consciousness in Australia;

“Think we’re blessed that we live in Australia
But at the moment we don’t have enough water
And when we do it contains giardia”
(Chris Duke and the Royals, 2006)

Water has become an issue of increasing importance to almost unprecedented levels at all levels of government in Australia in recent years both due to drought and other political factors (Dovers, 2008). In both 2006 and 2009 water was seen as the environmental issue of most concern to residents of New South Wales. Concern for water fell between 2006 and 2009 with the breaking of the drought, showing the change in concern over water resources is related to environmental, economic and social pressures but even with this drop it remained clearly the issue of most concern (Department of Environment Climate Change and Water, 2010b).

As a concept sustainable development is one of near universal approval with the precepts of sustainability and sustainable development virtually unchallenged by people (Hattingh, 2002 and Gunder & Hillier, 2009). Despite this, or indeed perhaps due to this approval there is a looseness of concept of sustainability and sustainable development that has resulted in almost all of the stakeholders in the sustainable development process, whom is virtually every person and organisation in the world forming their own definition of what exactly sustainability and sustainable development means. The most common definition used is that of the Brundtland report, that is;

“Sustainable Development is Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” (United Nations, 1987)

This is a rather open and subjective definition of sustainable development and has resulted in the vast majority of definitions of sustainable development to be broken into two broad camps, that of strong sustainability and weak sustainability. These divisions are centred mainly on how the definition balances the interaction between the 3 pillars of Sustainable Development, the environmental aspect, the social aspect and the economic aspect.

The problem in defining sustainable development in a context of urban water supply has been noted as a complicated one (Syme, 2008). As a resource water is intimately linked to these three aspects (see table 1). It is vital for environmental health and this has recently been recognised with many heavily irrigated river systems being required to maintain an environmental flow to maintain the health of the natural environment in the river’s catchment. Socially water is an important resource as it is essential for human health. Quality of life will drop dramatically for people without access to adequate amounts of safe water; this is for their own consumption and for the production of food. Additionally water is used by a number of industries and for recreational purposes. The importance of water as a valuable resource gives it a significant economic value. The extraction and treatment of water can be a costly process, alongside the treatment and disposal of water after it has been used. Ultimately it is the consumers and general public who bear these financial costs. However it is important to not cost water so heavily that people are unable access adequate amounts of water as this can not only affect the quality of life but possibly health also.

Aspect of Sustainability
How Does Water Relate
Water is required for virtually all environmental processes.
A lack of water in the natural environment can have severe impacts on habitat and species diversity.
Water is essential for human health and survival, both as a direct consumable and for the production of food.
Water is also used in human industrial processes and for a multitude of recreational activities.
A lack of convenient and safe water supply can have a severe effect on the quality of life for the people affected.
Water is an extremely valuable resource, especially in Australia.
The collection and treatment of water is an expensive process. These costs are carried by both government and private industry however it is eventually the consumers and general public whom are forced to bear these costs.
Additionally a lack of water naturally due to seasonal variations can have severe economic effects on food production and other industries.
Table 1- Water and the 3 Pillars of Sustainable Development

When the above factors are combined it becomes apparent that any plan for the sustainable management of water resources needs to carefully balance the need for water between three aspects of sustainable development. This means that a sustainable water management plan needs to be able to balance the supply of water for people’s social and economic needs with the need of that water in the natural environment. Additionally the economic cost of water needs to be kept as reasonable as possible so as to not deny the socio-economically disadvantaged access to the water they need for health and quality of life.

Water in the Sydney Region

As the Sydney region encompasses many local government areas the management of water in the Sydney region is considered a responsibility of the New South Wales State Government. Management of these water resources is the Sydney Water Corporation. For this reason the Sustainable Water Plan for Sydney will cover the same area of operations as Sydney Water. Sydney water provides water, waste water services and limited stormwater services to over 4 million people in the Sydney Basin, The Blue Mountains and the Illawarra (see figure 1).

The current system of water supply in Sydney is a very one way system where water is collected in dams, treated and pumped to the consumer where it is used. The waste water is then removed sent to a treatment plant and then released, with the majority of this water being released into the ocean. The major problem with this system is the linear nature as this doesn’t resemble the natural cyclical water cycle process. The population of Sydney is also increasing, with the supply of water remaining at the same level, so far increases in population haven’t greatly increased the demand for water do to increases in water use efficiency. It is therefore hoped that further increases to water use efficiency will help mitigate the increase on demand from future increases in population.

Figure 1 (not included here)- Area of Operations for Sydney Water (Sydney Water, 2010)

A Sustainable Water Plan for Sydney

Water is also one of the issues that New South Wales residents feel is going to increase in importance in the next decade (Department of Environment Climate Change and Water, 2010a). If this is the case the planning for this needs to occur now, rather than in 10 years time and that is where the Sustainable Water Plan for Sydney comes in.

A sustainable water plan for Sydney is one that is provides adequate supplies of safe water to as much of the population of the city at a reasonable economic cost, whilst having as little impact on the environment as possible. These three pillars can be seen in the three principle objectives of Sydney water, to protect public health, to protect the environment and maintain a successful business (Sydney Water, 2010).

The water supply for Sydney can vary dramatically (as shown in figure 2).and this means that supplies of water that are not rainfall reliant would be of use in Sydney.

Figure 2 (not included here)- Water Supply and Storage in Sydney (Sydney Catchment Authority, 2010)

There are two main approaches to water management and ensuring the supply of water to the population. The two approaches are demand management and supply management.

Demand management is increasing the efficiency of water use by consumers at the consumptive end. Historically demand management in Sydney has been a relatively successful process with the Sydney region using similar amounts of water now (in 2010) as it did in the 1970s despite the greater population. This shows that an expanding population does not necessarily require greater water supply if increases to efficiency can be continued (Sydney Water, 2010). Currently the majority of Sydney water’s demand management occurs through the Water 4 Life initiative. Historically demand management has been a voluntary process for residents due to the legal and ethical issues of enforcing how people use water in their homes; however the water restrictions and current water 4 life rules are enforceable with fines issued by authorised officers. The Water 4 life rules replace the previous level 0 and level 1 water restrictions, however level 2 and 3 restrictions can still be implemented if water levels in the dams drop below pre existing thresholds. In the Sydney reason demand management focuses strongly on residential water use as this is 70% of the water used in Sydney and it is hoped that water saving measures by residents and businesses will save 145 Billion Litres of water a year by 2015. (Sydney Water, 2010)

There is little room for major changes in the demand management side of water management in Sydney. This is due to the fact that water wise rules and water restrictions can only apply to water use outside of residential houses, this leaves water saving and efficiency measures for the water used inside the house an entirely voluntary process. Education and advertising can encourage people to be more efficient but dramatic changes to water price to encourage people to save water can have a negative effect on people’s ability to access the water they require for health and quality of life, especially people under financial hardship for other reasons.

There is greater flexibility in the supply management aspect of the Sustainable Water Plan for Sydney. This is finding new supplies of water for the region which are if possible not rainfall reliant. Four potential supply solutions would be a new dam system in Sydney, stormwater harvesting, desalination and water recycling. The first two of these solutions are less appropriate for a number of reasons. First of all both these systems are rainfall reliant so would not serve to alleviate water stress in drought conditions. There are few suitable locations for a new dam in Sydney due to the pre existing development and the most suitable location at Welcome Reef has been placed on indefinite hold (Sydney Catchment Authority, 2002). Stormwater harvesting is a more complicated issue for Sydney Water as Sydney Water doesn’t maintain the majority of the storm water systems in the region. The local council is in charge of storm water maintenance so it would need to occur on a council by council basis.

The Kurnell Desalination plant was a relatively controversial decision that was made, but now that it is in operation it supplies 15% of Sydney’s water needs with the potential to increase to 30%. As it is using sea water it is not reliant on rainfall and can increase production when there is need. However there was a large cost both environmentally and economically by the construction of the plant. However the majority of this economic cost and much of the environmental cost was during the construction of the plant and as this investment has been made the continued use of the desalination plant a much more reasonable option when compared with the costs for decommissioning it and developing an alternate system (WSAA, 2010).

The final option for supply management of water in Sydney is water recycling. The goal here is to move away from the current once through water system to a closed off water cycle. By closing off the water cycle it treats waste water as a resource to be utilised not waste to be disposed of. Recycled water can be used for non drinking purposes and treated accordingly or it can be used for drinking and treated accordingly, this is called indirect potable reuse. Once again the big advantage for this process is it is not reliant on rainfall and there is even less environmental impact than desalination. Recycled water for non drinking purposes is generally supported by communities, but water of non drinking water quality can only used for about 30% of the water use in a household. Another issue with this form of water recycling is the new pipe system required which limits this system primarily to new growth areas.

Indirect potable reuse is a more controversial proposal, and in Sydney would involve treating it to a high level and pumping it into the upper Nepean River to feedback into Warragamba dam. There are both major advantages and disadvantages to this system. The is less new infrastructure required and therefore it is a solution for all on Sydney rather than a particular area, however there are economic costs in the pumping system to move the water around Sydney. The treatment system is almost identical to the desalination process so the cost there is similar. Finally there is much more community opposition to drinking recycled water in Australia, despite the frequency of this process being used overseas. This social stigma is the main hold up for indirect potable reuse in Australia as the technology is as reliable as other potable water sources (Smith, 2005).

No single method listed above will provide the solution to the water management and supply issues in Sydney. A sustainable water plan for Sydney would attempt to balance the environmental, social and economic factors involved in providing water to residents in the Sydney region. The growing population of Sydney will require both more water and more reliable water and this will only be managed through a system of demand management and supply management. New sources of water for Sydney will most reliably be found either through a combination of desalination and water recycling. Both these supply systems will have an environmental cost and economic cost, but these costs are required to be able to provide for people’s social need, that is access to clean reliable water to maintain their health and quality of life.


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