The Sustainability Edition - ESG in focus for CMEs

2021 BCCM Leaders’ Summit

2021 Breakfast on the Hill

We started our day with Breakfast on the Hill, hosted by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Hon Jonathon O’Dea, MP. It was great to hear from both The Hon Scott Farlow MLC, Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer and for COVID Recovery and Mark Johnson, the Chair of HCF who told the room, “Co-operatives and mutuals have bailed in through the COVID crisis, investing from their balance sheet to keep staff in work and support members.”

Summit Gallery “Find yourself at Breakfast on the Hill”

2021 BCCM Summit

Yvonne Weldon

Melina Morrison

The Summit formally started for in-person delegates at the Intercontinental Hotel with an insightful Welcome and Acknowledgement of Country from Yvonne Weldon, before moving onto opening remarks from Rohan Lund. Rohan focussed on the purpose of CMEs in a sustainable Australia and how the NRMA evaluates which opportunities are aligned with their organisation’s values: “What’s the purpose of the day? Are we good to people? And do we have the ambition to do it well and do it right?”

Delegates separated into their chosen CEO Dialogues at this stage of the morning, covering the three topics:


Dialogue 1: Elevating ‘Social’ in your business for profit and purpose

Co-creation of commercial and social value is embedded in the DNA of co-ops and mutuals: Collaboration, democratic structures and commitment to training, education and information

Measuring social value is going to be a game-changer – the decisions you make today will stand the test of time.


Dialogue 2: Sustainable Governance in the face of climate risk

GDP does not consider the externalities – the degradation of natural resources – metrics need to evolve to measure things you are actually trying to accomplish, we need a consistent, agreed set of metrics.

Sustainability strategies cannot stand in isolation from the organisational strategy, they must be deeply embedded in the organisation, [tackling the challenge of] how you help a diverse membership prepare for an uncertain future.


Dialogue 3: Wearing your values on your sleeve: ESG Brand Masterclass

A new generation is coming back to these co-operative and mutual principles but don’t know that they don’t need to reinvent the wheel. We have an imperative to promote who we are and how we work.

Keynote Interview – David Speers talks to Colin Melvin

Colin Melvin observed that COVID has given us a “deep understanding of our interdependence” going onto say: “creation of value is the creation of well-being, it is human flourishing.” This 20-minute interview provided a considered evaluation from the ‘founder of ESG’ on the continued relevance of this framework and what it means for our present endeavours to foster change in the way we do business. Colin urged delegates to embrace opportunities to demonstrate the authenticity of their purpose as member-owned businesses, offering an alternative to the short-termism of shareholder-owned businesses.

New research released

Following the networking lunch, delegates returned to BCCM’s newly released Purposeful, Sustainable Business Report: Co-operative and Mutual Enterprises meeting the challenge of ESG. The report looks at the growing importance of sustainability in investing. It considers how (ESG) considerations have come to the fore, the way these values are measured, and what this means for co-operative and mutual businesses. This publication is based around the interview with Colin Melvin.


Plenary discussion: Sustainability and ESG for business success

Colin’s insightful commentary provided a great opening to this discussion on what makes for business success in the era of sustainability. The discussion centred on a shift in expectations from shareholders, clients and the community – “long term investors want long term alignment” with their values – something that our panellists saw as a natural by-product of the CME model where there is a focus on stakeholder primacy over shareholder primacy.

The panel discussed the opportunities for both CMEs and listed companies. There are opportunities for mutuals to act like listed companies in ‘all the good ways’ while Rohan Mead commented: “All firms can ask: ‘why? Why do we exist?’ You can start there and feel your way towards measuring your value to shareholders.”

Mary Delahunty raised the issue of the ‘integrity gap’ between listed companies stated purpose or ethical charter and their behaviour, a pitfall often avoided by CMEs – they have authenticity of purpose and an awareness that there are ‘bigger things than next month’s profit’.



Plenary discussion: Ethical investing as a force for good

The panel discussed the growing interest in responsible investment and what it could mean for mutual and co-operative businesses. The discussion raised some of the generational differences at play in investment decision-making, pointing to millennial’s increasing prioritisation of ethical factors in how they spend their money and where they invest. Himashini Weeraratne pointed out that the Millennial reach goes beyond their own dollars – they are influencing their parents, too.

This increasing tendancy to “[measure] investment opportunities by alignment with…ethical values” presents a distinct opportunity for co-operatives and mutuals, a sector that is “more inclusive, more broad-based, recognises competing stakeholder interests and balances them out,” said John Hewson. Steve James flagged that the sector needs government support to “get our message out – we [CMEs] are leaders in ethical banking.”


In conversation: David Speers and Professor Ross Garnaut

The conversation with Professor Garnaut coincided with the release of his latest book, Reset: Restoring Australia after the Pandemic Recession. Garnaut urged our audience to see this period of restoration as an opportunity to shift the paradigm and do things differently: “We face a choice between post-pandemic Dog Days or post-pandemic restoration of Australia…we must embrace change to seize opportunities.” Herein, in Garnaut’s view, lies the chance for CMEs to realise their potential value to the Australian economy – leverage the innate difference in the way we do business to transform our communities, our economy and Australia’s future.


Summit Gallery “Find yourself at the Summit”

BCCM Honour Roll 2020

The annual Honour Roll provided an uplifting and inspiring end to the day’s events. Seeing our recipients, either in person or remotely, accept their awards was a chance to see the value we spent the day discussing in action – the output of many years hard work on the part of each of our inductees. The impact these business leaders have had on their colleagues, employees, members and communities was truly incredible, an absolute testament to how building a business that proves its purpose every day can have a far-reaching, transformative affect.

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