This  paper  addresses  ways  in  which  scientists  can  assist  to  improve  public  environmental reporting  in  Australia.  The  proposed  methods  were  developed  through  a  study  that  explored environmental messages distributed by companies and government funded bodies in Australia to find out if and how these organisations successfully communicate complex environmental information.

The research established that a very small number of companies issue complex environmental information;  and  a  negligible  number  produce  information  that  is  meaningful  to  the  reader. This  result  raised  serious  questions  as  to  why  this  was  occurring  and  importantly  how  the number of quality documents that effectively disclose and communicate could be increased.

Three  factors  appeared  to  contribute  to  why  this  was  occurring.  The  first  is  a  policy  issue  in that environmental reporting is a voluntary matter in Australia; secondly managers perceived a high risk of criticism if unsatisfactory environmental performance was reported; and thirdly less than adequate frameworks for preparing these type of documents exist.

Based on the study's findings the research team proposed a pragmatic approach to improve the situation taken that voluntary reporting is the status quo in Australia. Firstly, management of public entities must commit to the communication of core knowledge on the environmental situation. This can be rationalised in two ways: The increased acceptance of triple bottom line reporting internationally; and the desirability of keeping audiences and stakeholders informed about environmental matters - particularly proactive ones. Communicating environmentally sound actions and intentions builds favourable constituencies when companies need to address organisational remedies to disasters.

 Secondly, a cross-disciplinary publishing team consisting of scientists, science communicators, public affairs personnel, and financial controllers should be established to prepare the document. Currently disseminating information about environmental activity seems to come under the rubric of environmental accounting and environmental management, not public affairs and corporate communication. After discussions with industry representatives and government regulators the team believes this may be the bounding factor, one that inhibits the dissemination of core knowledge, complex information and understandable environmental messages.

Thirdly, the framework for effective triple bottom line reporting must balance the technical accountability approaches and techniques, with communication research such as the recommendations of this study eg transforming data into meaningful messages using the KIM model.

There is significant potential for improvement in public environmental reporting in Australia. This research contributes to this. It acknowledges that scientists and communication specialists can cooperate to achieve an important goal of accurate, engaging and accountable environmental messages.

This paper is based on a University of Western Sydney funded research project conducted by Janice Withnall and Rebecca Harris of University of Technology, Sydney
 
 


 

 


 

 

 



 

 

 

">
 [PCST]
PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Environmental reporting in Australia
Developing a triple bottom line approach that communicates

Janice Withnall   University of Western Sydney

This  paper  addresses  ways  in  which  scientists  can  assist  to  improve  public  environmental reporting  in  Australia.  The  proposed  methods  were  developed  through  a  study  that  explored environmental messages distributed by companies and government funded bodies in Australia to find out if and how these organisations successfully communicate complex environmental information.

The research established that a very small number of companies issue complex environmental information;  and  a  negligible  number  produce  information  that  is  meaningful  to  the  reader. This  result  raised  serious  questions  as  to  why  this  was  occurring  and  importantly  how  the number of quality documents that effectively disclose and communicate could be increased.

Three  factors  appeared  to  contribute  to  why  this  was  occurring.  The  first  is  a  policy  issue  in that environmental reporting is a voluntary matter in Australia; secondly managers perceived a high risk of criticism if unsatisfactory environmental performance was reported; and thirdly less than adequate frameworks for preparing these type of documents exist.

Based on the study's findings the research team proposed a pragmatic approach to improve the situation taken that voluntary reporting is the status quo in Australia. Firstly, management of public entities must commit to the communication of core knowledge on the environmental situation. This can be rationalised in two ways: The increased acceptance of triple bottom line reporting internationally; and the desirability of keeping audiences and stakeholders informed about environmental matters - particularly proactive ones. Communicating environmentally sound actions and intentions builds favourable constituencies when companies need to address organisational remedies to disasters.

 Secondly, a cross-disciplinary publishing team consisting of scientists, science communicators, public affairs personnel, and financial controllers should be established to prepare the document. Currently disseminating information about environmental activity seems to come under the rubric of environmental accounting and environmental management, not public affairs and corporate communication. After discussions with industry representatives and government regulators the team believes this may be the bounding factor, one that inhibits the dissemination of core knowledge, complex information and understandable environmental messages.

Thirdly, the framework for effective triple bottom line reporting must balance the technical accountability approaches and techniques, with communication research such as the recommendations of this study eg transforming data into meaningful messages using the KIM model.

There is significant potential for improvement in public environmental reporting in Australia. This research contributes to this. It acknowledges that scientists and communication specialists can cooperate to achieve an important goal of accurate, engaging and accountable environmental messages.

This paper is based on a University of Western Sydney funded research project conducted by Janice Withnall and Rebecca Harris of University of Technology, Sydney
 
 


 

 


 

 

 



 

 

 

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

BACK TO TOP