Over the last two decades, the global construction and infrastructure industry has gone to great lengths to transform the design, supply and operation of the built environment. The latest policy, the Modern Slavery Act, takes this to a next and vital level. Whilst we can look back to collective bargaining, international standards of operation and local work, health and safety codes, the Modern Slavery Act is ‘next level’ policy.
The Act covers an estimated 3,000 domestic and foreign entities with annual consolidated revenue exceeding A$100 million that conduct business in Australia. Entities must provide an annual statement disclosing how their operations and supply chain risks contribute to modern slavery, explaining actions taken to address the risks, and assessing the effectiveness of those actions.
This isn’t an easy task by any means. The first statements are due by 31 Dec 2020 for the financial year 1 Jul 2019 to 30 Jun 2020. The reporting provides an opportunity to rethink knowledge streams about the full extent of our work. It offers a chance to ask what tools are required to bring an increased level of transparency to the supply chain and legitimacy to asking questions of wellbeing and on the livelihoods of people involved with a project. As these people are often located in other countries or locations, this is a new global perspective to measuring, reporting and verifying the extended impact of our work.
In 2019 the construction industry was 8.1% of Australia’s GDP. Last year Australia had its 28th year of consecutive annual economic growth, setting a record among developed economies for uninterrupted expansion, increasing more than 3% on average each year since 1992. Australia is the only major developed economy to have recorded no annual recessions between 1992 to 2018. The Australian economy’s robustness is sustained by solid policy frameworks, strong institutions and an attractive investment environment.
While thinking global is essential, we mustn’t overlook what is close to us and more importantly, who we are or what we represent as a sector beyond our economic performance. The tools, policy and the agenda already exist; what we need to reinforce is a shared sense of ‘fairness and justice’. These are the very words of the Australian Government on delivering Reconciliation Action Plans (RAPS) that create shared value in project supply chains.
The United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development focuses on decision-making with reference to the participation of vulnerable groups to the decision-making process. Furthermore, SDG target 16.7 aims to “Ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels”. What the UN 2030 Agenda and the Modern Slavery Act highlight as change agents, is the process of reporting as influential in what we value, and the importance that value indicators have for decision-making.
Infrastructure NSW Business Case Practitioner Guides provide supporting tools for built environment consultants, business analysts and urban economists developing business cases for infrastructure projects; these include, value management, value engineering and the OECD Better Life Index. The inclusion of such metrics demonstrates that there are more to a project’s lifecycle than the cold numbers of GDP and economic statistics. The Better Life Index allows us to compare wellbeing across countries and communities and includes reporting on our projects through detailed post-occupancy evaluation, improved performance and productivity.
The OECD Better Life Index is based on 11 topics the OECD has identified as essential, in the areas of material living conditions and quality of life. This is how we drive business transformation by extending the reporting on infrastructure projects, adding value by what we measure, report and evaluate. By extending access and working to encourage active participation in processes that contribute to decision-making, planning and implementation of policies and programmes for the delivery of sustainable urban growth and development.
WHY AUSTRALIA, Benchmark Report, 2019. Australian Government Trade & Investment Commission
2017 Foreign Policy White Paper, Australian Government, Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade
Modern Slavery Act 2018, No. 153, 2018, Australian Government, Federal Register of Legislation
The Sustainable Development Global Goals Report 2019, United Nation Department of Economic and Social Affairs
Kathryn BUNN is a Senior Project Manager in our Sydney Office and is presenting on two panels at the SYDNEY BUILD EXPO at the International Conference Centre on 19th & 20th March 2020: