May 20, 2019
Corporate responsibility

A recent article by the CEO of Financial Counselling Australia, Fiona Guthrie called out the need for Australians to collectively re-imagine the role our corporations play in Australian society.

It made me think back to a headline that came out a few weeks ago about Atlassian and a conversation I had with a good friend following it. The headline was titled,

Atlassian shifts to 100pc clean energy by 2025.

It detailed how Atlassian has joined the ranks of a handful of forwarding thinking and environmentally conscious companies globally who have committed to operating with 100% renewable energy by a certain date, including PwC & CBA.

Atlassian and many of the other organisation who have given the RE100 pledge have for some time now led the way in corporate responsibility, setting a gold standard for what it means to be an employer of choice - an employer who looks after their people, customers and the environment they operate in. These are the companies that are setting the standard for what it means to act out of a desire to do good, even when not required to do so by the law.

The friend I was discussing this with is an actuarial student with a passion for the environment. We were having a conversation about where she sees her future and like many young people, she has a desire to do something that is impactful - to work somewhere where she both adds value and feels valued.

She made an interesting comment that despite wanting to put her actuarial skills to use in order to effect environmental change, she believed that no matter how much unequivocal evidence was thrown in our government's face - they wouldn't flinch. Not for any lack of care but simply due to the 'politics' of politics. She felt it was a futile exercise.

It's a deeply unsettling statement to hear from a young individual. It made her believe that attempting to effect change for the things she's most deeply passionate about - even if she did her absolute best - is not something she'd want to do because it (and she) may have no impact.

I then brought up the article about Atlassian and mentioned that I don't believe it's only the government who has a right - or more so, a responsibility - to act in order to enact the change they want to see. And then comes Earnd...

When we first started Earnd it was just under six months since the government promised for the 3rd time (& has since continually failed to deliver) reforms to the payday loan industry. An industry which represents the underbelly of financial services and often takes advantage of those who are most vulnerable in our society.

The government's inaction here made me think of the situation happening down the road in regards to climate change. If our politicians refuse to act on issues we as a collective find important, why shouldn't we, as business owners and operators take action ourselves?

Why shouldn't we stand up and recognise that 46% of Aussies live paycheck-to-paycheck? That's 1 in 2 people. One in every second person who works in your office, catches the train with you in the morning or runs on the treadmill behind you at the gym. For those 1 in 2 of us, when our income falls short of our expenses and we don't have a safety net of savings to turn to, we have no choice but to use credit.

And too often, the credit we're forced to choose is short term, predatory credit. Of the 780,278 payday loans taken out in the last recorded year (2015), 35.6% of them were used for 'emergency cash for household expenses'. And of those, 22.7% were for children's needs, closely followed by clothing and medical bills (21%, 15%). Our employees are being most heavily punished for making ends meet with their children's need, clothing and medical bills.

There are millions of Australian's who day in day out stress about their financial situation. And whilst the government is promising to take action on important issues such as stagnant wage growth and housing costs, they're missing the low hanging fruit. The low hanging fruit that is recognising Australians turn to credit and allowing predatory credit providers to prey on individuals when this occurs is dangerous.

Just like Atlassian, PwC and CBA believe it is their responsibility to enact change - outside of any government requirement to do so - we are fortunate enough to work with employers across the country who believe it is their responsibility to look after their staff's wellbeing. And these employers are reaping the benefits.

If you too believe that as an employer it is your responsibility to look after your people we'd love to chat. If you'd like to join our mission, we'd also love to hear from you.

Josh VernonMay 20, 2019
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