Infrastructure Australia’s new sustainability principles to inform policy reform agenda

By Shannon Jenkins

Friday April 9, 2021

Singapore knows what it’s doing when it comes to sustainable infrastructure. (Image: Adobe/CK)

Infrastructure Australia (IA) has highlighted the role infrastructure can play in promoting a sustainable community, with the release of its new sustainability principles on Friday.

The entity, which advises governments on infrastructure reform, noted that sustainability has become increasingly important to government, industry and the community.

Balancing outcomes across four key areas — social, economic, environmental and governance — can help communities be “functioning and fair”, without harming future generations and the planet, IA said in the sustainability principles document.

IA noted that dividing sustainable outcomes into these four components aligns with global best practice, and has put forward four corresponding sustainability principles. The principles state that infrastructure and policies should:

  • Improve quality of life, access and wellbeing, to create an inclusive and fair society (social),
  • Grow productivity, the Australian economy and allow equitable access to economic and growth opportunities, while efficiently using financial resources (economic),
  • Protect environmental outcomes by reducing pollution, balancing resource consumption, conserving natural ecosystems and resources, and supporting climate mitigation and adaptation (environmental),
  • Build trust in governance and institutions through transparent, accountable and inclusive decision-making (governance).

IA said each point would guide its approach to sustainability.

“The principles enable us to adopt a consistent approach to inform our policy reform agenda and our infrastructure assessment and prioritisation functions,” it said.

“These principles help us and our stakeholders better understand our role and aims, and the opportunities for partnership.”

Read more: Infrastructure Australia sets out government priorities to boost Australia’s resilience to climate change

The body has also identified specific factors that will achieve sustainable outcomes for each of the principles.

Factors driving good social outcomes include wellbeing and quality of life, fairness, and inclusivity, while factors driving good economic outcomes include equity, value for money, and productivity.

Protection and enhancement, the circular economy, and reducing pollution are the factors that drive good environmental outcomes.

Finally, the factors driving good governance outcomes include transparency of decision-making, trust in institutions and leadership, and coordinated planning and decision-making.

The document noted that IA’s annual priority list can promote sustainable outcomes by identifying and endorsing proposals with sustainability benefits as suitable for investment.

The entity’s most recent priority list, released in February, highlighted investments to support Australia’s economic recovery from COVID-19, while continuing to address environmental challenges such as drought and bushfires. Its 2020 list focused on initiatives that would help tackle issues posed by climate change.

IA’s upcoming Australian Infrastructure Plan will also outline practical sustainability reforms.

“Sustainability is a cross-cutting theme and is considered in each chapter of the 2021 Plan,” the body said.

READ MORE: Infrastructure Australia’s 2021 priority list boasts record number of new proposals


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