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STATEMENT: Supporting an open Australian civic space for all stakeholders

Kylie Porter | November 21, 2019

An open civic space is one of the many benefits of living in a free and democratic society. An open civic space is an environment in which people can organise, participate and communicate with each other freely. An open civic space, where all parties are respecting the human rights of others, is not only good for a democratic society, it is good for business. It provides an “early warning system” for business to better understand the concerns that various stakeholders may have about their operations, allowing them to manage risks in full consultation with the people most likely to be affected. It also provides the space for multi-stakeholder dialogue and the ability to forge partnerships for more sustainable solutions to challenges across environmental, social and governance issues.

We do not condone violent protests and also understand the pressures that business, large and small, may feel when they are the subject of a campaign. However, the voices of campaigners are one of many critical voices that need to be heard as we transition and decarbonise our economies by 2050. Deep disruption will naturally emerge as we make these structural shifts. An open civic space that considers a diversity of views and voices is critical to navigate a prosperous and inclusive future for all stakeholders.

The Global Compact Network Australia works alongside diverse groups, including business, to support dialogue that enhances responsible business practices around human rights, labour rights, environment and anti-corruption. The transition to decarbonisation for businesses, communities and government cannot take place without respectful discussions. We know that to bring these groups together the civic space must be safeguarded and as a trusted partner to government, business, academic institutions, and civil society we provide a forum where we can discuss the solutions that will enable us to reach more equitable outcomes for all.

The Global Compact Network Australia

  • As a multi-stakeholder initiative, we encourage respectful dialogue and engagement between business, civil society including environmental and human rights campaigners, and government to understand sustainability risks in business activities and the solutions to overcome these risks, including those associated with climate change.
  • We call on all businesses to consider what policies and practices they can implement to ensure they are respecting the human rights of all campaigners, in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
  • We call on business to consider what mechanisms they can use to listen more intensely to the views of their suppliers, customers, shareholders, community representatives and employees on environmental, social and governance challenges and their expectations on how business should manage the associated risks.
  • We encourage governments everywhere to respect and protect the internationally recognised human rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, association and expression and where reasonable restrictions are deemed necessary, to ensure that these align with international human rights standards.
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Kylie Porter

Kylie is a sustainability expert with over 18 years of experience in corporate affairs, sustainability and strategy roles across a broad range of industries. During her career, Kylie has helped numerous companies develop and implement responsible business strategies, managed reputation risk for environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues and wrote and managed policies across various thematic areas including climate change and human rights.