Sustainability to fore in polytech report

To the casual observer, Otago's 2010 annual report document looks like any other.

But the consultant who has helped the polytechnic embed sustainability practices throughout its teaching programmes and business operations says the document, released this week, is a "totally new way" of reporting which he expects will become a model for other educational institutions and businesses.

Dr Barry Law, an environmental educator since the early 1990s, has co-written a sustainability textbook for the Ministry of Education and now runs a consultancy business in Christchurch. He has been helping the polytechnic develop its policy for the past four years.

The polytechnic was now at a point where it could, through its annual report, show "transparently and authentically" how sustainability - minimising the use of the planet's resources - permeated everything it did.

"The [2009] report was 57 pages, of which 30 to 40 of them were the financials. So, while it was a good report in terms of giving an overview of their financial situation, it didn't in any way indicate their performance across the four sustainability dimensions - environmental, social, political and economic.

"Institutional reporting needs to account for more than just economic reporting, rather [an organisation's] effects on the environment, how they are working with their community, the social impacts of what they are doing, and how they are actually working beyond compliance.

"Sustainability isn't something you bolt on, it's not something you do on a nice day and it's not something you do on pages 8-9 of your annual report.

Sustainability is your annual report."

At 56 pages, the 2010 report is not much shorter than its predecessors but is peppered throughout with examples of various sustainability measures.

Otago Polytechnic was the first educational institution in New Zealand to produce such an annual report, Dr Law said.

"While the report is a product, it is also an educational tool. I would hope it would become an example for other institutions and businesses. We have already had a lot of interest." Only a small number had been printed but the report was available online, he said.



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