Code calls for corporate responsibility on environment

May 24, 2023 BY

Robert Hinkley is the author of Time to Change Corporations: Closing the Citizenship Gap and will speak in Geelong next week. Photo: SUPPLIED

AN EVENT to be held in Geelong next week will launch a worldwide push to legally prevent businesses from causing environmental damage.

The Code for Corporate Citizenship is a proposed amendment to corporate law that would make company directors more responsible for the effects of their companies on the environment.

It was devised by Robert Hinkley and described in his book Time to Change Corporations: Closing the Citizenship Gap.

Under the proposal, Section 181 of the Australian Corporations Act (2001), which states directors “must exercise their powers and discharge their duties a) in good faith in the best interests of the corporation”, would have the following words inserted: “b) but not at the expense of severe harm to the environment”.

An alliance of local climate groups will co-host a talk by Mr Hinkley at Geelong Library and Heritage Centre on Thursday, May 25 to globally launch the code.

“We see The Code as a simple but effective approach to properly deal with the climate emergency,” Centre for Climate Safety director Mik Aidt said.

“The idea is to balance directors’ duties by legally requiring them to be good corporate citizens.

“It may sound like a small change, but this could potentially have a game-changing impact on humanity’s efforts to reduce global carbon emissions.”

Geelong Sustainability climate advocate Vicki Perrett said she was proud Geelong was selected for the launch.

“Geelong stands at a crucial crossroad and the community is calling for urgent effective climate action.

“The Climate Emergency Declaration campaign was launched from Geelong, Adelaide and Melbourne in 2016.

“It has gone onto become a global movement with 2,329 councils in 40 different countries as well as 18 governments declaring a climate emergency – a figure still rising and now including 1 billion citizens.

“Adaptation of The Code could become the next big step.”

A dual Australian-American citizen, Robert Hinkley is a retired corporate lawyer with more than 20 years’ experience advising large companies in Australia and in the United States.

He was a partner in the leading US firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, as well as being the principal advisor to the US Department of Justice in its investigations of investment banks for their role in the global financial crisis. These investigations recovered penalties and fines of more than $US65 billion.

“All corporations are formed under government-enacted laws,” Mr Hinkley said.

“They should not be permitted to cause severe damage to the environment.

“The government’s job is to protect the public interest, not give license to companies to destroy it.

“The Code will require all company directors to safeguard the environment from severe damage.”

The Code for Corporate Citizenship will be launched at the Geelong Library and Heritage Centre (level 5) on Thursday, May 25 from 5pm.

Tickets are $5 – head to eventbrite.com.au/e/taming-corporations-to-relieve-the-climate-emergency-tickets-629096262857