In early May the Minister for Small Business and Assistant Treasurer, the Hon Kelly O’Dwyer MP, released a proposal paper entitled ‘Technology neutrality in distributing company meeting notices and materials’ for public consultation.

I could give you the government’s wordy explanation of ‘optimal outcomes’ and ‘embedding principles of technology neutrality in the communications requirements’ or I could just call it like it is. Company meetings are still driven by paper and this is not something that Australians, let alone the superannuation industry should be proud of. The government is hoping that its intervention will achieve technology neutrality in communications. This will see data in more usable forms (digital), in a timely manner (real time digital), lower cost (digital) be more flexible in how it’s presented (digital and hard copy – something for everyone).

Unless you have opted out of Australia’s dedication to paper then you are still going to be churning through many superannuation fund investments into organisations that are by law obliged to meet corporate governance requirements and hold meetings. Generating paper agendas, envelopes, minutes, handouts, brochures, annual reports, committee reports – you name it. It’s in print.

Research underpins the seriousness of this issue and why the government has stepped in. Forest Ethics’ recent research confirmed that in Australia we consume on average 230kg per person per year. To give you some idea of what that equals – roughly half the weight of a polar bear. But here is the tricky part – we consume more than North America (229kgs), Western Europe (179kg) and Asia (41kg).

Our demand for paper is never ending – despite Australians owning on average two mobile phones each and our love for texting, Netflix and high speed broadband. It’s unthinkable that we have to deliver exponential resources for paper alone – and for this we have cleared half of our forests and send half of our paper straight to landfill each year.

This initiative for technology neutrality in communications is one that IQ Group has been supporting for some time and we have worked with some of Australia’s leading funds and private and public enterprise to streamline meeting and Board communications electronically.

Recently I highlighted APRA’s considerations on the efficiency and productivity of the superannuation industry. The concept of straight through processing is where our industry can overcome this ‘paper-want’ and make a positive contribution to our sustainability as a nation and as a business community.

Maybe digital is going to deliver more than we plan when we look at our member journey? It’s quite possible that it could be the most positive environmental action that we take.


Brian Peters