Australia’s largest retailer, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA), outlined what retailers want from the major parties in this election, with a focus on sustainability, skills development and retraining, as well as greater sustainability.
Due to the period of intense global, social and economic uncertainty, the ARA says sustainability measures to support business in future difficult times should be the focus.
“From the conflict in Europe to supply chains and chronic pressure on jobs and skills, rising inflation and unprecedented climate events such as local floods – the results of this year’s election will set the national agenda for the next decade,” said ARA Director General Paul Zahra. .
“We have turned the corner of COVID, but it has left many challenges for business, including our biggest destroyer in history – climate change. The business community needs evidence that all parties are approaching these issues with long-term strategic thinking. ”
The ARA has published five strategic priorities that the retail community would like to address: labor and skills shortages, small business recovery, supply chain sustainability, and building a sustainable and inclusive business.
Shortage of manpower and skills
Even before the pandemic, labor and skills shortages were a problem in the retail sector. The ARA believes opening borders to return skilled trade to the country will help disaster-affected communities and supply chains get back on their feet faster. The retail body also believes that more needs to be done to address training and retraining issues.
In particular, the ARA hopes that any new government will expand existing programs that provide access to training and career paths for job seekers outside the current cohort of young people aged 18-24. By expanding programs to include existing employees, the ARA believes that these employees can improve their skills and advance their careers without having to look for a new employer or leave the sector. The ARA would also like to see more opportunities for significant employment opportunities for marginalized communities, including older Australians, Indigenous people, people with disabilities and newly arrived migrants.
Recovering small business
With the recovery of the retail and hospitality sector, the inability to find qualified staff is extremely hampered. The ARA calls for expanding the temporary skills shortage visa program to include hard-to-fill roles, especially in the digital realm, enhanced by the path to permanent residence for those roles where employers bring global talent to Australia for productivity and innovation.
Inclusive retail jobs
According to the ARA, diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) is a top priority for retailers. The ARA set out its priorities for DEI in its Statement on the position of gender equalityin line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Emphasis is placed on gender equality, where the association advocates for more cost-effective access to childcare for working families; meaningful and flexible return-to-work options for parents returning to the workforce; and improving women’s financial independence during their working lives and retirement.
Retailers need a supply chain sustainability
Because the ARA predicts that supply chain problems could remain complex for the next 18 months, the retail body is lobbying any newly formed government to address the current red tape that is hindering imported products. The ARA would also like to see increased support for local production capacity. Especially where vulnerabilities exist along critical supply chains such as food and healthcare. In addition, the ARA wants to focus more on supply chain tracking and transparency to manage risks and address key issues such as modern slavery.
Go for a sustainable business
Given that 85 per cent of Australia’s fast fashion is dumped every year, it is clear that the sector is stepping up its efforts to be more sustainable. The ARA launched a Net-Zero road map for the Australian retail sector and to accelerate this transition he hopes for more support from the government as he moves towards a low-carbon circular economy.
One of the programs they would like to expand is the Recycling Modernization Fund to increase the efficiency of post-consumption waste collection and separation and the development of new markets for recycled content. The ARA believes this will make it easier for retailers and consumers to connect with circular solutions.
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