The year after next is a long time in business. So why was anyone surprised yesterday that only 36% of businesses are aware that the Government’s emissions trading scheme is to be introduced in 2010. I am amazed it is that high.

The report by the Australian Institute of Management found that 80% of businesses said they “know very little” or were only “somewhat aware” of the scheme. Of the CEOs, business owners and senior managers surveyed, 76% said their organisations had not commenced planning for the scheme’s introduction. The low awareness levels of the scheme were broadly similar across all organisations, regardless of size.

So what? Anyone running a business knows the enormous amount of regulation that changes every year. Each change is greeted by specialists and the media with amazement that business has not responded earlier.

I am not surprised by this. Business owners are pragmatists. They tune in when they need to. They take action when they need to. They are far too busy running their business, managing staff and figuring out how to make a profit this year to worry about new schemes that are two years off.

So when will they tune in? It will help when the information is presented to them in a simple and easy to understand format so they actually know what to do. The AIM report says that the majority of businesses say their main source of information had been news reports, not government agencies or industry bodies. The news reports generally lack the type of “how to” instructions that business owners like.

I also suspect they are deterred by the frenzy of consultants circling this space and they will not engage with the consultants until they are more informed about the basics.

It is not that business owners don’t care about the planet and global warming. It is just that they have very pressing issues that actually have to be dealt with today — not in 2010.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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