Many Australians are doing it tough. In fact, more than 3.3 million people in Australia are severely or completely financially excluded. This means that they have limited access to mainstream financial institutions and their banking and insurance products, have little income saved, and are at greater risk of poor social, economic, and health outcomes.
But one part of the solution is on its way, in the form of the Financial Inclusion Action Plan (FIAP) program. Here at EnergyAustralia, we are proud to be part of a community of FIAP trailblazers who are taking action to improve financial inclusion in Australia.
The FIAP program has been developed to support people struggling to make ends meet, and we are one of 30 organisations including banks, law firms, charities, governments, and universities who are undertaking 580 hands-on actions to improve financial inclusion and resilience for employees, clients and consumers.
Although we are proud to lead change by having been the first energy company to become a FIAP trailblazer, this group approach is of utmost importance.
“The organisations involved employ over 250,000 people and service almost 80 per cent of the population,” says FIAP Advisory Group Chair, Delia Rickard, “so the potential impact is enormous”.
Affordability is also a sensitive and challenging issue that is part of a broader economic and cost-of-living problem. The FIAP program helps bring a cross sector approach to solving these problems, and the impact of this is evident way beyond the boardroom.
“The initiatives these trailblazers have put forward are much more than nice sentiments and ambitions. They have tangible, measurable outcomes,” says Ms Rickard.
This is something that is familiar to Michael Smith, a member of the EnergyAssist team at EnergyAustralia, which is dedicated to helping vulnerable people manage their power bills.
“We speak with vulnerable people in difficult situations including family violence, and people with medical issues,” he explains.
Michael has seen firsthand the benefits of this collaborative approach, such as a cross referral collaboration with Yarra Valley Water’s hardship team, Watercare, to support shared customers. “I hope our collaboration with other FIAP partners will lead to new partnerships,” he continues. “One company can’t do it on its own.”
The FIAP program is led by not for profit community organisation Good Shepherd Microfinance, on behalf of the Australian Government, in partnership with the Centre for Social Impact and EY. Their economic modelling shows that by working together over the longer-term, trailblazers can improve the lives of thousands of people, save the government almost $600 million, and boost the nation’s economic output by more than $2.9 billion a year.
Last year EnergyAustralia announced an additional $10M investment to financial and other support for some of its most vulnerable customers at a time of rising electricity and gas prices.
“Our commitment to financial inclusion is closely aligned to our values and is shaping our business approach to supporting vulnerable customers,” says David Ackland, EnergyAustralia Customer Experience Executive.
This approach includes delivering actions in our FIAP, as well as continuing to explore partnerships and collaborations that drive broader than industry-wide change. Since our FIAP launched in 2016, 80% of our actions have been either fully or partially completed.
“The organisations that have signed up to the FIAP program see corporate social responsibility as more than just a box that has to be ticked,” says Adam Mooney, CEO of Good Shepherd Microfinance. “They believe they have a role to play in creating a fairer, more connected community – one where everyone benefits from inclusive economic growth.”
At EnergyAustralia we have fully embraced this role, and look forward to creating, along with other trailblazers, a fairer Australia.
To find out what EnergyAustralia does to ease the pressure on anyone going through energy hardship, read our fact sheet, here.