From the 19th to the 21st of January, 2021, INTOSAI WGEA (Working Group on Environmental Audits) held its 20th biennial Assembly targeted at INTOSAI member institutions and INTOSAI WGEA's stakeholders. For the first time in history, this Assembly had a virtual venue.
The Theme of the 20th Assembly was: Circular Economy.
The Samoa Audit Office's Director for Performance and Environmental Audits, Ms. Oceanbaby Penitito, participated virtually in this Assembly as the representative of the Samoa SAI.
This is the first virtual assembly conducted by INTOSAI WGEA and hosted by SAI Finland. SAI Samoa was able to attend as a result of the use of this virtual platform. The 3-day meeting hoped to stimulate new types of thinking, encourage discussion, and share best practice and new ideas to enable seeing not only the digital leap, but also a sustainability leap.
The first day of the Assembly was spent discussing the concept of circular economy and how it will be applied in audits. This was further elaborated on by keynote speakers from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, United Nations Environment Programme, and the Finnish Innovation Fund - Sitra Foundation. The second day was focused on plastic waste, international climate finance, and sustainable transport environmentally related to the Sustainable Development Goals. Relevant audit experiences were shared among SAIs, taking note of methodologies, common issues, and ideas in auditing these complex areas. On the third day of the Assembly there was further discussion on how audits are relevant to the SDGs with practical audit examples, policy coherence, multi-stakeholder’s perspectives, and enhancing WGEA training activities and publication.
The main takeaway from this meeting was the discussion of the Circular Economy, its impact, challenges, and core elements. Circular economy takes production processes into consideration and outlines how to reuse, repair, and recycle items, thus increasing sustainable manufacturing and consumption. Some of the challenges include: (i) controlling life cycles efficiently - many products are hard to disassemble or to recycle; (ii) making linked industries resilient - sometimes the resource loop cannot be closed within one industry; and, (iii) keeping the environment on the agenda. Core elements discussed include the following:
- PRIORITISE REGENERATIVE RESOURCES
- PRESERVE & EXTEND WHAT'S ALREADY MADE
- USE WASTE AS A RESOURCE
- RETHINK THE BUSINESS MODEL
- TEAM UP TO CREATE JOINT VALUE
- DESIGN FOR THE FUTURE
- INCORPORATE DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY
- STRENGTHEN & ADVANCE KNOWLEDGE
With its vulnerable environment, Samoa should be encouraged to import products that can be reused, repaired, and recycled and operated within the economy wherever possible. This would surely reduce pressure on Samoa’s environment, improve the security of the supply of raw materials, and boost economic growth. For audits, the Samoa SAI can apply an environmental consciousness during procurement audits on whether goods procured are environment friendly, or perhaps look at service provider in regards to waste management and greening the environment.