Appendix J - Environmental performance

Section 516A of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 requires Commonwealth agencies to report annually on their contribution to the principles of ecologically sustainable development (ESD)

Section 516A of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 requires Commonwealth agencies to report annually on their contribution to the principles of ecologically sustainable development (ESD) and the measures taken to minimise their impact on the environment. The ESD principles are defined in section 3A of the Act.

How administered programmes accord with the principles of ESD—Section 516A(6)(a)

In 2014-15 the department administered the Australian Government Drought Assistance programme in line with the principles of ESD. The department delivered a suite of payments to drought-affected communities, including the Farm Household Allowance from 1 March 2014.

How the appropriation outcome contributed to the principles of ESD—Section 516A(6)(b)

In 2014-15 the department continued to contribute to the principles of ESD through the delivery of efficient and convenient services to individuals, families and the community. For instance, departmental activities that had a direct impact on reducing resources consumed, release of emissions and waste generated, included:

  • online brochures, forms and letters
  • Express Plus mobile apps and quick response codes for customers to easily access service information
  • mobile service centres that visit regional and remote communities

Effects of activities on the environment—Section 516A(6)(c)

Departmental activities with an impact on the environment were risk-assessed using the international standard for Risk Management ISO 31000:2009 and the Australian Standard handbook for environmental risk assessment HB203:2006. We manage activities identified as posing the most significant risk through the department’s environmental management system (EMS) which aligns to the international standard EMS ISO 14001:2004.

In general these activities consume considerable resources and generate substantial waste. Activities that have a significant effect on the environment include:

  • building operations and refurbishments
  • use of ICT
  • use and disposal of stationery
  • operating vehicles
Table 96: Resources use
  Units 2012-13 2013-14 2014-15
Stationary energy (electricity and gas) gigajoules 415,449 400,448 NA1
Transport energy (fuels) gigajoules 45,780 36,554 NA1
Total energy use gigajoules 461,229 437,002 NA1
Internal paper use tonnes 857 851 749
Customer letters A4 sheets 202,589,154 120,421,513 109,541,466
Property use square metres 814,631 788,942 729,543

1. Stationary energy reporting for 2014-15 is unavailable at the time of annual report preparation. This is due to delayed meter readings at small offices (and invoice receipt), which will have a material effect on overall energy reporting.

Table 97: Waste, resource recovery and pollution
  Measure 2012-13 2013-14 2014-15
Net greenhouse gas emissions—energy use tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents 116,123 108,613 NA1
Office copy paper recycling % coverage (square metres) 98.2 98.1 98.0
Commingled recycled % coverage (square metres) 18 18 20
Mobile phone recycling kilograms 139 238 331
Fluorescent and other lamps recycled units 1,724 2,748 6,012

1. Net greenhouse gas emissions—stationary energy reporting for 2014-15 is unavailable at the time of annual report preparation. This is due to delayed meter readings at small offices (and invoice receipt), which will have a material effect on overall energy and greenhouse gas emission reporting.

Measures taken to minimise the effect of activities on the environment—Section 516(6)(d)

The department’s Environmental Sustainability Policy (available at humanservices.gov.au) is used to minimise the effect of our activities on the environment, and to drive better practices, performance and accountability.

Any environmental initiative or measure introduced is evaluated for financial effectiveness, with an objective of least cost/high return. This approach is consistent with the government’s proposed Emissions Reduction Fund objective of lowest cost emissions reduction.

Table 98: Control measures and initiatives 2014-15—resource use, and supplier and product selection
Activities Measures taken to minimise the effect on the environment
Air travel
  • We promoted and supported the use of video and phone conferencing instead of staff using air travel
Building operations
  • Landlord and tenant obligations under Green Lease Schedules have been improved by site-based energy management plans, organising Building Management Committee meetings and implementing initiatives at large offices across the department. At 30 June 2015 there were 42 Green Leases for large offices
  • National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) assessments were undertaken at large offices. At 30 June 2015 the department had 21 large offices performing at or above a 4.5 Stars NABERS energy rating
  • We retained or improved performance through ongoing controls and initiatives such as office energy audits, server room audits, lighting upgrades, installation of master switches and timers in meeting rooms, reviewing programme settings on hot water units, and syncing air conditioning to security timers
  • Reputable eco-labels and other environmental standards are used to improve environmental performance—such as ENERGY STAR® to rate appliances
  • We purchased 10% Greenpower from electricity services in the Australian Capital Territory, procured through the whole-of-government electricity contract
  • The department supports the FluoroCycle Scheme to ensure that hazardous fluorescent lamps are recycled on disposal. The scheme promotes better environmental practice in our supply chain
  • The department participated in Earth Hour to promote greenhouse emission awareness and to review lighting system operations
ICT
  • The ICT server virtualisation programme continued to deliver considerable energy and cost savings. The department has virtualised 98% of x86 architecture-based Wintel workload and 99 % of Unix workload, avoiding the purchase of additional servers
  • The Data Centre Consolidation and Relocation Strategy delivered significant improvements to data centre energy efficiency and carbon emission performance
  • We have automated PC shutdown using the hibernation mode after three hours of inactivity
  • Server room construction and maintenance guidelines were established to improve the energy efficiency of server rooms
  • Replacement PCs and monitors are compliant to the Silver or Gold standard of the eco-label—Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool—covering environmental concerns such as energy efficiency, greenhouse performance, minimising hazardous materials and waste management
  • We continued to rationalise printer and multifunction devices in refurbished and new buildings, which have reduced the number of machines and contributed to reduced energy and cost
  • We continue to add environmental clauses into ICT contracts to appropriately manage e-waste, with supplier take back and responsible disposal of equipment
  • We rolled out follow-me print technology to an additional 4,000 staff as a way of improving productivity, as well as to reduce paper, toner cartridges and cost
Management and communication
  • The Environmental Sustainability Policy continued to strengthen the department’s environmental management. The policy ensures that environmental initiatives introduced provide the most environmental benefit at the least cost
  • An in-house environmental reporting system has been further developed to strengthen our reporting capability
  • There was increased use of in-house social media to promote and communicate staff messaging, such as about Earth Hour
  • Environmental standards are continuing to be introduced into procurements, which improves the environmental performance of products and suppliers
  • The department continues to support and participate in the Government Agencies Environmental Network
Motor vehicle travel
  • The department promoted leasing of environmentally-friendly vehicles for fleet use, particularly vehicles with a high Green Vehicle Guide rating
  • We reduced motor vehicle fleet numbers by 110 through a consolidation and rationalisation programme
Stationery
  • The department uses 50% recycled content copy paper for internal printers, photocopiers and multifunction devices. The remainder of the copy paper consists of virgin fibre sourced from forests that meet Programme for the Endorsement of Forestry Certification or Forest Stewardship Council standards, and complies with the independently certified ISO 14024 standard
  • For bulk external mail, most of the envelopes are made from 60% recycled content paper, and customer letters are made from reputably sourced virgin fibre paper
  • We have increased our digital record-keeping capability and have significantly reduced the number of paper-based files

Mechanisms to review and increase the effectiveness of those measures—Section 516(6)(e)

In 2014-15 we continued to enhance governance processes to review and report environmental performance. Table 99 outlines the department’s performance against the Energy Efficiency in Government Operations policy targets.

The department regularly consults its senior executive on environmental sustainability performance and uses this information to inform our annual Environmental Sustainability Plan.

Table 99: Office energy performance1
Measures and targets Target Actual 2012-13 Actual 2013-14 Actual 2014-15
Office—tenant light and power (megajoules per person) 7,500 6,986 6,330 NA1
Office—central services (megajoules per square metre) 400 330 332 NA1

1. Stationary energy reporting for 2014-15 is unavailable at the time of annual report preparation. This is due to delayed meter readings at small offices (and invoice receipt), which will have a material effect on overall energy reporting.

Page last updated: 5 February 2016

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