Annual Report 2016-17

Appendix I - Environmental performance - Annual Report 2015-16

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 2015-16 the department administered the Australian Government Drought Assistance programme in accordance with the principles of ESD. The department delivered a suite of payments to drought‑affected communities, including the Farm Household Allowance.

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

In 2015-16 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:

  • more 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

Effect of activities on the environment - Section 516A(6)(c)

Departmental activities with an impact on the environment are risk-assessed using the international standard for Risk Management ISO 31000:2009 and the Australian Standard handbook for environmental risk assessment HB203:2006. The department manages 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 significant waste. Activities that have a significant effect on the environment include:

  • building operations and refurbishments
  • use of information and communications technology (ICT)
  • use and disposal of stationery (including paper)
  • operating vehicles
Table 92: Resources use
  Units 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16
Stationary energy (electricity and gas) gigajoules 400,448 354,652 NA1
Transport energy (fuels) gigajoules 36,554 31,294 NA1
Total energy use gigajoules 437,002 385,946 NA1
Internal paper use tonnes 851 749 729
Customer letters A4 sheets 120,421,513 109,541,466 67,591,799
Property use square metres 788,942 729,543 731,977

1. Stationary energy reporting for 2015-16 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 93: Waste, resource recovery and pollution
  Measure 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16
Net greenhouse gas emissions - energy use tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents 108,613 91,799 NA1
Office copy paper recycling % coverage (square metres) 98.1 98.0 98.0
Commingled recycled % coverage (square metres) 18 20 20
Mobile phone recycling kilograms 238 331 262
Fluorescent and other lamps recycled units 2,748 6,012 3,747

1. Net greenhouse gas emissions - stationary energy reporting for 2015-16 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 is used to minimise the effect of our activities on the environment, and to drive better practice, performance and accountability.

Any environmental initiative or measure introduced is assessed using cost - benefit analysis, including the delivery of other business benefits associated with the initiative.

Table 94: Control measures and initiatives 2015-16 - resource use, and supplier and product selection
Activities Measures taken to minimise the effect on the environment
Air travel
  • The department supports 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 2016 there were 48 Green Leases for large offices
  • National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) energy assessments were undertaken at large offices over 2,000 m2. At 30 June 2016, 33 of the 36 large offices assessed were performing at or above a 4.5 Star NABERS energy rating
  • The department 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
  • The department purchased 10% Greenpower from electricity services in the Australian Capital Territory, procured through the whole-of-government electricity contract. There is also provision to take up Greenpower at any stage over the term of our large market electricity contracts
  • The department supports the FluoroCycle Scheme to ensure that hazardous fluorescent lamps are recycled on disposal
  • The department participated in Earth Hour to promote greenhouse emission awareness and to review lighting system operations
  • The department has virtualised 99% of x86 architecture-based Wintel workload and 99% of Unix workload, avoiding the purchase of additional servers
  • Data centres have been consolidated and relocated to highly energy efficient premises
  • PCs and docked laptops are shut down after 3 hours of inactivity to enable energy and cost savings
  • A server room improvement programme commenced to achieve greater power and equipment stability and energy efficiency
  • 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
  • The department continued to rationalise printer and multifunction devices in refurbished and new buildings
  • The department continues to add environmental clauses into ICT contracts to appropriately manage e-waste, with supplier take back and responsible disposal of equipment
Management and communication
  • The Environmental Sustainability Policy continues to strengthen the department's environmental management programme
  • The sustainability reporting system has been further developed to strengthen our reporting capability
  • The department continues to promote and communicate environmental programmes, such as the Earth Hour initiative, to staff using the departmental social media network
  • Environmental standards are continuing to be introduced into procurements
  • The web-based system (GovGear) was developed to facilitate the redeployment of surplus assets/items across government and help to reduce waste and extend asset life. This system will be trialled for 1 year to determine its feasibility for introduction
  • The department continues to support and participate in the Government Agencies Environmental Network
Motor vehicle travel
  • The department continues to reduce energy use and improve our energy efficiency through the procurement of four-cylinder and hybrid vehicles, and through a programme of consolidation and rationalisation of vehicles
  • An electronic log book system has been introduced to accurately monitor and manage vehicle use, and improve reporting quality
Stationery (including paper)
  • 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
  • The department has increased its digital record-keeping capability and has significantly reduced the number of paper based files

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

In 2015-16 the department continued to enhance governance processes to review and report environmental performance. Table 95 below outlines the department's performance against the Energy Efficiency in Government Operations policy targets.

Table 95: Office energy performance
Measures and targets Target Actual
Office - tenant light and power (megajoules per person) 7,500 6,330 5,650 NA1
Office - central services (megajoules per square metre) 400 332 329 NA1

1. Stationary energy reporting for 2015-16 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.

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Page last updated: 5 July 2018