Annual Report 2016-17

Appendix F - 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) and the measures taken to minimise their effect on the environment.

The ESD principles are defined in section 3A of the Act.

How administered programs accord with the principles of ESD - Section 516A(6)(A)

In 2016-17 the department administered the programs of Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support in accordance with the principles of ESD.
Fundamental to the administration of these programs are considerations of economic, environmental, equity and social consequences in short and long term decision making.

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

In 2016-17 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 contribution to ESD, included:

  • increased number of online self services
  • improved functionality of Express Plus mobile apps
  • mobile service centres that visit regional and rural communities
  • established a technology innovation centre to explore new ways of providing digital services using an outcome based approach.

Effect of activities on the Environment - Section 516A(6)(C)

Departmental activities with an effect 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 HB203:2012. 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 14001:2015.

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 supplies (including paper)
  • operating vehicles.
Table: Resources use





Stationary energy (electricity and gas)





Transport energy (fuels)





Total energy use





Internal paper use





Recipient letters

A4 sheets




Property use

square metres




  1. Stationary energy reporting for 2016-17 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: Waste, resource recovery and pollution





Net greenhouse gas emissions—energy use

tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents




Office copy paper recycling

% coverage (square metres)




Commingled recycled

% coverage (square metres)




Mobile phone recycling





Fluorescent and other lamps recycled





  1. Net greenhouse gas emissions—stationary energy reporting for 2016-17 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 is used to minimise the effect of the department’s 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: Measures taken to minimise the effect on the environment
Activities Measures taken to minimise the effect on the environment

Air travel

  • The department encourages the use of Skype and video/phone conferencing instead of staff using air travel to attend meetings.

Building operations

  • The Green Lease Schedule requirements for landlords and tenants have improved overall energy efficiency in large offices. At 30 June 2017 there were 51 large office Green Leases.
  • National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) energy assessments were undertaken at Green Lease offices over 2000 m2. At 30 June 2017, 36 were performing at or above a 4.5 Star NABERS energy rating, with seven pending an assessment.
  • The department improved its energy performance through lighting upgrades, installation of master switches and timers in meeting rooms, reviewing program 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 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 per cent of x86 architecture-based Wintel workload and 99 per cent of Unix workload, avoiding the purchase of additional servers.
  • Data centres are located in highly energy efficient premises.
  • Docked tablets are progressively being introduced to enable better workforce mobility. The docked tablets are 77 per cent more energy efficient than desktop PCs and 47 per cent more efficient than docked laptops.
  • Desktop PCs, docked laptops and docked tablets are shut down after three hours of inactivity to enable energy and cost savings.
  • PCs and monitors are compliant with the Silver or Gold standard of the eco label—Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool—covering energy use, greenhouse emissions, hazardous materials and end of life waste.
  • Printers and multifunction devices are allocated to achieve maximum resource efficiency.
  • Environmental clauses are inserted into ICT contracts to 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 program.
  • A web-based sustainability reporting system has been introduced to improve reporting capability.
  • The department continues to promote and communicate environmental initiatives to staff.
  • Environmental standards are introduced into relevant procurements to improve environmental performance at a product and supplier level.
  • A web-based system is being trialled to facilitate the redeployment of surplus assets across government.
  • The department continues to support and participate in the Government Agencies Environmental Network.

Motor vehicle travel

  • Energy efficient vehicles are procured in accordance with the Australian Government Fleet Vehicle Selection Policy.
  • 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 per cent recycled content copy paper for internal printers, photocopiers and multifunction devices. The remaining content of the copy paper consists of virgin fibre sourced from forests that meet Program for the Endorsement of Forestry Certification or Forest Stewardship Council standards. However in June, the department began to transition to 100 per cent recycled content and carbon neutral copy paper for internal use.
  • For bulk external mail, most of the envelopes are made from 60 per cent recycled content paper and 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 effectivness of those measures - Section 516(6)(E)

In 2016-17 the department continued to enhance governance processes to review and report environmental performance. The table below outlines the department’s performance against the Energy Efficiency in Government Operations policy targets.

Table: Office energy performance
Measures and targets Target Actual

Office—tenant light and power (megajoules per person)





Office—central services (megajoules per square metre)





  1. Stationary and transport energy reporting for 2016-17 is unavailable at the time of annual report preparation.
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Page last updated: 11 July 2018