Appendix C - 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 set out in section 3A of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

How administered programs accord with ESD principles—section 516a(6)(a)

In 2017–18 the department administered the programs of Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support in accordance with the principles of ESD.

Fundamental considerations in administering these programs are the economic, environmental, equity and social consequences in short-term and long-term decision-making.

How outcome 1 contributed to ESD principles—section 516a(6)(b)

In 2017–18 the department continued to contribute to the principles of ESD in delivering efficient and convenient services. Departmental activities that made a direct contribution to ESD included:

  • increasing the number of online self services
  • improving the functionality of Express Plus mobile apps
  • operating mobile service centres that visit regional and rural communities
  • exploring new ways of providing digital services through a technology innovation centre.

Effect of activities on the environment—section 516a(6)(c)

To assess the risk of its activities affecting the environment, the department uses the international standard Risk Management ISO 31000:2009 and the Standards Australia handbook Managing environment-related risk HB203:2012. The department manages activities that pose the most significant risk through the department’s environmental management system, which aligns with the international standard EMS ISO 14001:2015.

In general, activities that most affect the environment are those that consume considerable resources and generate significant waste. They include:

  • building operations and refurbishments
  • use of information and communications technology
  • use and disposal of stationery supplies, including paper
  • operating vehicles.
Table 83: Resources use





Stationary energy (electricity and gas)




n/aSee footnote(a)

Transport energy (fuels)




n/aSee footnote(a)

Total energy use




n/aSee footnote(a)

Internal paper use





Letters to customersSee footnote(b)

A4 sheets




Property use

square metres




  1. Stationary and transport energy reporting for 2017–18 was unavailable prior to finalising the annual report. The department’s energy reporting is in line with the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act 2007.
  2. Paper procured by the department and letters printed by an external print provider.
Table 84: Waste, resource recovery and pollution





Net greenhouse gas emissions—energy use

tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents



n/aSee footnote(a)

Office copy paper recycling

% coverage (square metres)




Commingled recycling

% coverage (square metres)




Mobile phone recycling





Fluorescent and other lamps recycled





  1. Stationary and transport net greenhouse gas emissions for 2017–18 is unavailable prior to finalising the annual report. The department’s energy reporting is in line with the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act 2007.

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

The department’s Environmental Sustainability Policy (available at the department's website) is used to minimise the effect of activities on the environment and to drive better practice, performance and accountability.

The department assesses any proposed environmental initiative or measure by conducting a cost–benefit analysis that includes other business benefits associated with the initiative.

Table 85: Measures taken to minimise effect on the environment



Air travel

  • The department encouraged staff to use Skype and video/phone conferencing rather than air travel to attend meetings.

Building operations

  • The Green Lease Schedule requirements for landlords and tenants have improved overall energy efficiency in the department’s large offices. At 30 June 2018 there were 50 large office Green Leases.
  • National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) energy assessments were undertaken at all of the department’s Green Lease offices over 2000 mSee footnote2. At 30 June 2018, 37 were performing at or above a 4.5 Star NABERS energy rating and seven were waiting for an assessment.
  • The department’s energy performance continued to improve through upgrading LED lighting; installing master switches and timers in meeting rooms; reviewing program settings on hot water units, lighting and air conditioners; and synchronising air conditioning to security timers.
  • The department continued the rollout of a photovoltaic solar installation program to reduce greenhouse emissions and energy costs and to support local electricity grid stability.
  • The department used reputable eco-labels and other environmental standards—such as the Energy Rating Label star system for appliances—to improve environmental performance.
  • The department supported the FluoroCycle scheme to ensure that hazardous fluorescent lamps are recycled on disposal.
  • The department participated in Earth Hour 2018 to promote awareness of greenhouse emissions and to review its lighting systems.


  • Relevant software applications are virtualised on servers to improve equipment utilisation and to avoid the purchase of additional servers. The department’s data centres are located in highly energy-efficient premises.
  • The department is progressively introducing docked tablets to enable better workforce mobility. To save energy and cost, desktop PCs, docked laptops and docked tablets shut down after three hours of inactivity.
  • The department’s PCs and monitors complied with the silver or gold standard of the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool, which covers energy use, greenhouse emissions, hazardous materials and end-of-life waste.
  • The department allocated printers and multifunction devices so as to achieve maximum resource efficiency.
  • The department’s ICT contracts contained e-waste clauses that require suppliers to take back and recycle equipment and to dispose of equipment responsibly.

Management and communication

  • The department’s Environmental Sustainability Policy continued to strengthen its environmental management program.
  • The department introduced a web-based sustainability reporting system to improve reporting capability.
  • Clauses in the department’s Leasing Heads of Agreement require lessors to consider installing photovoltaic solar systems and/or upgrading to LED lighting.
  • The department continued to promote and communicate environmental initiatives inside the department.
  • The department included environmental standards in relevant procurements, to improve environmental performance at a product and supplier level.
  • The department trialled a web-based system for redeploying surplus assets across government.
  • The department continued to support and participate in the Government Agencies Environmental Network.

Motor vehicle travel

  • The department procured energy-efficient vehicles in accordance with the Australian Government Fleet Vehicle Selection Policy.
  • An electronic log book system was introduced to accurately monitor and manage vehicle use, and improve reporting quality.

Stationery (including paper)

  • More than 95% of the paper used for internal printers, photocopiers and multifunction devices was 100% recycled content paper.
  • For bulk external mail, most of the envelopes were made from 60% 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 effectiveness of those measures—section 516(6)(e)

In 2016–17 the department continued to enhance governance processes to review and report environmental performance. Table 86 below outlines the department’s performance against the Energy Efficiency in Government Operations policy targets.

Table 86: Office energy performance



Actual 2015–16

Actual 2016–17

Actual 2017–18See footnote(a)

Office—tenant light and power (megajoules per person)





Office—central services (megajoules per square metre)





  1. Stationary energy reporting for 2017–18 was unavailable prior to finalising the annual report. The department’s energy reporting is in line with the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act 2007.

Page last updated: 1 July 2019

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