Environmental Sustainability

One of the areas of most pressing public concern, this area also has some of the greatest opportunities for action.

From switching lights out and computers off to investing in variable speed drives for motors, businesses can play a significant part in protecting and restoring the environment.

It's about minimising your company's harmful impacts on the environment, and being proactive about restoration where possible.

Dead-Set Winners (low cost/effort - every company should do these)


  • Ensure you are familiar with the forthcoming Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.
  • Identify the environmental risks associated with your operations
  • Audit how much paper is used every month
  • Monitor your energy and water consumption and bills
  • If there's a sharp increase on your water meter, check to see if there is a leak
  • Set targets for reducing paper/energy/water consumption and the amount of rubbish you throw out
  • Appoint one or more staff to take responsibility for encouraging others to support environmentally-friendly behaviour
  • Bring in an expert to explain to staff the company's impact on the environment, and the difference they could make by changing their behaviour
  • Consider the whole lifecycle of a product when it is being developed
  • Keep track of relevant environmental regulation
  • Get your staff to report how many kilometres they drive to and from work each day, and report the overall figure back to them, and what it equates to in carbon emissions


  • Ask staff to help achieve your targets
  • Use your resources efficiently - minimise waste
  • When you receive unwanted mail, ask to have yourself or your company taken off the mailing list
  • Keep your own mailing lists up to date to ensure you're not sending out paper that's headed straight for the bin
  • Do what you can to mitigate environmental risks associated with your operations
  • Ensure customers are aware of the most environmentally-friendly ways to use and dispose of your products
  • Switch off lights, airconditioning, computers and other appliances when not in use - don't just leave them on stand-by
  • Don't use a screen saver - they are unnecessary, and use energy
  • When possible, switch appliances off at the power point
  • Turn hot water thermostats down to about 60 degrees (but seek advice on this)
  • Turn heater thermostats down to 24-25 degrees in summer, and 18-24 degrees in winter
  • Switch your hot water and heating systems off at night and on weekends
  • Encourage staff to dress appropriately so they are comfortable with the set temperature
  • Switch to energy-efficient light globes
  • Only print emails and documents when absolutely necessary
  • Add a footnote to emails encouraging others to print them only when absolutely necessary
  • If you must procure virgin materials, try to procure them from sustainable sources
  • Provide staff with easy-to-access recycle bins and recycle all discarded paper, bottles, etc
  • Email your annual report instead of printing it
  • Cover any gaps that let draughts in
  • Don't offer large cars as part of salary packages - promote hybrid cars or find other more environmentally-friendly incentives
  • Encourage staff to walk or cycle to work if they can
  • Coordinate car pooling (and the sharing of costs) for staff to get to and from work, and reward staff who participate
  • Site your office close to public transport
  • Make information about public transport such as timetables and maps available
  • Offer staff public transport tickets instead of taxi vouchers
  • When you host events, encourage participants to walk, cycle or use public transport
  • Only fly somewhere when absolutely necessary - teleconference or video conference if you can
  • Buy office plants that consume minimum amounts of water
  • Where possible, have deliveries made outside peak hours, to minimise the time couriers' engines are running in traffic
  • When time allows, use cycling couriers rather than those on motorcycles or in cars
  • Encourage telephone and video-conferencing to minimise travel
  • Purchase in bulk whenever possible, to minimise packaging
  • Encourage staff to quickly report leaking taps, and have them fixed promptly too
  • Have machinery serviced regularly to save on the energy costs associated with running an inefficient motor


  • Collect paper that has been used on one side for writing notes on the other
  • Provide reusable mugs and glasses, rather than plastic or paper cups
  • Use recycled materials in production
  • Re-use materials internally within your organisation
  • Procure recycled goods

  • Recycle paper; toner cartridges from printers, photocopiers and fax machines; batteries; plastics; and anything else you can. Business Recycling is a free website which provides information on local and national options for recycling materials including electronics, construction waste, paper and cardboard, food scraps, plastics, and packaging.
  • For more information on recycling electronic waste, go to Product Stewardship Australia
  • Ask suppliers whether they will take their goods back and recycle them when you've finished with them
  • Avoid having excess or returned goods end up as landfill


  • Make employees aware of your environmental efforts; this will encourage them to support and participate in your initiatives
  • Have a suggestion box where employees can deposit ideas about how the company can increase its environmental sustainability
  • Use your public profile to encourage sustainability in the community
  • Adhere to guidelines for disposing of hazardous waste
  • Reward employees for participating in or supporting your initiatives
  • Share your knowledge about environmental sustainability with your suppliers

Good Practice (require moderate investment and will provide moderate return)


  • Have an independent auditor measure your organisation's carbon footprint; identify opportunities for reduction, and set targets. Try the Carbon Reduction Institute or Emission Statement.
  • Audit energy use (particularly lighting and airconditioning) and set targets for reduction
  • Audit how much rubbish (by weight) you throw out and set targets for reduction
  • Identify any opportunities for sustainable developments as alternatives to developments that will deplete the environment
  • Take into consideration the environmental impact of your business partners and suppliers


  • Purchase equipment with low energy ratings
  • Purchase supplies with low environmental impact
  • Use car sharing to replace some/all of your car fleet
  • Replace your car fleet with hybrid cars
  • Calculate your carbon emissions; reduce as much as you can; and then offset some or all of the remainder
  • Install tanks to collect rainwater, and pipes to redirect it (to a garden, for example)
  • Install flow-restrictors on all taps
  • Provide bike racks and showers to encourage staff to cycle to work
  • Fit timers to any showers, to encourage staff to take shorter showers
  • Ensure there is nothing blocking windows, to let the maximum amount of light in
  • Install light sensors or timers, where appropriate, to reduce energy consumption
  • Buy a printer that will print on both sides of the paper, and set that function to default
  • Review the use of chemicals and water in office cleaning, and reduce where possible
  • Consider the entire lifecycle of products when they are being designed and try to ensure they will not end up as landfill
  • Minimise packaging when designing products
  • Insulate your hot water tank and pipes
  • Install double glazing to insulate windows
  • Plant any garden areas with low water use plants
  • Provide access to your products and services online to reduce customer travel
  • Install control switches so you can turn motors off when they're not in use


  • Install water re-use systems
  • Use recycled toilet paper and tissues
  • Use recycled paper for all of your printing (or some of it at the very least)


  • If you don't know where to start on your sustainability journey, or if you've started but you need some direction, consider using the Grow Me the Money 12-step program.
  • Reward employees for environmental innovations

Cutting Edge (high cost/effort with high returns)


  • Have a life cycle assessment done for one (or more) of your products or services, and work to reduce the emissions and offset the remainder. You can then have the product or service certified Greenhouse Friendly by the Federal Government.
  • Assess what impact your operations will have on the biodiversity (animal and plant life) of an area, and any related impacts on the local community


  • Make your office as "paper-less" as possible, by digitising your processes
  • Take steps to reduce any potential negative impacts on biodiversity
  • Set emissions-reduction targets
  • Use GreenPower - have your company's energy provider purchase the equivalent of some/all of your company's energy use in renewable energy (such as hydro, solar and wind). See www.greenpower.gov.au
  • Locate your business in a "green" building
  • Do away with your car fleet altogether
  • If you use machinery, attach variable speed drives to motors and/or install energy-efficient motors
  • Use only materials derived from (independently verified) sustainable sources
  • Install waterless-urinals and dual-flush toilets
  • Produce your own green energy by installing solar panels or a wind turbine

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