Is your business fit for the future?

By Suzanne Orme

There are barriers preventing us from reaching a new era of harmony and balance – a state that must be ushered in during the 21st C if human societies hope to flourish forever on this fragile planet.

Entrenched government policy and subsidies can be counterproductive and aimed at protecting the status quo.

Yet I see a clear way through these seemingly insurmountable obstacles – a powerful key to unlock the potential of a new age – held firmly in the grasp of business owners and shareholders, both large and small.

Turning the key means unlocking the potential of business to rapidly and radically transform the world economy away from business-as-usual. The business sector and large institutional investors have immense power to bring this about.  Each day they determine how money is spent in internal operations and 3rd party procurement. They invest in innovation, technology and the design and re-design of products.

But for business decision makers and investors to exercise their power in a responsible way, they must have a clear idea of the end point in mind. Armed with a vision of the sustainable society of the future, resources can be allocated accordingly. Investment decisions are able to be evaluated by the degree to which they support – or detract – from the realisation of the desired future state.

Substantial work has been undertaken by the United Nations to create a shared vision for the collective Future We Want. In 2015 this was defined and agreed by world leaders in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)s to be achieved by the year 2030. That’s just ten years away.

In scientific circles, the notion of a “safe operating space for humanity” – proposed by Johan Rostrom and the team at the Stockholm Resilience Centre – has gathered widespread traction in recent years. It identifies the 9 planetary boundaries that it would be unsafe and risky for humanity to venture beyond.

New economic thinking has emerged too. In her enlightening book, Doughnut Economics: How to Think Like a 21stC Economist, Kate Raworth builds on the science by incorporating social systems into the circular diagram.

The centre of the doughnut depicts the ground floor – the level to which humanity must stay ABOVE if we are to meet the essential needs of all people. The outer circle is the ceiling – the level to stay BELOW if we are to protect Earth’s natural systems by operating within planetary limits.

Now is the time for companies to step through the door to the new industrial era being ushered in. We know that incremental changes will not deliver our collective vision and there is an urgent need for the business community to take bold action.

Four of the nine planetary boundaries have already been surpassed: biodiversity, climate, biogeochemical flows and land system change.

have already been surpassed – climate, biodiversity and the . Some of the social indicators have improved but many still fall well below the accepted minimum.

Raworth’s new mindset and compelling vision for a new world economy resonates with the concept of a future-fit society, described by the Future Fit Foundation – one that is environmentally restorative, socially just and economically inclusive.

There is no better way to assess and guide a company’s progress towards true sustainability than the Future-Fit Business Benchmark – a set of simple metrics and freely downloadable tools, mapped against the SDGs and shaped by experts and peers.

The future just doesn’t happen – its something we co-create. Let’s support one another on our individual and collective journeys as we learn to live and conduct  business in new ways that protect, restore and enhance the social and planetary systems on which we depend.

Why we need systems thinking

by Suzanne Orme

Albert Einstein said that we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.

That statement is truer today than ever before. The world is becoming increasingly complex and moving so rapidly that the future will look nothing like the immediate past or present.

Linear thinking – the mindset that things will basically continue on their current path – and that any effect has only one visible cause – is no longer appropriate or valid in the 21stC.

Systems thinking is an alternative mindset that involves zooming out from our individual roles and organisations to view the broader systems of which they are part.  We can  join the dots between our own actions and related effects occurring elsewhere – in other places, times and to other people. We see patterns and similarities in complex variables, relationships and behaviours to reveal possible levers for change.

Without systems thinking, decision-making can be constrained within a very narrow scope or range of issues, lacking consideration for wider or long term impacts. This myopia is like a jail, an entrapment that blocks creativity and collaborative, transparent solution-finding.

Consider the failure of a strong and timely leadership response to Institutional Child Sexual Abuse and the Climate Change Emergency. Both demonstrate myopia and short-termism on the grandest scale.

The world needs more political and business leaders with a holistic, systems mindset – a new breed of forward thinking people joining forces to co-create the Future We Want.

Today’s leaders are tasked with managing the transition from “ego to eco”, a shift that is now imperative for human survival and the protection of other species. They can harness the transformational power of systems thinking  to get us there.

Supply chain sustainability: 5 ways to exert your influence

By Suzanne Orme

There are strong business benefits to be gained by understanding and managing the sustainability issues that are significant in an organisation or industry’s supply chain.

Traditional procurement practices focus on price, product quality and on-time delivery – criteria that impact directly on the bottom line. However, through its various supply chain practices, an organisation can positively or negatively affect the local economy, the environment and people – via its labour practices, level of product responsibility and policies regarding human rights and society as a whole.

Some of the advantages of embedding sustainability considerations into procurement processes include:

  • Reducing risks (reputation, legal, environment, safety, continuity of supply, traceability and quality)
  • Achieving operational efficiencies and cost savings
  • Building mutually beneficial supply chain relationships
  • Demonstrating corporate social responsibility
  • Achieving and retaining certification to  ISO14001:2015; ISO45001:2018 and ISO9001:2015

Clause 8.1 (c) of ISO14001:2015, requires organisations to determine environmental requirement(s) for the procurement of products and services and communicate these to external providers, including contractors.

Clause of ISO45001:2018 requires organisations to co-ordinate procurement process(es) with contractors, in order to identify hazards and to assess and control OH&S risks.

The Sustainable Procurement – Guidance ISO20400:2017 provides much needed help on how to integrate sustainability into the procurement processes.

But the integration of sustainability principles into procurement processes can be complex and challenging in practice. I gained some insight into this by working with a large organisation in 2017 to review its Sustainable Procurement Policy. There were clear barriers to implementation and resistance to change.

To avoid these pitfalls, I’ve summarised the 5 main ways you can start to embed sustainability into procurement practices to make the success of your efforts more likely.

1  Securing commitment from all levels of the organisation

  • Preparing a business case
  • Conducting senior management workshops
  • Articulating a vision and long term goals
  • Defining roles and responsibilities
  • Building internal support for the program

2  Getting agreement about the sustainability impacts that are relevant and important

  • Creating a process for determining the “materiality” or significance of each aspect
  • Identifying key suppliers and other external interested parties
  • Conducting stakeholder engagement
  • Mapping issues important to stakeholders against business considerations

3  Identifying any significant issues that lie further up or down-stream

  • Considering the full life-cycle of a product system
  • Identifying and adjusting the organisation’s procurement practices
  • Phasing out unsustainable products
  • Working with suppliers to resolve issues

4  Effectively communicating expectations and requirements

  • Creating a Code of Conduct
  • Communicating the company’s expectations to suppliers
  • Requesting a supplier’s self-assessment
  • Monitoring the supplier’s performance
  • Conducting supplier and contractor evaluations

5  Supporting people in procurement roles

  • Developing policies to guide people in making better decisions.
  • Creating assessment checklists for new or changed processes, materials and products
  • Screening of suppliers and factories
  • Searching for the most sustainable products
  • Call us on +61 294111764 if you need help

 Call us on +61 294111764 if you need help

This article was updated to reflect the Sustainable Procurement Guidance –  ISO20400:2017 and the international OH&S standard ISO45001:2018



Are your management system documents out of control?

by Suzanne Orme

At last things are getting easier!

Long gone are the “typing pool” days of the 70’s and 80’s. The 90’s heralded the age of the “e-document”, predominantly Microsoft Word and Excel. There was a shift away from the massive archives of printed materials that waste paper and create a fire hazard. But this leap forward came with a downside.

We all know that the enhanced ability to create, modify and transmit documents quickly has encouraged excessive documentation coupled with the ongoing challenge of controlling and keeping them up to date. What typically happens?

  • People access an earlier, superseded version
  • Records are inadvertently deleted or lost
  • There are too many forms to fill in and registers to update
  • People have difficultly finding a particular document
  • People print documents or copy the “controlled” version onto their desktop

Any of this sound familiar?

Thankfully the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO), has come to the fore by reducing the emphasis on documentation for HSEQ Management. For Environmental Management Systems, ISO14001:2015, there are 32 clauses containing requirements. Only 18 of these explicitly state that the organisation must “maintain documented information”. For ISO45001:2018 Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems, there are 17 such clauses.

The extent of documented information will vary due to these factors:

  • Size or the organisation and its activities, products and services
  • Need to demonstrate fulfilment of compliance obligations
  • Complexity of processes and their interactions
  • Competence of persons doing work under the organisation’s control

Some alternatives to documents include: visual aids; engineering controls; training; supervision; demonstration and experience. Information may be incorporated into alternative media such as videos; photos; electronic signs and mobile phone alerts, to name just a few.

Now is a great time to assess whether each document in the management system is needed and if there is anything missing. I’ve created a set of questions that can assist you in this endeavour.

  • Does the document duplicate another document?
  • Is there a legal or contractual requirement to create a record or report?
  • Does the ISO standard state a requirement to maintain or retain documented information?
  • Would the lack of a document create an operational or strategic risk?
  • Could the document be integrated with another document?
  • Is the document needed for training or communication purposes?

Since the release of ISO45000:2018, the desire to integrate Workplace Health and Safety with Quality and Environmental Management can be much more easily accomplished.

Call us on +61 294111764 if you need help

A view from the inside

by Suzanne Orme

Successful audits are a win-win for the community and for businesses wanting to prove to themselves and others that they do what they say they do . By examining a business from the inside out an auditor confirms that the company is meeting the expectations of all interested parties.

Let’s think of the analogy of clothing.

When garments are viewed from the outside in there may be a glossy brand image, attractive packaging or convenience features.  Only when the clothes are turned inside out do the seams, patterns and structure become visible and understood.

What you see is the other side of the same thing. The garment hasn’t been deconstructed – just viewed in a different light, in all its reality, worts and all. The strengths and positives are seen and admired – the reinforced seams and new, unfaded materials and the creative effort applied to its design. But a closer look reveals some weaknesses – the fraying hems, broken stitching, worn fabric and repaired holes.

Just like a jumper that looks OK when its being worn, the deterioration of a company’s standards relating to environmental protection are not immediately apparent to key stakeholders – senior management, customers, the community, financial institutions and government regulators. Not until something unfortunate happens.

Like a loose button or pulled thread there’s been a deterioration – a few people left untrained, a couple of procedures not followed, a key piece of pollution control equipment not maintained. And so forth.

The loose thread may be spotted and repaired in time but when left unattended, things begin to unravel. In time the loose button will fall off  – there’s a major pollution incident or regulatory breach along with the high price of clean up, medical costs, fines, legal fees and loss of company reputation.  Ouch!

All elements of an Environmental Management System – like the level of training and competence and the effectiveness of operational controls – need to be rigorously checked by a program of regular internal and external audits.

The close scrutiny of a good auditor will warn the business owner(s) of weaknesses and threats so that corrective action can be taken before it is too late.

Enviroease consultants have years of experience in both audits and assessments.

Call us on +61 294111764 if you need help

This article was updated to reflect the revised ISO19011:2018 Guideline for Auditing Management Systems.


Opportunity: a new way to think about risk

by Suzanne Orme

People usually think of risk as a bad thing –  the exposure to danger, harm or the potential for losing something of value.  Whilst it is essential that business leaders identify and reduce the likelihood of these consequences, it is equally important to consider how the same sources of risk can represent opportunities to strengthen the business.

I’ve recently discovered that the added-value potential of opportunities can be determined in a very similar way to assessing the risk of harm. Its not at all difficult and can add rigour to the planning process, highlighting the actions for the business to prioritise.

The new ISO management system standards define risk as the “effect of uncertainty”.  An effect is “a deviation from the expected – positive and/or negative”. Uncertainty is the “state, even partial, of deficiency of information related to, understanding or knowledge of, an event, its consequences and likelihood”.  This tells us that risk is not necessarily a “bad” – its just something we all need to manage.

Non-fulfilment of interested parties’ expectations poses strategic risks beyond mere reputational damage – loss of a key customer, huge financial penalties, court action or revocation of the site license to operate.

Executives who are proactive and improvement-focused determine key stakeholders and put processes in place to actively engage with them.  Common expectations that relate to the environment are the prevention of pollution, energy and resource efficiency, biodiversity conservation and the minimisation of nuisance impacts – noise, vibration, odour and dust.

For worker health and safety, its the elimination of hazards and the systematic reduction of work-place accidents, injury and ill-health. Many of these broad expectations are shared by more than one stakeholder group – so its not too difficult to conduct a simple, top level review and keep it up-to-date.

But let’s be mindful that businesses don’t exist in a vacuum. Proper identification of the sources of risk and opportunity involves more than knowing customers. It involves scanning the entire internal and external environment to determine the relevant issues at any given time.

Consider the political/regulatory situation; economic/financial issues; social/community expectations; technological advancements and the natural environment – mother nature herself. These are sources of risk and opportunity that are constantly changing.

Most HSEQ systems lack a clear and transparent process for stakeholder needs identification, risk and opportunities assessment and the incorporation of risk in decision making. But doing this well is not only good business practice, its a requirement of the new international standards.

Call us on +61 294111764 if you need help

This article was updated in May 2018 to reflect the release of ISO45001:2018. 

Don’t just survive….thrive!

This article was update to reflect the UN SDGs.

by Suzanne Orme

People often ask “what is sustainability?” It means maintaining the quality or condition of something into the future. But  this begs the question – “what is it we are trying to sustain?”

Economists may focus on maintaining economic growth and place a high value on GDP and jobs. Conservationists may desire to maintain environmental quality and place a high value on species and ecosystem biodiversity.  Social justice advocates may desire to maintain social systems and place a high value on human rights, equality and the eradication of poverty. So in recent years the word “sustainability” has come to mean a basic level of economic AND social AND environmental sustainability.

What does this mean for Australian businesses?

Check out what other Australian organisations are doing to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)s.  Add your own project!

Business owners may desire to sustain an income to retirement, pass a viable business onto family members or protect shareholders’ investments and value. So it follows that, as a minimum, businesses must be economically sustainable to simply survive.

But businesses that embrace social sustainability tend to thrive. They maintain mutually beneficial relationships with employees, contractors, suppliers, customers and the local community. These relationships often have the financial benefit of increasing sales and the environmental benefit of a green supply chain. They create a positive company profile and customer and community support.

Businesses that embrace environmental sustainability  tend to thrive even more. They minimise their use of resources such as energy, raw materials and water.  They eliminate or reduce the amount of hazardous materials, emissions and waste. They in turn, reap financial benefits from reducing input costs and waste disposal fees through to eliminating the high cost of clean up, lost time, rehabilitation, fines, legal fees and customer backlash.

Increasingly business owners and shareholders are taking a broader view of risks by considering the effect that a business may have on the environment and people.   They aim to continually improve their performance in order to thrive in today’s complex and demanding world.

Adopted by world leaders in September 2015, the  United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)  gave us a clear picture of what sustainability looks like.  Every business can contribute in ways small or large and thrive as a result!

What makes effective training?

by Suzanne Orme

Deciding how much and what type of health, safety and environmental  training to conduct in your workplace can be a daunting task. Here are 5 tips to guide you through the maze.

1. Focus on high risk

Refer to the site’s Hazard/Aspect Register or Risk Register to establish the workplace tasks that may result in harm to people and the environment.  Determine the roles or job function of people commonly undertaking those tasks. For high risk activities there should be written procedures that outline the steps to take and the operating criteria that must be in place. These can form the basis of the training program.

2. Make the training measurable

Develop competency criteria for each of the high risks tasks that may cause harm. Ask “What should any person be able to do before they are allowed to work without supervision? What do they need to know? What level of language, literacy, and numeracy is required for them to function effectively?” Create a minimum set of performance criteria and a method of assessing individuals against them. For example: an observational checklist or a verbal or written test.

3. Cater for individual differences

Individuals who will be acting in the above roles may have been assessed as having skills and knowledge at a lower level than the minimum acceptable standard. Decide on the best method to address any identified weaknesses. Different approaches include one-to-one supervision or mentoring, tool box talk, an in-house group training course or a public training course by a Registered Training Organisation (RTO).

Recognise existing knowledge, skills and job-related experience when planning the approach to training and assessment. Develop training materials that are tailored to the learner’s level of LLN. In mixed groups this can be a challenge so include alternative techniques to support those with LLN difficulties.

4. Keep records

Keep records of the results of competency assessments and the actions taken when the learner was regarded as not yet competent. Retain records of training content, training provider’s qualifications and participant’s names. Even if the training is a simple “toolbox talks” you must keep a list of attendees with their signatures to confirm that they received the training.

Remember: “If there are no records, it didn’t happen”

5. Evaluate the effectiveness of the training

All elements of the training program should be evaluated to determine whether the goals of the training have been met. Are people competent? Have there been any incidents or near misses? Are people aware of how their workplace tasks may cause a significant environmental impact? Change the training content, techniques or provider to correct any weaknesses or deficiencies so that the training program improves over time.

Enviroease has 18 years experience delivering on-site customised courses direct to clients. We also deliver Nationally recognised management system training (ISO14001:2015;  AS/NZS4801:2001 and ISO19011 auditor training) on behalf of Exemplar Global accredited Registered Training Organisations.

Call us on +61 294111764 if you need help

Article reviewed to update the last section on experience and newer versions of international standards.

Do you possess these 7 leadership qualities?

by Suzanne Orme

Leadership is the process of leading for change rather than stability. Great leaders possess a set of abilities that enable them to recognise the need for change, create a vision to guide that change, and execute the change effectively.

The challenges posed by globalisation, resource depletion, growing global population and climate change present an urgent need for a shift from business-as-usual. A special type of leader is needed to tackle these complex issues and embed sustainability thinking into every business decision.

According to Poly Courtice, a Director of Cambridge University’s Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL),

“A leader is someone who crafts a vision and inspires people to act collectively to make it happen, responding to whatever changes and challenges arise along the way.

A sustainability leader is someone who inspires and supports action towards a better world.”       

CISL’s research suggests the following seven key characteristic traits and styles are among the most important in distinguishing the leadership approach taken by individuals tackling sustainability issues:

  • Systemic, interdisciplinary understanding
  • Emotional intelligence and a caring attitude
  • Values orientation that shapes culture
  • A strong vision for making a significant difference
  • An inclusive style that engenders trust
  • A willingness to innovate and be radical, and
  • A long-term perspective on impacts

The International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) have acknowledged the importance of leadership and commitment in business management. In the revised international standards, ISO14001 and 9001, leadership has been placed at the core of the high level management system structure


In the revised standards, leaders have a stronger role in communicating the importance of HSEQ management and in directing and supporting persons who can contribute to its success. Some ways that Senior Management can demonstrate the new leadership requirements are through the setting of objectives that are compatible with the company’s strategic direction; creating processes and procedures that require staff to apply HSE criteria in procurement and allocating resources for improvement initiatives. Leaders may delegate responsibility for certain tasks but retain accountability for ensuring that the intended outcomes are reached.

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Turning the tide of ocean exploitation

by Suzanne Orme

A large expansion of marine sanctuaries, stronger enforcement of laws to prevent illegal fishing and better consumer information are the keys to protect marine biodiversity and fish stocks.  Seafood is a food source for 3,000 million people worldwide according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the US (FAO) (6).

In 2012 the Australian government created the largest network of protected marine areas anywhere in the world…. a great step forward.  But according to the IUCN and UNEP (1) only 1.6% of the world’s oceans have this level of protection and continue to be at risk of overexploitation.

The world’s oceans are the last frontier, a modern day example of Gareth Hardin’s  “tragedy of the commons”.

This is because the greatest risk to global fish stocks today is overfishing. According to another study from the FAO, (2) only 15% of fisheries are considered under or moderately exploited meaning they are able to produce more than their current yields.

The proportion of marine fish stocks that are overexploited or collapsed has increased considerably in recent decades and was valued at up to US$36 billion in 2000 by one study published in the journal Bionature (4).

An international agreement that balances biodiversity protection with sustainable management of seafood resources has the potential to set up the framework for international cooperation on this important issue.

According to one report from UNEP (5), a priority is the removal of unrealistic quotas and government subsidies of US$27,000million/yr that encourage an expansion capacity “by a factor of two relative to the ability of fish to reproduce”.

Ultimately better consumer information and labelling are the keys to successful transformation of the fishing industry. While one research study (3) indicated that in 2007 only 7% of fish products were certified as coming from sustainable fisheries, the number of certifications is now rapidly increasing.

Market changes are being driven by some major supermarket chains and branded canned fish producers implementing sourcing policies that favour certified Marine Stewardship Council  labelled seafood.   The Australian Marine Conservation Society is an NGO that provides an on –line sustainable seafood guide and an phone “app”. These can be accessed at:

Greenpeace have produced a guide to the canned fish products currently on Australian supermarket shelves. Access the guide at:

There are two simple questions to ask….  Firstly “Where does this fish come from?” and secondly “How has it been caught?”

Stronger labelling and an informed and enlightened public that is in possession of the facts have the potential to turn the tide of ocean exploitation.



1)  IUCN and UNEP-WCMC (2011) The World Database on Protected areas  http://www.wdpaorg

(2)  FAO (2010) The State of the World Fisheries and Aquaculture (2010), Food and Agriculture Organisation, Rome

(3) Jacquet, J. et al Conserving wild fish in a sea of market-based efforts. Oryx 44(1) 45-56

(4) Srinivasan, U.T et al (2010) Food security implications of global marine catch losses due to overfishing. Journal of Bioeconomics 12, 183 -200

(5) UNEP ( 2011)Towards a Green Economy: Pathways to Sustainable Development

and Poverty Eradication – A Synthesis for Policy Makers. United Nations

Environment Programme, St-Martin Bellevue

(6) FAO (2011). Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. Food and Agriculture

Organization, Rome

How do you take a life cycle perspective?

by Suzanne Orme

While presenting a series of one day courses on behalf of SAI Global entitled “Preparing for the transition to ISO14001:2015″ I became aware that one of the concepts in the Standard is new to many people. Its the taking of a “life cycle perspective”.

So, what does this mean?

A life cycle is defined in the Standard as the “consecutive and interlinked stages of a product system, from raw material acquisition or generation from natural resources to end-of-life treatment”.

Life cycle assessment has been around since the 1990’s and is often called the “cradle-to-grave” approach for assessing industrial systems. This begins with the gathering of raw materials from the earth to create the product and ends at the point when all materials are returned to the earth.

LCA enables the estimation of the cumulative environmental impacts resulting from all stages in the product life cycle, often including impacts not considered in more traditional analyses (e.g., raw material extraction, material transportation, ultimate product disposal, etc.).

By including the impacts throughout the product life cycle, LCA provides a comprehensive view of the environmental aspects of the product or process and a more accurate picture of the true environmental trade-offs in product and process selection.

It should be noted that a full LCA on each product is not a requirement of ISO14001:2015. The introduction of the term “life cycle perspective” will simply translate into a stronger expectation for companies to consider how their decisions impact further upstream or downstream of its operations.

They will need to demonstrate how they used their influence on suppliers, contractors, customers and consumers to improve sustainability across the supply chain.

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This article was updated to remove the word “draft” after the final version of ISO14001 was published.

Envisioning a clean water future

By Suzanne Orme

There have been large improvements in the quality of the world’s water resources over the last 25 years. Since 1990, 2.1 billion people have gained access to improved sanitation. The UN estimate that 91% of the global population uses an improved drinking water source, compared to 76% in 1990.1 That’s the good news. Now for the challenges.

Agricultural and coastal development and inadequate sanitation near river catchments still cause significant amounts of sediments, nitrogen, phosphorus and pesticides to be washed into the world’s seas.

Nitrate concentrations continue to climb and recently the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) reported 169 coastal dead zones across the globe with only 13 recovering and 415 coastal areas suffering a reduction in dissolved oxygen.2  The association with coral bleaching and polluted run off is well known.3

In 2012, 288 million tons of plastic were manufactured globally and 8 million tonnes of this was dumped into the world’s oceans.5 Almost 90% of the marine debris found on Sydney’s beaches is plastic, mostly bottles, caps and straws.6

Ocean plastic has been found in the deep sea and buried in Arctic ice. It has been ingested with dire consequences by some 700 species of marine wildlife. The plastic doesn’t break down completely and some of it ends up in the seafood we eat.

A clear role for business

As 80% of marine pollution comes directly from sources on land 2, improved practices by factories, farms, transport operations, mines, construction sites, oil and gas facilities and power generation plants can make a significant difference to the state of the world’s oceans, rivers and ground water quality. To contribute to cleaner oceans, businesses can adopt the following steps.

1 Develop an understanding of water quality issues relevant to each facility

Identify all types of effluent and pollution leaving the company’s operations as surface or groundwater in a typical year. Record the total number and volume of significants spills, their location, volume and the specific contaminant. Find out the total water discharged by quality and destination and whether these were planned or unplanned; the water treated or untreated and the amount that was used by another organisation, meaning it was diverted from release into the environment.

2 Determine the level of associated threats, risks and impacts

Consider potential risks associated with the effluent and pollutant discharges you’ve identified. These may include fines, legal costs, loss of licence to operate, clean up costs, negative media, harm to flora and fauna, human health impacts and economic impacts on farms and fisheries.

3 Seek out ways to achieve zero water pollution leaving the facility

Go through a process of identifying and assessing improvement ideas. Aim to eliminate the discharge of oils/fuel, chemicals, sediment and solid waste into stormwater drains or areas where rivers and groundwater could be adversely affected. 100% of runoff should meet ANZECC water quality guidelines for the concentration of nutrients phosphorus and nitrogen, acidity, dissolved oxygen, salinity and turbidity. Investigate whether there are ways to treat waste water for re-use in another process. If there is an EPA licence or trade waste agreement (TWA) set an objective that all water quality samples will meet the required parameters.

4 Use your company’s influence to have a positive impact elsewhere

There may be opportunities to improve water quality by undertaking remedial works outside the company’s operations. Some performance indicators around this might be:

  • The number of or Km2 of local creeks or rivers rehabilitated
  • The no. of, kilolitres or percentage of spills cleaned up and the specific contamination eliminated
  • Kilolitres and percentage of total sewage or effluent treated for re-use by another organisation
  • The Kg or number of pieces of litter cleaned up from local streams, river or beaches, for example on “Clean Up Australia Day”

Your company may be able to improve water quality indirectly through the purchase of resources, provision of products and services, R & D processes and supply chain collaboration. For example, researchers at Flinders University have developed a new polymer that cleans up mercury from waterways, soil and groundwater using waste sulphur from the petroleum industry and waste limonene from the citrus industry. 4

Health and Beauty multinationals, Unilever and Proctor & Gamble are phasing out the use of microplastic ingredients in their facial scrubs and other cosmetic and toiletry products. 7

We have a range of services to help you improve the way that water discharges and spills are managed across your company’s operations.

Call us on +61 294111764 if you need help












How to achieve ZERO net carbon emissions from vehicles

By Suzanne Orme

It might surprise you that the cost to offset your vehicle emissions is only 2.5-3% of the annual fuel bill, much less than the average fluctuation in fuel prices experienced in the past 12 months.

Its easy to offset the greenhouse gases from the combustion of fuel in your company operated cars, trucks, mobile plant and other vehicles. Here are 3 simple steps to follow to obtain accurate emission estimates and achieve genuine carbon neutrality for your vehicle fleet.

The same steps can be applied to your private vehicles too. Note: to calculate indirect emissions from vehicles your company doesn’t operate such as trains, planes, taxis and rental cars, you’ll need to use different methods than those outlined below.

 Step 1: Gather activity data

Gather all the fuel receipts for the previous financial year and total up the number of litres of each type of fuel used by each vehicle.  It is important to retrieve the data for ALL vehicles for the WHOLE year so the information is complete.   Do not use kilometres travelled and average fuel efficiency for this purpose.  Get the actual consumption of fuel to achieve the most accurate estimate. Do keep records for reporting and verification purposes.

Example: Small fleet of trucks

During the 2014-15 financial year a company purchased 100,000 litres of E10 petrol and 500,000 litres of diesel for the vehicle fleet.  The information was readily available from the fuel cards issued to staff with company cars and trucks.

Step Two: Calculate emissions

Next simply convert the number of litres into kilolitres by dividing by 1,000, then multiplying this figure by the emission factor in the table below to get the number of tonnes of CO2-e.  The little “e” means that the total will include the other greenhouse gases – methane and nitrous oxide as well as carbon dioxide. If any of the vehicles have used biodiesel such as B5, B20 or B100 or a petrol/ethanol blend such as E10, just calculate the proportion separately then add up the total. Too easy!

Example: Small Fleet of trucks

The table shows that the total emissions from the car fleet in the above example were estimated to be 1,565 tonnes.

Type of fuel used

Kilolitres of fuel


Emission Factor GHGs *

Tonnes of CO2-e













LNG (light duty vehicle)


LNG (heavy duty vehicle)











* Source of emission factors:  Table 4: Fuel combustion emission factors – fuels used for transport energy purposes. The National Greenhouse Accounts (NGA) Factors, December 2014  prepared by the Australian Government Department of the Environment for use by companies and individuals to estimate greenhouse gas emissions. 

Step Three: Purchase offsets

Go on-line to find a reputable carbon offset retailer, then purchase offsets for the number of tonnes you calculated in step 2.  To avoid the risk that the offset does not represent genuine emission reduction (or removal from the atmosphere), make sure that you only EVER purchase verified carbon offsets. Reliable verifiers include, but are not limited to, VCS, NCOS, Gold Standard, Gold Power and Greenfleet. Some sellers will allow you to choose the actual project that your money will help fund such as Tasmanian native forest protection, Australian wind energy or sustainable development projects in third world countries.  Currently carbon credits will cost between $13 and $33 per tonne. For more information and advice go to the independent source: 

Example: Small Fleet of trucks

The annual fuel bill in our example was $840,000 ($1.40/litre average fuel price x 600,000 litres) and at $15/tonne, the carbon credits will cost 2.8% of the total fuel bill .

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One small paradox

by Suzanne Orme

The notion that we are powerlessness to act in the face of global challenges is being questioned by forward-thinking people the world over.

Regardless of their role in society, more and more individuals are perceiving themselves as tiny parts of a greater whole, as citizens of the planet, governed first and foremost by natural laws and principles of universal. They are  exercising their freedom to make considered choices to live within natural planetary boundaries while considering their impact on others.

The paradox

This humbling realisation of smallness need not make one feel powerLESS. In many cases it leads to empowerMENT. As individuals with a common ethos, some people now perceive themselves as global citizens connecting with likeminded people living in any part of the world.

The fact that there is a transition already happening to this unstoppable idea is clear.  It is evidenced by this year’s rising up of younger people in the School Climate Change Strikes and the  Extinction Rebellion protests.

Western society is transitioning to a new era, hastened by a wave of eco-awareness combined with technological advancement and enhanced connectivity.

The 20th paradigm of “big is better” is being supplanted by “smarter and more efficient”.  It manifests in micro technology, small-localised markets and consumer choices to smaller, more efficient cars and houses.

As business leaders we need to be aware of an embrace these changes. The green economy has been assessed as presenting a $21trillion potential to 2030.

This article, originally published in 2016, has been updated to reflect events of 2018-19


Is your company at risk of waste dumping?

by Suzanne Orme

Large fines, jail terms and damage to a company’s reputation can easily result from failing to effectively manage the risks associated with waste disposal in NSW.

If waste is illegally dumped on land that is not licenced as a waste facility and harms the environment, the maximum penalty is $5million or a 7 year jail sentence. Illegally transporting waste, or causing it to be taken to a place that cannot lawfully receive the waste can cost $1million. Other states also have high fines.

These figures are staggering but while waste represents a compliance issue for all companies, the amount of effort and time spent should be consistent with the degree of risk imposed.  A key issue is that as producer of waste or a consignor of waste from another facility, your company is responsible for ensuring that high-risk waste is properly tracked.  This means you must not allow it to leave your facility unless you are sure that the necessary documentation and checks have first been completed.

To determine whether the waste must be tracked refer to Schedule 1 of the NSW Waste Regulation (2005).  If the final destination is interstate check that State’s regularly requirements which may differ.

All trackable waste loads must be accompanied by a hard copy Transport Certificate (TC) which is derived from the Consignment Authorisation (CA) from the person authorised to transport the waste. The relevant sections of the TC must be signed off as correct by you or your agent (the consignor), the transporter and receiving facility.

The TC contains information such as the character of the waste (solid, liquid, sludge, compressed gas or a combination of types); waste classification (based on the Environmental Guidelines); Waste code; Waste description and Dangerous Good properties.

To manage risks of illegal waste dumping, question the contractors you are dealing with and don’t assume that everything is correct. Go on line to check that the Environment Protection Licence for the landfill or waste processing facility covers the type of waste you are sending. Obtain copies of licenses of drivers of vehicles transporting trackable waste to make sure they are authorised to drive the vehicle.

If you are concerned about what has happened to previous waste shipments, ask the receival facility for completed TCs. These provide information on all stages of the waste movement – picked up, arrived, accepted or rejected, rejected/delivered, processed and they must be kept for 4 years.

Consider obtaining a user ID for the free on-line waste tracking system where you can access this information and keep your eye on what is happening.

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Get ready for risk based licensing

By Suzanne Orme

Failure to develop and implement an Environmental Management System (EMS) at each site could become a costly exercise as the NSW EPA progresses towards its risk based licencing system.

The EPA will change the calculation of licence administration fees by introducing an Environmental Management Category – either A, B, C, D or E. The Category will act as a multiplier to the fee, resulting in either an increase, decrease (or no change). For example any sites classified as “E” will have their fee doubled, those classed as an “A” will be recognised as having the highest level of performance and receive a 5% reduction.

New approach under the Protection of the Environment Operations (General) Amendment (Licensing Fees) Regulation 2013

  • Each licence will be allocated an overall risk level of 1, 2 or 3. A higher risk level may result in more intensive monitoring and reporting obligations on the licensee.
  • Each site will be allocated an environmental management category considering the site’s enforcement history and regulatory actions, if any.  Answering “yes” to the question “Does the licensee have an EMS certified to ISO14001?” provides an automatic reduction of 40 points.  If the EMS is not certified, certain elements of a system such as records of regulator training earn points.

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One stop shock for Australia’s biodiversity

by Suzanne Orme

The aim of reducing so-called green tape via a “one stop shop” for environmental approvals is counterproductive and likely to result in a more rather than less complexity for Australian business.

While faster approvals will undoubtedly stimulate the economy, an inadequate level of community consultation is predicted to result in legal action from communities and groups pursuing other avenues to protect their land and wildlife. This makes no sense for businesses, individual people, communities or the natural environment.

Biodiversity is the variety of life forms including different animals, plants and microorganisms, the genes they contain and ecosystems they form. Diversity means richness and resilience to threats. All biodiversity indicators were assessed as being in a poor state in latest State of the Environment Reports.

1,340 plants and 445 species of animals are listed as National Threatened Species. Despite the efforts undertaken, there are recovery plans for only 10% of species. Sadly only one species has been taken off the endangered list since 1993, the saltwater crocodile..

Australia is a signatory to the 1993 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) an internationally binding treaty.

The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) fulfils Australia’s international obligations giving legal protection to eight matters of National and international importance, among them threatened species, wetlands of international significance and migratory species.

But the amendments to the EPBC Act will have far reaching consequences for Australia’s biodiversity. The changes involve Bilateral agreements whereby state or territory governments will both assess and approve, on the Commonwealth’s behalf, projects and activities such as land clearing that potentially impact on plant and animal species.

Unfortunately most state governments have a poor track record of safeguarding the environment against environmentally destructive development.

Take Gladstone Harbour in Queensland for instance. The EIS guidelines fail to answer a  fundamental question: how can further port expansion, millions of cubic meters of dredge spoil dumped in marine habitat and thousands more coal ships travelling through the already stressed Great Barrier Reef every year not adversely impact biodiversity?

An independent report commissioned by commercial fishermen seeking answers to long-running disease issues in fish stated “the epidemiological pattern is suggestive of a common water-borne irritant across all groups…one (cause) is exposure to dredge spill and associated toxicants” (Source: The Courier Mail April 20, 2012).

There are two features of Australia’s environmental regulatory framework  to consider here. Firstly, that the Federal government has, up to now, effectively vetoed state developments that would have been environmental devastating.

Well known examples are the Franklin Dam and polluting pulp mills in Tasmania; Sand mining on World Heritage Fraser Island in Queensland; and uranium mining at Coronation Hill in the Northern Territory.

There is good reason to maintain a healthy separation of powers between the assessment and approval process so that vested interests at state level do not overshadow the goal of biodiversity protection.

The second feature of environmental law in Australia to consider is the sheer complexity of different environmental legislation in every state.  A person fulfilling the role of National Health, Safety, Environment or Sustainability Manager must be across 8 sets of legislation, each with slightly different legal ramifications.

If reducing complexity, costs and delays is the genuine aim of legislative reform, then a more effective strategy would be greater harmonisation of environmental law across the Australian states and territories.  This would do a lot more to ease the compliance burden for Australian business than the “one stop shop”.


What the revised ISO14001 means for you

By Suzanne Orme

An updated version of ISO14001 was published in September 2015.

The new version is intended to maintain and improve the basic principles and existing requirements of ISO14001:2004.  The new elements and requirements, summarised below, bolt on fairly easily to any ISO14001 based system.

However the new clause numbers and structure pose more of a challenge.  It is based on a new high level structure for Management System Standards, called Annex XL, different from the “plan-do-check-act” principle that management system practitioners are familiar with.

Changes include:

  • Specific responsibilities for people in leadership roles to promote environmental management within the organisation.
  • A new requirement to understand environmentally-related organisational risks and opportunities and to integrate those that are critical into operational planning.
  • An expanded expectation to commit to proactive initiatives to protect the environment which can include sustainable resource use, climate change mitigation and adaptation and protecting biodiversity and ecosystems.
  • A shift in emphasis from continual improvement of the management system to improvement of environmental performance
  • An extension of control and influence beyond procured goods and services to  product use and end-of-life treatment or disposal.
  • The development of a communication strategy with equal emphasis on external and internal communication and quality of information.
  • Use of the words “documented information” instead of “documents and records” recognising the use of computerised systems.

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This article was updated after release of the standard.

Opportunities emerge in carbon and energy

by Suzanne Orme

If one or more of your company’s facilities has some carbon and energy saving ideas that haven’t come to fruition, now is the time to firm up the program with quotes and calculations of CO2-e reduction potential. The 2015 financial year will offer smart companies the chance to benefit from new Federal Government rebates.

While support for renewable energy generation has waned under the Coalition Government, recently released draft legislation has some interesting features to note. Consistent with Canberra’s intention to commence the Direct Action Plan following repeal of the carbon tax sometime later this year, the government released the Emission Reduction Fund White Paper earlier in May.

Under this legislation a much wider range of people and businesses will be able to plan one or more emission reduction projects and enter into a contract to secure funding from the Federal government prior to implementation. The Clean Energy Regulator will have an expanded role to manage this process.

The new legislation builds upon the Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI) introduced under Labor, that provides for land based and certain waste sector projects.  Reforesting and revegetating marginal lands, improving agricultural soils and managing savannah grassland fires will remain and there will be arrangements for existing CFI projects to transition over to the new scheme.

The Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative) Amendment Bill 2014 outlines how to register projects, the methodologies, reporting, auditing and purchasing of Australian Carbon Credit Units.

Projects will need to be new and not required by law or unlikely to occur because of other state, territory of federal government funding. Methods will be approved by an independent Emission Reduction Assurance Committee setting out the rules for estimating reductions so they are both real and additional – that is, wouldn’t have occurred under “business as usual”. A menu of Emission Reduction methods will be released enabling the proponent to choose the method that best suits the project.

Of interest to many more businesses will be the inclusion of sector wide activities such as increased energy efficiency in homes, industrial facilities, commercial buildings, upgrading vehicles and improving transport logistics. Examples of more specific sector activities include reducing electricity generator emissions and capturing waste coal mine gas and the currently popular capture of landfill gas for generating energy. As reducing carbon emissions for many businesses focuses on cutting  electricity and fossil fuels, the steep energy price hikes in recent years already give a strong incentive to implement energy conservation measures.   After all cheapest watt is the “negawatt” – the one you haven’t had to buy.

But where the cost-benefit ratio or ROI of a new initiative is considered borderline, a  firm contract  for the purchase of ACCU’s can be used to obtain secure finance from banks and other financial institutions.

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Post election carbon update

While the dust settles from the ballot box result on Sept 7, Australian businesses will need to stay tuned to developments in the carbon space over the next 12 months. There will be both risks and opportunities emerging from the large policy shift from Labor’s Clean Energy Futures package to the Coalition’s Direct Action Plan (DAP).

Australian businesses will go through an extended period of uncertainty about the price of energy and what their direct legal obligations will be. It is disappointing that the lack of a bipartisan policy by the major parties on Climate Change will stifle investment in clean technology at a point when it has started to take off.   Progression towards an emissions trading scheme, the least cost abatement option for the economy, has been derailed.

The Coalition has vowed to introduce carbon tax repeal legislation within 100 days of coming to power but this will undoubtedly be blocked by the Senate which will still be controlled by Labor, independents and Greens until July 2014.

If a repeal bill is presented and knocked back twice, the Coalition would have  grounds for a double dissolution of parliament and new election. Whether this occurs or not, the composition of the post July 2014 Senate raises questions as to whether the Direct Action Plan, in its current form will ever be allowed to pass. A satisfactory resolvement of the climate change issue could take many years unless the political parties can find a way to work together.

Meanwhile, “liable entities”, those whose activities exceed 25kilotonnes of CO2 will continue to have to buy ACCUs at the legislated price and forfeit one unit for every tonne of CO2 emitted in the previous financial year. Audits will continue and its  business-as-usual in carbon reporting.

What is clear is that the renewable energy sector will get far less support under the DAP.  The Clean Energy Finance Corporation has already ceased make loans.  What will happen to the in-principle-agreements to co-finance ground breaking projects such as the 20 hectare desal greenhouse being built at Port Augusta? Sundrop Farms aim to use solar-thermal technology to desalinate seawater to provide irrigation in an arid area producing 15,000 tonnes of tomatoes. I expect there will be many lost opportunities  to progress Australia on a more sustainable path simply due to lack of finance.

Economic stimulus for renewable energy will be insufficient under the Coalition. We may have seen the last of mega projects such as the 102MW solar farm being built by AGL and First Solar at Nyngan and  53MW farm at Broken Hill covering a combined area greater than four Sydney Harbours… least for a while.

As well as that, new funding applications under the Jobs and Competitiveness Program will be a thing of the past. As at June 30, 2013 there were 488 projects at manufacturing firms around the country achieving an average reduction in carbon intensity of 40%.  Of the $789 million in investments made, the government provided only $264m from the carbon tax revenue but it was enough to get the projects over the line, thus helping to decarbonize the economy.

The interesting area is farming, forestry and land sectors as both sides of politics see it as an opportunity.  The Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI) is part of Labor’s Clean Energy Futures package, recently expanded to include more abatement opportunities.  It’s a carbon offset scheme that provides an economic incentive to farmers and land owners by allowing them to generate credits that can be sold to other businesses wanting to offset their carbon emissions.  It started in December 2011 and has so far issued 1.88 million credits, equivalent to taking more than half a million cars off the road. 70 projects have been registered across Australia since the first CFI methodology was released in June 2012. There are now 20 approved methodologies and I see this area expanding as more methodologies for carbon abatement are developed and accepted.

CFI is likely to be renamed by the Coalition and become part of the Direct Action Plan with the abatement certificates paid out of the ERF, the Emission Reduction Fund.  The ERF aims to reward emission reduction activities and impose a penalty on under performing corporations whose emissions exceed their baseline.

The ERF is capped at $300m for the first year, $500m for the 2nd year and $750m for the 3rd year.

Both parties are committed to the Renewable Energy Target, otherwise known as the RET, of 41 terawatt hours of electricity coming from renewable sources by 2020. The Coalition view the RET as doing the “heavy lifting” on the task of transitioning the electricity generation sector over away from coal and over to renewables.  A report by Monash University and SKM concluded that the Direct Action Plan will lead to an increase in emissions of 8 – 10% above 2000 levels, not 5% below which is Australia’s Kyoto target.  This and other reports indicate that between $4 and $15billion extra would need to be spent for the DAP to work and that will be at a higher cost to the economy as its carbon credits can’t be bought at the lower international price, currently about $8/tonne.

If the DAP doesn’t deliver then the Coalition may look at increasing the RET.  When the dust eventually settles, we’ll see things more clearly…..but until then stay tuned for more updates.