Supply chain sustainability: 5 ways to exert your influence

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 in general.

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; ISO9001:2015 and ISO45001

The standard for Environmental Management Systems, ISO14001:2015, requires organisations to “determine environmental requirement(s) for the procurement of products and services and communicate these to external providers, including contractors”.

While the potential advantages are many, the integration of sustainability principles into procurement processes may prove to be complex and challenging in practice, particularly when there is resistance to change.

Summarised below are the 5 main ways that you and your organisation can exert a powerful influence on the supply chain in order to add value to the business and better meet stakeholder expectations.

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 internal 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
  • 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

The Enviroease team has substantial practical experience in buying/procurement, facilitation, impact assessment, Life Cycle Assessment and management systems. Whether the need is for senior management workshops, stakeholder engagement, supplier audits or the development of improved policies and practices, we’d be happy to assist you.

Feel free to call me, Suzy, on 0418862899 to discuss your particular needs.

Further reading:

The world’s most widely endorsed principles on corporate and social responsibility,  the UN Global Compact puts forth ten principles for business in three areas – labour standards, environment and anti-corruption – in support of the Agenda 21 goals for Ecologically Sustainable Development.

The Global Reporting Initiative‘s (GRI) “G4 Sustainability Reporting Guidelines”  includes “procurement practices” as a specific standard disclosure – G4-EC9. GRI is the most used framework for sustainability reporting with over 25,000 GRI reports in the database from 90 countries and many more organisations using the indicators to help them set goals, measure performance and manage change in order to make their operations more sustainable.

 

 

 

Envisioning a clean water future

 

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.

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

How the Enviroease team can help you

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

  • Assessment of risks and the effectiveness of current operational control measures
  • Identification of process control improvements
  • Life cycle assessment of products and packaging
  • Compliance audit against legislation, licences and Trade Waste Agreements
  • Water quality testing and analysis by a NATA accredited laboratory
  • Pollution Incident Response Management Plans
  • Spill response training, drill and report

Feel free to call me, Suzy, on 0418 862899 to discuss your particular needs.


References

1 http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/mdgoverview/mdg_goals/mdg7/

2 http://www.unep.org/geo/pdfs/geo5/Measuring_progress.pdf

3 https://theconversation.com/cloudy-issue-we-need-to-fix-the-barrier-reefs-murky-waters-39380

4 https://theconversation.com/we-created-a-new-material-from-orange-peel-that-can-clean-up-mercury-pollution-49355

5 http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2015/02/150212-ocean-debris-plastic-garbage-patches-science/

6 http://www.marineconservation.org.au/pages/plastic-pollution.html

7 http://www.fauna-flora.org/initiatives/the-good-scrub-guide/

 

Do you possess these 7 leadership qualities?

 

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.

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

Top management will now need to demonstrate leadership and commitment at all stages of planning, implementing and reviewing the health, safety and environmental (HSE) management system.

In the revised standards, leaders have a stronger role in communicating the importance of HSE 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.

A knowledgeable and independent facilitator of senior managers and stakeholder groups can assist in to identify the social, environmental and sustainability risks and opportunities that have the highest priority for the business. This understanding is essential in system planning to drive performance improvement.  Feel free to send an email to me (Suzy) at suzanne@enviroease.com.au to discuss how I can help.

How to achieve ZERO net carbon emissions from vehicles

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 emissions from vehicles your company doesn’t operate such as trains, planes, taxis and rental cars, there are different approaches which will be covered in a future blog.

 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

Proportion

Emission Factor GHGs *

Tonnes of CO2-e

Petrol*

100

 90%

2.38

  214.2

Diesel

500

100%

2.70

1,350.0

LPG

1.59

LNG (light duty vehicle)

1.44

LNG (heavy duty vehicle)

1.36

Biodiesel

0.12

Ethanol

100

10%

0.08

      0.8

Total

1,565.0

* 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:  http://otter.org.au/carbon-offsets-how-to-choose/ 

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 .

How we can help

Enviroease can develop a carbon reduction program for your company and find projects that may be eligible for state or federal government assistance. We are familiar with the Emissions Reduction Fund, Renewable Energy Target and NSW Energy Savings Scheme and VictorianEnergy Saver Incentive. Feel free to send an email to me (Suzy) at suzanne@enviroease.com.au to find out more.

 

 

The U-Factors: a new way to think about risk

JULY 2018 UPDATE

The Final International Standard of the Environmental Management Systems Standard, ISO14001:2015, was published in September 2015. All requirements are now finalised and the rules allow for only editorial adjustments from now on. There are a number of changes to note between the Draft International Standard (DIS) and the final version. Of relevance to this original article below is the change in the definition of “risk” and the use of the prevalence of the word “opportunity”.

In the DIS, risk is defined as “the effect of uncertainty on objectives” but the final standard omits the words “on objectives” from the definition. This has the effect of broadening the concept of uncertainty to cover all types of issues, not just those associated with objectives.

The word “threat” was confusing and was removed from many clauses. Instead the final standard includes a new definition – “risks and opportunities”. These are potential adverse effects (threats) and potential beneficial effects (opportunities).  

People usually think of risk as the exposure to danger, harm or loss or the potential for losing something of value.  While it is essential that businesses identify and reduce the likelihood of these consequences, it is equally important to consider how they may affect the business as a whole. In the new ISO standards risk is defined as the effect of uncertainty on objectives and this is intrinsically linked to stakeholder expectations.

Objective – a result to be achieved

When you are driving a car an objective or result to be achieved is for you and your passengers to arrive at your destination safely and on time. Other stakeholders, your family and friends at the destination, expect that you will arrive fit and healthy within a reasonable timeframe.  But there may be deviations from the expected, positive or negative, impacting on these objectives – typically the amount of traffic congestion, road conditions and weather events. These are the unknowns, uncertainties or what I call “U-Factors”. In the worst case scenario of non-arrival due to serious injury, U-Factors can be considered to be catastrophic.

Applying this thinking to business, all leaders have the overall objective of meeting stakeholder expectations and requirements.   Non-fulfilment can represent threats such as loss of an important customer or revocation of the site licence to operate. Typical stakeholders include customers, supply chain partners, regulatory authorities, investors and the general community.  Executives who are proactive and improvement-focussed will identify key stakeholders, actively engage with them and develop measurable objectives, programs and initiatives to meet their requirements and expectations.  Examples of 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.

Risk – the effect of uncertainty 

There are many types of uncertainty or U-Factors.  ISO14001:2015  defines uncertainty as the state, even partial, of deficiency or information related to, understanding or knowledge of, an event, its consequences and likelihood.

We are familiar with natural variations in the weather, human error and differences in individual perception.  Other types of uncertainty include measurement uncertainty relating monitoring equipment, scientific uncertainty such as the GWP of certain gases and estimation uncertainty due to data handling errors.  In GHG accounting an uncertainty assessment estimates the amount of uncertainty in a range of values eg. +/- 0.5.

To properly identify U-Factors one must cover the entire internal and external environment in a broad sense including the political/regulatory situation; economic/financial issues; social/community expectations and technological risks.

What are risks and opportunities?

The environmental aspects, programs, initiatives and risk control mechanisms that companies implement have associated “U-Factors”. I’ll illustrate this with the example of tree removal (a potential threat) and tree planting (a potential opportunity). In both these examples lets assume that the activities are legal, that is, they have been approved by the relevant regulatory authority.

Example 1 – Tree removal

Stormwater pollution is a potential adverse impact associated with the removal of vegetation. In the worst case scenario a significant pollution event may prevent the business from tendering for future lucrative construction projects due to their failure to meet the expectations of regulators (EPA, Department of Planning) and the Principal Contractor (customer).  Under the approval conditions the company must, among other things, install and maintain sediment fences, diversion channels and retention basins. Nevertheless these devices may fail during a heavy rain event causing increased turbidity of the river. The ‘U-Factor” of heavy rain means that the company failed to realise the objective of meeting the needs of key stakeholders.  The EMS therefore must address this through monitoring weather reports and predictions of heavy rain events.

Example 2 -Tree planting

The increase in storage of carbon dioxide in a forest sink is a beneficial impact providing an opportunity for companies wishing to sell the carbon abatement through recognised schemes such as the Carbon Farming Initiative in Australia or the UN Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) internationally. The likelihood of carbon removal is increased by conservation soil tillage and other sustainable land management practices. Nevertheless some or all of the trees may die through disease, fire or illegal logging resulting in “reversal”. That is, carbon dioxide is returned to the atmosphere at some future time.  Any of these ‘U-Factors” could mean that the company fails to realise the objective of meeting the requirements of the UN, investor parties or the Clean Energy Regulator. The EMS therefore must address these U-Factors through constant monitoring of pests and disease and 100 year land tenure agreements.

How we can help

Update July 2018

Organisations holding ISO14001:2004 certification will have to meet the additional requirements of ISO14001:2015 by September 2018. Most Environmental Management Systems (EMS) lack a clear process for stakeholder needs identification, risk and opportunities assessment and the incorporation risk in decision making.

We’ve developed a set of simple tools to help you incorporate these new requirements into your existing management system. Feel free to send an email to me (Suzy) at suzanne@enviroease.com.au  to find out more.

How do you take a life cycle perspective?

This article was updated to remove the word “draft” as the final version was published in September 2015.

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 will not be a requirement of the new standard. 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 the company’s operations. They will need to demonstrate how they used their influence on suppliers, contractors, customers and consumers to improve sustainability across the supply chain.

How can Enviroease help?

If you are thinking of developing an Environmental Management System or need ideas on how to integrate life cycle thinking into your existing EMS, I can offer help you directly.

I can also arrange for an LCA to be conducted on one or more of your products by an associate, Dr Suphunnika Ibbotson, is an experienced LCA practitioner. Suphunnika has completed a number of peer reviewed LCA projects using Simapro while part of UNSW faculty of Sustainable Manufacturing Engineering and Life Cycle Engineering Research Group.

What makes effective training?

This article was reviewed in July 2018 to update the last section on experience

Deciding how much and what type of 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 Aspect Register or Risk Register to establish the workplace tasks that may cause a significant environmental impact. Determine the roles or job function of people commonly undertaking those tasks. 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 a significant impact. 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 talk” 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 17 years experience in Environmental training delivering on-site customised courses direct to clients. We also conduct Nationally recognised management system courses (ISO14001:2015;  ISO45001:2018 and ISO19001 auditor training) on behalf of Exemplar Global accredited RTOs such as NCSI (now BSI) and SAI Global.

Call me, (Suzy) to discuss how I can help with training and workshops for staff at all levels, including Senior Management teams through all levels of the organisation. .

Opportunities emerge in carbon and energy

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.

Enviroease can assist your business by guiding you through our Carbon Reduction Program.  This will highlight the opportunities and costs that are open to your company in relation to energy and greenhouse such as government funding in the State(s) of Australia within which you operate.

To find out more about how we can assist you with carbon and energy improvement initiatives us on 02 9411 1764

 

 

 

A view from the inside

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, 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 gone into 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.

If your company’s management system does not adequately cover environmental issues at present we recommend an Initial Environmental Review. This is the first step towards developing an Environmental Management System (EMS). In many cases an EMS can be most simply and effectively implemented by integrating Quality and/or Workplace Health and Safety.

How we can help

Enviroease consultants have years of experience in both auditing and system design. Please feel free to contact me (Suzy) by email at suzanne@enviroease.com.au to discuss your needs for independent EMS, EMP or environmental compliance audits.

 

 

One stop shock for Australia’s biodiversity

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 2011 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; Sandmining 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”.

 

Don’t just survive….thrive!

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?

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.

 

One small paradox

The idea that human race can achieve more with less seems like a paradox. The dominant economic paradigm that more economic growth creates more happiness and wellbeing is starting to be questioned by economists and decision makers.

At the same time there is a cultural shift occurring. 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. The paradox is that although each person sees themselves as tiny and insignificant in the total scheme of things, they also see themselves as free to make rational choices to live within natural planetary boundaries.

                    “I am small but I am part of something big”

The humbling realisation of smallness, rather than making one feel powerless leads to empowerment. As individuals with a common goal, people can view themselves as global citizens who can easily connect with likeminded people living in most any part of the world.

The fact that there is a transition already happening to this unstoppable idea is clear.  It manifests in micro technology, small-localised markets and consumer choices to smaller, more efficient cars and houses.

Western society is transitioning to a new era, hastened by a new wave of technological advancement, which is connecting people from all walks of life. As business and community leaders we need to embrace this change.

There are three areas that are most often linked with unsustainability; population increase, production of goods and services and the use of fossil fuels.  Each of these areas has the potential to transition from large to small. Population is set to stabilise at 9bn around 2050, lean manufacturing has taken on in a big way and renewables have the highest growth rate of any energy type.

The industrial revolution of the 19th C the paradigm was “big is better” is being supplanted by “smarter and more efficient”.

 

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…..at 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.

Turning the tide of ocean exploitation

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: http://www.sustainableseafood.org.au/Sustainable-Seafood-Guide-australia.asp?active_page_id=695

Greenpeace have produced a guide to the canned fish products currently on Australian supermarket shelves. Access the guide at: http://www.greenpeace.org/australia/en/what-we-do/oceans/Take-action/canned-tuna-guide/

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 0f ocean exploitation.

 

References:

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   http://www.fao.org/tc/resourcemobilization/ifas/ccrf/en/

Which office paper is the most sustainable?

With logging of old growth forests still a contentious issue in Australia and rainforest destruction continuing across the globe, companies and individuals need to think carefully about how to exercise their purchasing power if they desire a sustainable pulp and paper industry.

Now that technology has enabled the electronic storage of documents, environment and sustainability policies should focus on elimination of paper as the number one priority with a long term goal of the “paperless office”.  Such a transition presents a win-win for the environment and the economy due to the productivity gains of reducing office clutter together with easy retrieval and safe storage of records.  In the short term companies can reduce the consumption of paper with double sided printing as the norm, carefully implemented so that people don’t make mistakes and re-print.

The big question is that when its necessary to buy paper, which one is the most sustainable?  In an effort to help decision makers make sense of the many eco-labels that appear on reams of office paper, the Buying Better Project at the Total Environment Centre in Sydney released a useful policy on Printer Paper dated December 5, 2012.

They don’t endorse any particular product but suggest that the most important buying criteria are in the following order:

  1. Recycled content with 100% ideal and verification against ISO14021 desirable.
  2. A label from  a recognised sustainable forest management certification body such as the Forest Stewardship Council( FSC) or PEFC.
  3. Carbon neutral or carbon reduced,  if it is verified by a recognised 3rd party such as National Carbon Offset Standard (NCOS).

The Buying Better Project guidance is the result of a simplified life cycle assessment (LCA) process which determined the most significant (material) stages in the lifecycle of office paper to be raw material (extracts and processes) and  manufacturing. Download the guide at: http://www.greencapital.org.au/projects/buying-better.html

The importance of measurable targets

20 years after the Rio Earth Summit, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) this year released the GEO-5 report. Since the inception of UNEP in 1972 there have been an impressive array of international treaties about the environment, over 500 in fact. But do we know how effective these treaties have been and do they go far enough?

According to Achim Steiner, the Executive Director of UNEP, the goals that are specific and measurable “appear to have a much better record of success”.  These include goals to phase out ozone depleting substances, certain persistent organic pollutants (POP)s, targets to increase the number and extend of protected areas and to halve the number of people without access to safe drinking water.

Many other goals have not been achieved and others are non-specific and aspirational in nature making them difficult to track. One example is the aim of improving global freshwater quality…..  a good ambition but how does one measure its achievement or non-achievement?

Voluntary action by individuals and businesses face the same challenge. Once a commitment is made to improve an element of environmental or social sustainability, the targets need to be set so that they are specific and measurable with performance indicators.  This in turn enables the setting up of data gathering and sustainability reporting.

Down load the report at : http://www.unep.org/geo/geo5.asp