Annual Report 2005-2006

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Appendix 7

Ecologically sustainable development and environmental performance

Following is the department's report on its ecologically sustainable development and environmental performance in accordance with section 516A of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

How the activities of the department, and the administration of legislation by the department, accorded with the principles of ecologically sustainable development

In pursuing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally, the department sought to the extent possible to ensure its policy activities and other operations accorded with and contributed to the principles of ecologically sustainable development. Relevant activities are found across a wide range of policy issues from multilateral environment agreements and international legal frameworks, to development assistance, public diplomacy and trade (see sub-output 1.1.7 for more information). The department's commitment to these principles was also demonstrated by achieving certification of the department's Environmental Management System (EMS) to the relevant international standard–ISO 14001:2004.

How the department's outcomes contribute to ecologically sustainable development

The department's outcomes are:

  1. Australia's national interests protected and advanced through contributions to international security, national economic and trade performance and global cooperation
  2. Australians informed about and provided access to consular and passport services in Australia and overseas
  3. Public understanding in Australia and overseas of Australia's foreign and trade policy and a positive image of Australia internationally
  4. Efficient management of the Commonwealth overseas owned estate.

Outcome 1

The department contributed to ecologically sustainable development through participation in international negotiations across a range of policy areas related to the environment.

Outcome 2

Activities under this outcome do not directly contribute to ecologically sustainable development.

Outcome 3

The department's Direct Aid Program supports modest, practical aid programs overseas, some of which contribute to ecologically sustainable development. We supported Clean Up the World campaigns in a number of overseas locations through the public diplomacy programs of our posts.

Outcome 4

Activities under this outcome do not directly contribute to ecologically sustainable development.

Effect of the department's activities on the environment

The department's operations in Canberra, our overseas posts and state and territory offices have a range of impacts on the environment. Measures to address these impacts are outlined below.

Measures being taken by the department to minimise the impact of its activities on the environment

In accordance with the Government's decision of May 2001, the department has implemented an Environmental Management System (EMS) covering activities in its central office, the R G Casey Building in Canberra. An accredited certifying body audited the department's EMS against ISO 14001:2004–the International Standard for Environmental Management Systems–in April 2006. In June 2006, the department was advised that its operations in the R G Casey Building were in compliance with ISO 14001:2004. The auditors noted that departmental staff at all levels demonstrated strong commitment to the implementation and maintenance of the EMS.

The department's EMS Committee is responsible for managing, monitoring, auditing and reviewing the department's EMS to maintain compliance with the international standard and to ensure continual improvement in environmental performance. The EMS Committee comprises representatives from all divisions within the department, as well as the Domestic Property and Services Section, including the Chief Warden, and the Information and Communication Technology Branch.

The EMS is aimed at reducing negative impacts on the environment, in particular through reducing the use of energy and goods, minimising waste, and improving recycling and re-use of materials. The department conducted a comprehensive waste audit at the R G Casey Building in February 2006. As part of its EMS, the department has also developed procedures and registers to prevent or limit damage to the environment from hazardous materials that may be used on-site. To further its EMS goals the department has sought the landlord's support and cooperation. In recognition of this environmental partnership, at the department's invitation, the building owner's representative attends meetings of the EMS Committee in an ex officio capacity.

Other EMS improvements in the past year include: the introduction of recycling for polystyrene foam, plastic bags/sheeting and food waste (for collection by a commercial worm farm operator); the inclusion of Green Vehicle Guide ratings and hybrid vehicles in the list of motor vehicles for selection for the department and executive vehicle fleets; and improvements in the system to train contractors and evaluate their EMS awareness and competence, in particular for contractors involved in building maintenance, fit-outs and cleaning.

The department continued to receive strong EMS support from Café Brindabella, located in the R G Casey Building. The cafe continued its 20 cent levy on takeaway cups, aimed at reducing waste. All funds raised by the levy are donated to Greening Australia for the planting of Australian native trees in areas affected by the Canberra bushfires. In its recent refurbishment, Café Brindabella selected tables and chairs that contain recycled material and are themselves recyclable. Food waste from the cafe is collected by a commercial worm farm. Volunteers from departmental staff and members of Café Brindabella staff, in partnership with Greening Australia, again participated in a planting of native trees and shrubs on Mt McDonald on 4 June 2006 to celebrate World Environment Day (5 June). All together, 5000 trees have now been planted at these events.

Mechanisms for reviewing and increasing the effectiveness of these measures

The EMS measures the effectiveness of the department's efforts to minimise the negative impact of its operations on the environment. This is achieved through regular meetings of the EMS Committee, internal and external EMS audits, the implementation of a monitoring and measurement plan and the annual management review. The effectiveness of the EMS is also enhanced by completion by staff of the online EMS general awareness training module. Through these measures a culture of environmental awareness, improved energy and water efficiency and improved waste reduction and recycling has been established.

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