Implement ‘fit–for–purpose’ environmental reporting
As noted earlier, public sector entities are required to meet a number of annual environmental reporting requirements which vary in the format of required data, level of detail and timeframes. An awareness of annual reporting timeframes and arrangements to streamline data capture will better position entities to comply with environmental requirements. For example, early and ongoing collection of required data provides the opportunity to review and quality-assure the information.
An internal reporting system is an important mechanism to track environmental performance and assist in the preparation of annual reporting information. Many entities have established quarterly or half–yearly internal reporting arrangements, which include progress reports based on a standardised template. A number of entities have found the three-tiered ‘traffic light’ scorecard a useful reporting format. Reporting frequency will depend on a number of factors, such as the type of reporting initiative, the time required to collect and consolidate data and the nature of the issues being addressed.
Meet mandatory reporting obligations
Subsection 516A(6) of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act) 1999 stipulates that all annual reports must:
- include a report on how the activities of, and the administration (if any) of legislation by, the entity during the period accorded with the principles of ecologically sustainable development (ESD) ;
- identify how the outcomes (if any) specified for the entity in an Appropriations Act relating to the period contribute to ESD;
- document the effect of the entity’s activities on the environment;
- identify any measures the entity is taking to minimise the impact of activities by the entity on the environment; and
- identify the mechanisms (if any) for reviewing and increasing the effectiveness of those measures.
An in–depth consideration of ESD is beyond the scope of this Guide. However, guidance material on how to meet this requirement is available from DSEWPaC . Meeting the provisions (3), (4) and (5) for reporting environmental performance is best supported by a combination of statistical data and explanatory material outlining performance against targets or trends over time. A growing number of entities present quantitative data on energy, water, recycling, greenhouse gas emissions and other impacts, in addition to details of environmental initiatives and information of progress towards environmental goals, such as completed tasks and outstanding objectives. This approach provides a snapshot of both positive and negative environmental impacts, and informs Parliament and the public of the organisation’s progress towards achieving environmental objectives .
While a small number of public sector entities are required to register and report under the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act 2007, a growing number of entities are choosing to report their greenhouse gas emissions and energy use in their annual reports and other public documents . Emissions data for entities’ stationary energy and vehicle fleets is calculated annually by DCCEE and this information can be accessed from Energy Use in the Australian Government’s Operations reports and the energy reporting database managed by DCCEE . A more in-depth carbon footprint analysis of direct and indirect emissions can be undertaken by specialists using industry-accepted methodologies and annually updated emissions factors .
 Australia’s National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development, 1992, defines ecologically sustainable development as: ‘using, conserving and enhancing the community’s resources so that ecological processes, on which life depends, are maintained, and the total quality of life, now and in the future, can be increased.’
 Former Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, 2010, Guidelines for Section 516A reporting–Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, available from: www.environment.gov.au.
 In 2008, the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Public Administration also examined annual reports and noted the importance of meaningful data that is supported by an informative narrative of performance. The Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Public Administration, Annual Reports, Commonwealth of Australia, 2008, available from: www.aph.gov.au.
 The National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act 2007 introduced a national framework for reporting information on greenhouse gas emissions and energy use data by constitutional corporations.
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