Map operations and identify environmental impacts
A well-developed understanding of an entity’s operations provides a sound foundation on which to assess its environmental impacts. An important early focus should be the infrastructure supporting an entity’s operations. Infrastructure will include office, non-office and specialist facilities, including public areas and laboratories. Mapping the location of business groups, organisational areas and divisions across the entity’s property portfolio will provide an overview of business operations, property considerations and functional groups within an entity. Given office-based activities are typical to all public sector entities, an initial focus on these activities and their contribution to environmental impacts is important. Figure P1.2 illustrates a simple approach to establish:
- what is brought into the office, principally through procurement activities;
- how it is used inside the office and influenced by core business processes and user behaviour; and
- what leaves the office as waste or as a by-product of these activities.
Office-based operations commonly have environmental impacts associated with:
- energy consumption–from office lighting, kitchen and ICT equipment, and building operations, such as air conditioning, hot water systems and exterior lighting;
- resource consumption–such as paper, stationery, equipment, cleaning chemicals, furniture and kitchen supplies;
- water consumption–from bathrooms, kitchens, cafes, building operations, car washing and irrigation;
- generation of waste–such as paper, food, packaging, used toner cartridges and other ICT equipment, cigarette butts in designated smoking areas and waste water; and
- greenhouse gas emissions–from energy consumption, air and vehicle business travel, refrigerant gas losses, and waste sent to landfill.
When mapping entity activities and environmental impacts, it will be important to consider existing strategies and plans that are relevant to these impacts. This typically includes procurement strategies, ICT plans, property management, and work health and safety.
Assess and rate environmental impacts
To help ensure that actions taken to improve environmental performance are effectively targeted, entities should initially assess their operations to identify and rate the environmental impacts. A standard risk matrix of consequence and likelihood can be used to determine and rate the risk level for the impacts identified. The relative risk and importance of environmental issues will vary for each entity and depend upon its activities, function, size and business operations. While the costs and resource requirements to address environmental issues will also be a key consideration for most entities, it is important to recognise the potential cost savings from taking action. While office-based environmental impacts are typically considered relatively low risk, nevertheless, sound management is required to reduce the risk of compliance breaches or environmental incidents.
Stakeholder and community expectations, including those of key clients and interest groups, should be considered when assessing an entity’s environmental risks and management objectives, particularly for entities with core business in environmental and sustainability fields. Consulting with these stakeholders early in the development of any strategy or plan can be a valuable exercise and may assist implementation in later stages.
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