Online version of the 2014-15 Department of Health Annual Report

3.8: Ecologically Sustainable Development and Environmental Performance

We are committed to making a positive contribution to ecologically sustainable practices

Page last updated: 17 July 2019

Section 516A of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 requires the Department to report on the following subsections of the Act in its Annual Report.

Activities of, and the Administration of Legislation by the Department during 2014-15 Accorded with Ecologically Sustainable Development Principles [section 516A(6)(a)]

The Department administers legislation that is relevant to, and meets the principles of, ecologically sustainable development (ESD). These include the Gene Technology Act 2000, and the Industrial Chemicals (Notification and Assessment) Act 1989.

The Gene Technology Regulator (the Regulator) administers the Gene Technology Act 2000. The Act aims to protect the health and safety of people and the environment by identifying risks posed by gene technology and managing those risks through regulating activities including genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

The National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS) aids in the protection of the Australian people and the environment by assessing the risks of industrial chemicals and providing information to promote their safe use.

NICNAS operates within an agreed framework for chemical management that is consistent with the National Strategy for ESD, its principles and policies, and this framework aligns with the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development Agenda 21 (Rio Declaration), of which Chapter 19 relates to the environmentally-sound management of toxic chemicals. NICNAS’s activities are aligned with a series of ESD principles and decision-making processes that effectively integrate both long-term and short-term environmental, social and equity-supporting considerations. NICNAS environmental risk assessments are conducted under a service level agreement with the Department of the Environment.

Outcome Contribution to Ecologically Sustainable Development [section 516A(6)(b)]

In 2014-15, the Department continued its commitment to ESD by ensuring that it effectively delivered corporate operations while minimising environmental impact. This included a methodical approach to planning, implementing and monitoring the Department’s environmental performance through programmes and policies that are in accordance with current legislation, whole-of-government requirements and environmental best practice.

In 2014-15, the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) continued to support the Regulator in regulating activities involving live and viable GMOs. These activities ranged from contained work in certified laboratories to releases of GMOs into the environment. The Regulator imposed licence conditions to protect the environment, and used extensive powers to monitor and enforce those conditions.

During 2014-15, NICNAS continued to assess the health and environmental risks of new industrial chemicals entering Australia (by manufacture and/or import). NICNAS also supported the Department’s contribution to ESD by assessing chemicals already in commerce, based on environmental and/or health concerns.

The Effect of Departmental Activities on the Environment [section 516A(6)(c)]

In 2014-15, the Department’s key environmental management initiatives were aimed at reducing consumption of energy, maintaining recycling efforts to minimise landfill, and maximising the efficient use of resources such as second-hand stationery.

The Department is committed to making a positive contribution to sustainable practices and uses whole-of-government benchmark indicators and targets to assess and monitor environmental performance.

Measures the Department is Taking to Minimise the Impact of Activities on the Environment [section 516A(6)(d)]

In 2014-15, the Department maintained an Environmental Management System (EMS) in accordance with the International Standard ISO 14001:2004. The EMS tool assists the Department with monitoring and managing its environmental performance through identifying significant environmental aspects, assigning objectives and targets to control environmental impact, and complying with legal and whole-of-government requirements.

Mechanisms for Reviewing and Increasing the Effectiveness of those Measures that Minimise the Impact of the Department on the Environment [section 516A(6)(e)]

Energy consumption and efficiency

The Department continued to decrease its electricity consumption, consuming 37,940 gigajoules in 2014-15 compared with 40,575 gigajoules in 2013-14. This figure includes sites occupied by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR), the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA), the National Health Funding Body (NHFB) and the National Health Performance Authority (NHPA).

Following Machinery of Government (MoG) changes, the Department will no longer report the energy consumption for the entities and functions that were transferred to other Portfolios as of 1 July 2014.

Table 3.8.1: Electricity consumption (gigajoules) from 2012-13 to 2014-15

Year Gigajoules
2012-13 40,637
2013-14 40,575
2014-15 37,940

The Department is required to report its energy consumption against core performance indicators established under the Energy Efficiency in Government Operations (EEGO) Policy, which aims to improve overall Australian Government energy performance.

Office tenant light and power

By June 2011, the Department was required to meet the target of 7,500 megajoules per person, per annum (MJ/person/annum) for Tenant Light and Power under the EEGO Policy. The Department met the target by the due date and has continued to outperform these requirements for the subsequent years including achieving 5,580.30 (MJ/person/annum) for 2014-15, which is detailed in the table below.

Table 3.8.2: Office tenant light and power 2014-15

Entity Energy (MJ) Area (m2) MJ/m2 People MJ/Person
Department of Health1 15,764,285.56 72,559.40 217.26 2,902 5,432.21
TGA 1,129,542.50 2,834.00 398.57 163 6,929.71
ASADA 472,920.94 1,415.60 334.08 44 10,748.20
OGTR 261,416.80 1,075.00 243.18 50 5,228.34
Total 17,628,165.80 77,884.00 226.342 3,159 5,580.303
  1. The Department of Health figures include 10 Rudd St tenancy which is majority sub-leased to National Health Funding Body and National Health Performance Authority.
  2. Total MJ/m2 (226.34) represents the energy consumption in the Department’s office tenancies (17,628,165.80) divided by the entire office floor space measured in square metres (77,884), rather than the cumulative total of values in the MJ/m2 column.
  3. Total MJ/person (5,580.30) represents the energy consumption by the Department (17,628,165.80) divided by the total number of people (3,159), rather than the cumulative total of values in the MJ/person column.

Non-office buildings: electricity

The Department occupies a number of sites which are used for a purpose other than office space. There is no electricity consumption target for properties that fall under this category. Notwithstanding this, the Department has decreased its electricity consumption in its non-office buildings as detailed in Table 3.8.3.

Table 3.8.3: Non-office buildings - electricity 2013-14 to 2014-15

Energy (MJ)
Area (m2) MJ/m2 Energy (MJ) Area (m2) MJ/m2
Department of Health 261,986.43 1,050.00 249.51 241,581.60 1,050.00 230.08
TGA 20,049,866.00 18,523.60 1,082.40 18,277,843.20 18,523.60 986.73
Total 20,311,852.43 19,573.60 1,037.721 18,519,424.80 19,573.60 946.14
  1. Total MJ/m2 (946.14) represents the energy consumption in the Department’s non-office tenancies (18,519,424.80) divided by the entire office floor space measured in square metres (19,573.6), rather than the cumulative total of values in the MJ/m2 column.

Non-office buildings: gas

Of the Department’s non-office buildings, one site utilised natural gas. Whilst there is no gas consumption target for properties which fall under this category, the Department has decreased its gas consumption in its non-office building as detailed in Table 3.8.4.

Table 3.8.4: Non-office buildings - natural gas 2013-14 to 2014-15

Energy (MJ) Area (m2) MJ/m2 Energy (MJ) Area (m2) MJ/m2
TGA 18,254,148.00 18,523.60 985.45 17,774,254.00 18,523.60 959.55

Energy performance standards

The EEGO Policy contains minimum energy performance standards for Australian Government office buildings as a strategy for achieving the above energy intensity targets. This ensures that departments progressively improve their performance through the procurement and ongoing management of energy efficient office buildings and environmentally sound equipment and appliances.

As part of its strategic accommodation plan, the Department ensures that, where applicable, it occupies buildings that meet the recommended National Australian Built Environment Rating Scheme (NABERS)48 rating of 4.5 stars and above, and contains a Green Lease Schedule. The table below details the Department’s occupied buildings during 2014-15 for which base building NABERS ratings achieved the recommended target.

Table 3.8.5: NABERS energy ratings

Property Rating
Canberra Central Office (Sirius Building) 6
Canberra Central Office (Scarborough House) 4.5
Victorian State Office 4.5

Energy saving initiatives in the Department’s leased property portfolio includes T5 fluorescent and movement activated sensor lighting, double glazed windows and energy efficient heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems.

Sustainable energy initiatives

The Department accessed the whole-of-government electricity supply contract for the majority of its sites within the ACT and NSW, which includes 10 per cent greenpower.

The Department’s Desktop Futures Programme, which replaced the desktop computers with hosted virtual desktops, resulted in the Department achieving the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Sustainability Plan end user target of 400kWh per user per annum (kWh/user/annum) by 2012.

The Department implemented further ICT energy savings initiatives and has achieved the target of 250kWh/user/annum in 2015. Usage will continue to be actively monitored and opportunities for further improvement investigated as transformation activities commence with the Department’s new ICT Service Provider.

The Department participated in Earth Hour 2015 by switching off building lights, computers, monitors and office equipment for all its sites around Australia.

Waste management

The Department is committed to the protection of the environment through implementation of efficient and effective waste management programmes.

In the majority of the Department’s offices, waste management initiatives include segregated waste streams to improve management of general waste, commingled recycling, organic recycling, and paper and cardboard recycling. Further recycling efforts include recycling of printer and toner cartridges, and mobile phones and batteries to ensure these items are diverted from landfill.

In 2014-15, the Department: recycled over half of its total waste produced; doubled commingled recycling; increased organic recycling by 21 per cent; and reduced paper and cardboard recycling by 10 per cent (8.4 tonnes). These achievements are outlined further in Table 3.8.6.

Table 3.8.6: Waste reporting from 2012-13 to 2014-151

Waste (tonnes)
Paper &
  1. Waste reports provided for Canberra sites only.

Following the closure of Health Workforce Australia in August 2014, the Department obtained some office furniture and a large amount of excess stationery for reuse in the national office. These goods have been made available to staff for reuse. Recycling stationery is both financially and environmentally responsible. It assists the Department to reduce its carbon footprint by helping to eliminate excess waste going to landfill while decreasing demand on resources and energy associated with purchasing new items. In 2014-15, the Department also recycled unrequired furniture and approximately 3.46 tonnes of scrap metal.

The Department has a centrally managed paper supply which monitors the type of paper and quantity purchased. This ensures that the Department continues to comply with the whole-of-government ICT Sustainability Plan’s requirement of 100 per cent post-consumer recycled paper being used by Australian Government entities. The Department has decreased its paper consumption by more than 57 per cent in the last two years from 46,101 reams in 2012-13 to 19,433 reams in 2014-15.

Vehicle fleet and travel

The Australian Government Pool Fleet requires Australian Government entities to work towards a voluntary target of 28 per cent of leased/pool vehicles to meet the 10.5 rating of the Green Vehicles Guide (GVG).

The emissions of the Department’s fleet vehicles are reported, in accordance with the EEGO Policy (Table 3.8.7 refers).

Table 3.8.7: Fleet vehicle emissions 2014-15

Number of
oil (L)
Total (MJ)
Department of Health
  1. Total MJ/km (4.10) represents the Department’s total fleet vehicle emissions (568,734.13) divided by the total distance travelled (138,668) rather than the cumulative total of values in the MJ/km column.

The Department has implemented video conferencing facilities nationally to reduce the need for travel.

Water conservation

The Department occupies buildings which are fitted with a range of water-saving technologies including low-flow taps and showers, dual-flush cisterns and waterless or low-flow urinals and grey water systems.

The Department’s national office (Sirius Building) has a NABERS water rating49 of five and a half stars which reflects the building’s high level of water efficiency. This is well above the current market average of two and a half stars.

In April 2015, the showers in the change rooms of the Sirius Building were adjusted to have set temperatures; the temperatures are displayed in each shower so that staff can select which shower temperature suits their preference. This system was installed to support the building’s NABERS rating for both energy and water consumption.

In addition, the showers are fitted with water usage timers that are push button activated in each shower. In April 2015, the timers were changed from 3 minute to 2 minute running times. While showering time can be extended by pushing the timer button again, this simple change is encouraging staff to be aware of the length of their showers and therefore the amount of water used.

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