Increasing office accountability: This is enabled through access to office/location-based resource monitoring and reporting systems.

Increasing individual accountability: This is enabled through access to personal carbon foot-printing calculators and resources monitoring that enable staff to see the impact of their actions and behaviours.

Some believe that the only way to assess the success, failure or otherwise of tools, efforts and initiatives in business is to report and measure: making results tangible and concrete. The benefit of sustainable accounting through the use of metrics and indicators, carbon footprinting and resource monitoring is heralded by many as key to measuring any level of success in implementing sustainability initiatives.

Employees may not be in the practice of reviewing annual or sustainability reports—perceiving them as irrelevant and something the business just ‘has to do’ for its stakeholders. Tools, systems and initiatives have the potential to keep sustainability at the forefront of people’s minds and motivate them to continue making environmentally responsible decisions. Breaking down technical language and translating statistics into relevant measures and milestones can transform sustainability into something to which employees on either an individual or group basis, strive to change for the better.

Indicator / measures Description Questions to consider
Environmental management systems Implement an environmental management system
  • What are the significant environmental impacts of our business?
  • What environmental performance metrics can we access or have control over monitoring and controls e.g. energy consumption / CO2 emissions, water consumption, transport related emissions, waste disposal quantities and percentage recycled?
  • How is environmental performance monitored and reported to senior management?
  • Is there a process in place for regular audits, taking corrective action, and driving continuous environmental performance improvement?
Measuring organisational carbon footprint An organisation’s carbon footprint is the measure of carbon emissions resulting from its existing activities. It is measured in equivalent tonnes of carbon dioxide and can be presented as a figure per employee or per square metre of office space.  Generally scope 1 emissions (emissions directly resulting from the organisation, e.g. gas usage) and scope 2 emissions (emissions indirectly resulting from the organisation, e.g. from electricity usage) are included.  Scope 3 emissions which include elements such as work related travel can also be included.  ISO 14064 and the Greenhouse Gas Protocols set standards for measuring a carbon footprint. However, depending on the use of the data a simplified method or alternate measure may be more applicable, e.g. if the aim is to reduce emissions and the vast majority is from electricity consumption, simply tracking electricity usage in kWh may be a better metric to record (see below).
  • What can we include and where do we draw the boundary of our carbon footprint assessment?
  • Are there ways we can monitor our resource consumption and make employees aware?
  • How will this information be presented and used in corporate reports, staff meetings, senior management comments or marketing material? (This will determine what methodology and level of information breakdown).
  • Does this information need to be externally audited and comply with relevant standards (ISO 14064 and Greenhouse Gas Protocols), e.g. for use in the Carbon Disclosure Project?
  • What metrics are relevant to report against (just elements that can easily be improved by the firm e.g. electricity usage, travel etc. or also elements outside immediate influence, base building power etc. It can also be extended to include emissions associated with staff travel to and from work)?
Measuring energy usage Similar to a carbon footprint calculation, data on tenant and/or base building electricity consumption can be collected from electricity bills, smart meters and the building manager.
  • Is an externally validated rating desired?
  • Is sub-metering required to get data to an accurate level of detail to enable focused attention to improve performance?
  • Do we want to make this information available to staff and externally, if so on what platform and how frequently?
  • What incentives will be available for staff to improve the results?
  • How will these be funded?
  • What technological systems are we willing to invest in to improve results? [Consider Appendix A for more information on these schemes].
Measuring paper usage The amount of paper purchased is generally easily recorded and used to set targets and compare with benchmarks, previous years or other offices.  This can be presented as kg of paper per full-time equivalent employee.  Many photocopiers can provide real-time data on number of impressions made which can be used to provide real-time updates on paper usage (using assumptions for the percentage of double sided printing based on reconciled data of paper purchased and number of prints).
  • How will this data be used externally and internally?
  • What type of education campaign do we want to run to reduce paper consumption?
  • What other methods do we want to implement to reduce paper consumption (secureprint to avoid non-collection of print items, use of recycled paper etc)?
  • What reports and records can we avoid printing?
  • What facilities do we have for recycling?
Measuring water usage Water usage can be measured if it is individually metered for the office.  This is not often the case with high rise office buildings.
  • Is an externally validated rating desired?
  • Is water usage monitored in most of our offices?
  • Is there much opportunity to improve our water consumption (change of fittings, staff education, rainwater use, water recycling etc)?
  • How do we want to use this data externally and internally?
Measuring waste generation The weight of each waste stream (landfill and recyclables) can be measured prior to disposal.  This is a very manual activity and often relies on many people doing this task, meaning that the data is not always consistent and reliable.  An annual audit can be done using a short period of data that is extrapolated to provide annual data.
  • Is an externally validated rating desired?
  • How do you want to use this data externally and internally?
  • What and who can you influence to improve the level of waste to land fill?
  • Are waste contracts coming up for renewal?
Staff sustainability training Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) This type of KPI is useful to measure the level of up skilling of staff but is difficult to do well.  A target may be for 80 per cent of staff members to attend a relevant sustainability training session each year.  To judge whether this target has been met requires a clear definition of what ‘relevant sustainability training’ is.
  • If sustainability training is to include informal personal learning, how is this data to be captured?
  • Can we survey all staff yearly and rely on personal responses or is this too objective?
  • Can we set the target as a number of internally run courses that is appropriate to the business area of work?
  • What is the overall goal for sustainability training?
  • What kind of skills will we benefit from in the short, medium and long term?
  • What level of data is required to enable action to address areas not meeting set targets?
  • Do different target levels and different criteria for data collection need to be set for different areas of the business, i.e. appropriate to market conditions and type of work?
  • Who is responsible for knowledge sharing i.e. sustainability performance?

Indicator / measures Description Questions to consider
Project sustainability KPIs The aim of this type of KPI is to measure the improvement in sustainability outcomes in the projects that a consultancy firm works on.  The KPI needs to be designed in such a way that definitions of each element of the KPI are clear to all, so as to reduce the level of subjectivity.  An example of this type of KPI might be the number of projects that meet a set of discipline specific sustainability standards. An alternative may be an interview of clients to view how well the firm performs agreed sustainability criteria (see below). While this is focused on client work, it serves to measure the sustainability performance of your staff.
  • Is a product/project carbon footprint something your market would respond positively to?
  • What is the expected standard of work with respect to sustainability for the main disciplines/types of work within our firm?
  • Who is best placed to reflect on whether these standards have been met, e.g. project consultant, project manager, client etc.?
Client feedback on sustainability If the goal is to be known as a sustainable firm, external reputation is an important factor. Including a set of questions on a firm’s performance with respect to sustainability in client feedback interviews can provide valuable insight into the current perceptions in the marketplace.
  • With which type of clients do we want to improve our sustainability profile?
  • What type of actions/ratings show a good/improved performance in sustainability?
  • Will we backdate projects?
  • How will results be communicated and acted upon?
Pro-bono/charitable work This KPI reflects the level of corporate social responsibility (CSR) by measuring either the amount of time or value of work done on a pro-bono basis.  It may be recorded as total financial level, financial level per employee or amount of time per employee. This can be a simple enough task if data is captured.
  • How altruistic are our CSR activities?
  • What is more important to us – doing good or being known for doing good?
  • Are our CSR activities aligned to our business objectives?
  • This KPI can help both goals by providing a visible measure that can be used to demonstrate good performance externally but also provide goals internally for socially responsible conduct.
Workforce diversity Workforce diversity forms part of the social element of sustainability. Common KPIs in this area are the percentage of women in the workplace and percentage of women in management and senior management positions. Data on other forms of diversity (such as religion, race, ethnicity, language, sex, age, sexual orientation and disability) is not generally available due to discrimination laws preventing the collection of this data.
  • What methods can be used to increase gender and other forms of diversity?
  • Are our leaders visibly championing diversity and driving initiatives?
  • Is our working environment open and inclusive?
  • Have we set targets and measures through an evidence-based strategic plan?
  • Do we have strong program management and governance?
  • Is there a review framework in place to ensure continuous improvement?
  • Do we have methods in place to attract and retain the best talent such as changing the language in recruitment material to speak to a broader audience and recognising and dealing with unconscious bias of recruiters?
External awards/registers and independent certification External recognition can be used to demonstrate to clients and others your commitment to sustainability. Potential organisations and awards include the Australian Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility (ACCSR), EOWA (Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace), Australian Sustainability Award for Corporate Governance, Money Magazine sustainability and ethical awards, Ethisphere’s Worlds most ethical companies, NABERs, Green Star, ISCA’s IS Rating Tool and Consult Australia.
  • What awards are best recognised by our target clients?
  • Will these awards improve prospects for winning work, attracting and retaining staff?
  • How do we best maximise the benefits of awards received?