MLC Building, Sydney. Photos courtesy of GPT Group

Sustainability is inherently an innovative concept that relies on the development of new ideas and initiatives. Whilst innovation is core to sustainability, there is already an abundance of best practice standards, tools and guidelines available to use in this space.

One of the most challenging aspects of sustainability is navigating those products that already exist, and those new ones that are frequently introduced into the market.

Given the volume of expertise and knowledge that has now been commercialised into products for business, this appendix aims to provide a brief introduction and shortcut to some of the most prominent initiatives.

When navigating those tools available, give due consideration to the outcome you are aiming to deliver, and what it is you want to assess. The Decision Support Tool should already have supported your considerations in that regard.

This is not a comprehensive, all-inclusive guide to the tools that exist across the Australian on indeed the internal market, but have been provided as an initial indication.

Corporate sustainability standards, guidelines and certification schemes
ISO26000 Corporate Social Responsibility Guidelines ISO 26000 is a Corporate Social Responsibility Guideline document. It provides guidance on concepts, definitions and methods of evaluating corporate responsibility, and suggests issues that should be covered in a corporate responsibility report, ranging from human rights and decent work conditions to consumer protection, and minimising environmental impacts.

Environmental Managements Systems
ISO14001 Accreditation ISO14001 is the International Standard for Environmental Management. ISO14001 was developed in 1996. It sets out a process for implementing a management system designed to reduce the impact of the environmental aspects which an organisation can control.

ISO14001 requires:

  • An environmental policy,
  • Identification of environmental aspects and impacts,
  • Planned environmental objectives,
  • Setting measurable targets,
  • The implementation and operation of programs to meet the objectives and targets,
  • Checking and taking corrective action where deficiencies are identified,
  • Conducting regular management reviews and audits to ensure the system is working as intended, and
  • Achieving continuous improvement in environmental performance.

Formal certification against the ISO14001 standard is awarded after passing an independent third party audit.
Certification is commonly used in Australia as selection criteria by companies screening their suppliers and service providers.

Question to consider: Might our clients or customers use ISO14001 accreditation as selection criteria when choosing between our products or services and a competitor’s?  Does our organisation need a certified ISO14001 environmental management system, or can a less rigorous approach satisfy our business objectives?

Environmental Claims
AS/NZS ISO 14021:2000, Environmental Labels and declarations-Self declared environmental claims

See also: ISO 14025- Environmental Product declarations – (Type III environmental declarations)

ISO 14021 covers environmental claims about products made under the sole responsibility of the businesses concerned, i.e. self-declared environmental claims. It establishes general requirements for any environmental claims and seeks to ensure the relevance and sincerity of such claims. It also aims to reduce confusion and defines the requirements for the 12 most common self-declared environmental claims:

  • Reduced Resource Use
  • Recovered Energy
  • Waste Reduction
  • Reduced Energy Consumption
  • Reduced Water Consumption
  • Extended Life Product
  • Reusable and Refillable
  • Designed for Disassembly
  • Compostable
  • Degradable
  • Recyclable
  • Recycled Content

Further information:

BS 8903:2010 Principles and framework for procuring sustainably This standard gives guidance on how sustainable procurement principles and practices can be embedded across an organisation and its supply chains. It also gives practical information that supports the implementation of these practices including an enabler section (section 4) that covers leadership and governance, people, risk, engagement and measurement.

Each stage of the procurement process is covered by the standard and it is applicable to all sizes of organisations across the public, private and third sectors. The standard articulates best practice and attempts to cover every aspect of a procurement organisation from recruitment and training through to processes, supplier engagement and results measurement.

Further information:

Third party eco-labelling schemes Ecolabels inform us about the environmental impacts from producing or using a product and set minimum environmental and health standards for specific product categories.  Ecolabels are increasingly facilitating manufacturers, retailers and customers in their purchasing decisions. Whilst they are voluntary, they are becoming an important competitive factor within Australia. Ecolabels are also a means to protect consumers from dubious environmental claims or ‘greenwash’.

Examples of types of schemes:

Note: Relevant ISO standard: ISO 14024:1999 – Environmental labels and declarations – Type I environmental labelling)

Building design and construction phase
Green Star The Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) administers the Green Star environmental rating system for buildings, which was first released in 2003. More than 600 projects have been certified using Green Star in Australia. Green Star can be applied to new build and refurbishment works at office buildings, interior fit-out projects, retail buildings, education, healthcare, industrial and multi-unit residential buildings, and for precincts and communities. The GBCA has also released Green Star – Performance, a rating tool designed to assess the operational performance of almost all types of building, whether they already have a a Green Star rating or not. The environmental categories covered by Green Star rating tools are:

  • Management;
  • Indoor environment quality;
  • Energy;
  • Transport;
  • Water;
  • Materials;
  • Land use and ecology;
  • Emissions; and
  • Innovation.

Green Star is a system of credits where points are awarded based on the number of credit criteria complied with. Credits in each category are weighted, so a point is worth a different amount in each section. The total number of points scored is translated into a weighted overall percentage score, which determines the final rating. A project needs to score at least 45 per cent to get a 4 Star rating, 60 per cent for a 5 Star rating, and 75 per cent for a 6 Star rating.

Building operation phase
NABERS The National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) was introduced in 1999. It is administered by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH). NABERS rates operational performance of buildings using a consistent methodology that results in a rating from zero to six stars. NABERS can be used to rate an office building’s energy, water, waste, and indoor environment performance. It can be used to rate a whole building, basic services or a tenancy. NABERS energy and water ratings can also be carried out for hotels, retail buildings and residential homes. NABERS ratings for schools, hospitals, transport, and data centres are in development.
Since 2011, Australian Federal legislation mandatorily requires a NABERS rating to be carried out for all office buildings over 2,000m2 at the time of sale or lease (as part of the Commercial Building Disclosure rules under the Building Energy Efficiency Act 2010).

Questions to consider: Does our building require a NABERS rating under the Commercial Building Disclosure rules? Do we have 12 months of energy and water bills available to inform the NABERS rating? Have we considered setting a company-wide NABERS target, e.g. all buildings and tenancies must achieve a minimum 4.5 Star NABERS Energy rating?

Zero Carbon Buildings
Living Building Challenge The Living Building Challenge is a performance-based standard for best practice sustainable buildings. Projects must be operational for at least 12 months before they are eligible for certification. In order to be certified as a Living Building Challenge building, a project must meet all 20 of the standard’s criteria (known as ‘imperatives’). The 20 imperatives are grouped under the following headings:

  • Site,
  • Water,
  • Energy,
  • Health,
  • Materials,
  • Equity, and
  • Beauty.

Among the 20 imperatives are requirements that a building meet 100 per cent of its net annual energy needs from on-site renewable energy, account for embodied carbon, zero net water (use captured and on-site treated water), avoid certain banned materials, and produce food on site.

One Planet Living Principles The 10 One Planet Living themes were developed through a joint initiative of the environmental group World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and BioRegional as a method for creating sustainable communities based on the model of the BedZED (Beddington Zero Emissions Development) project in London, UK. The principles define sustainable development objectives that are consistent with living within the environmental limits of the planet. The 10 principles are:

  • Zero carbon,
  • Zero waste,
  • Sustainable transport,
  • Local and sustainable materials,
  • Local and sustainable food,
  • Sustainable water,
  • Land use and wildlife,
  • Culture and community,
  • Equity and local economy, and
  • Health and happiness.

Infrastructure sustainability
ISCA Infrastructure Sustainability (IS) Rating Tool Launched in 2012 by the  Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia (ISCA), the Infrastructure Sustainability (IS) rating tool is a rating system for evaluating the sustainability of infrastructure projects and assets such as roads and bridges, airports and ports, railways, electricity and communication infrastructure, water storage and sewerage or drainage works. org

Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is a non-profit organisation that promotes economic, environmental and social sustainability. The GRI’s Sustainability Reporting Framework is a structured way for organisations to measure and report their sustainability performance. The GRI Framework covers:

  • Reporting principles including content, quality and scope; and
  • Disclosure of strategy, measurement and minimum number of performance indicators.

The GRI Framework allows companies to build up the scope and rigour of the information reported by providing three separate levels of reporting intensity, which can be verified by: self review; third party review; or GRI review.

Question to consider: Is our company publically listed? What impact does this have on reporting requirements and other behaviour?

Dow Jones Sustainability Index The Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI) tracks the financial performance of leading publicly listed companies worldwide that have been screened for inclusion on the basis of their sustainability performance.
Companies are selected for inclusion on the DJSI on the basis of performance against defined sustainability performance criteria, and must fulfil the sustainability criteria better than the majority of their peers. To remain in the index, companies have to continually intensify their sustainability initiatives.

An example of the DJSI Screening Questionnaire can be found at:

FTSE4Good FTSE produce the FTSE4Good Index which tracks the stock market performance of the FTSE4Good group of companies against the broader market. The FTSE4Good Index Series tracks the performance of companies that meet corporate responsibility standards. The FTSE4Good inclusion criteria cover:

  • Environmental management,
  • Climate change mitigation and adaptation,
  • Countering bribery,
  • Upholding human and labour rights, and
  • Supply chain labour standards.

Companies that do not meet the standards are deleted from the index series.

The FTSE4Good index inclusion criteria are designed to identify companies that meet globally recognised and accepted responsible investment criteria.

Carbon Footprint
Carbon footprinting using ISO40164 and GHG Protocol A carbon footprint is the sum of greenhouse gas emissions from an organisation (or individual), using one common metric CO2-e (Carbon Dioxide equivalent). This translates electricity consumption (in kWh), gas combustion (MJ), vehicle emissions (fuel consumption per km travelled) into a single unit so they can be reported as an aggregate figure. A carbon footprint can even incorporate supply chain impacts or embodied carbon in materials, using a single figure. The most important part of a carbon footprinting exercise is to define the ‘scope’ of the analysis. Scope 1 emissions relate to direct combustion (e.g. gas). Scope 2 emissions are off-site emissions associated with electricity consumption. Scope 3 emissions are all other emissions, commonly including staff business travel.

There are established global methodologies for determining an organisation’s Carbon Footprint and defining the ‘scope’ of the carbon footprint, including the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the World Resources Institutes standard called the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, and its ISO equivalent ISO14064. The WBCSD developed protocol was a precursor to ISO14064, which was developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

Carbon Disclosure Project The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) is an independent not-for-profit organisation that compiles a database of primary corporate climate change information. The CDP holds the largest collection globally of self reported climate change data. Thousands of organisations measure and disclose their greenhouse gas emissions and climate change strategies through the CDP. Companies register with the CDP, and then complete the CDP questionnaire to provide carbon footprint information.

Questions to consider: What have we already done in this space and can this knowledge be utilised? E.g. If my organisation has prepared a carbon footprint, consider disclosing this publicly by registering with the Carbon Disclosure Project.

Carbon Footprint (products)
ISO14067 and PAS 2050 ISO14067 is the international standard for calculating the carbon footprint of a product. It codified the World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s Greenhouse Gas Protocol.

There is a British Publicly Available Specification (PAS) for measuring the embodied greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from goods and services, known as PAS 2050.

There is also the GHG Protocol Product Standard which does essentially the same thing.

Ecological Footprint
Global Footprint Network The global footprint is a way of simply visualising the environmental limits to human activity. It expresses environmental impacts in terms of the number of planet earths that are required to support a certain level of production and consumption. E.g. If all countries consumed the resources that Australians do, it would take the biocapacity of three Earths to support their lifestyle, which is well beyond the level of what the planet can regenerate on an annual basis.

An ecological footprint is a way of showing the scale of human impacts on the environment in terms of the amount of land area needed to support current human activity. The ecological footprint calculation is an estimate of all the cropland, grazing land, forest and fishing grounds required to produce the food, fibre and timber that the global economy consumes, plus the land area needed for infrastructure and to absorb the wastes and CO2 we emit.

Ecological footprint analysis can reveal which regions, industrial sectors and companies will face increasing limits in resources such as energy, forest, croplands, pastures and fisheries. It can also help identify strategies that will succeed in a resource-constrained world, including products and services that will be most needed in the future.

Life cycle analysis
Cradle to Cradle certification The Cradle to Cradle Certified Product Standard is a certification tool for manufactured products administered by the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute that evaluates a product’s environmental impacts over the full product life cycle. It was developed by McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry LLC (MBDC) in cooperation with EPEA Internationale Umweltforschung GmbH, and product certification commenced in 2005. The Cradle to Cradle Product Standard rewards achievement in five sustainability categories:

  • Material health,
  • Material reutilization,
  • Renewable energy and carbon management,
  • Water stewardship, and
  • Social fairness.

There are five certification levels: basic; bronze; silver; gold; and platinum.

Life cycle costing and ISO15686-5 Life cycle costing (LCC) (also known as whole life value (WLV)) assessments balance initial capital cost against ongoing operational costs to determine the best whole life value proposition for key asset types, or indeed the whole building or its component parts. LCC assessments can help identify the true cost of materials and components, taking into account critical factors such as how often a material or component will need to be replaced, and how much energy it will use. The aim of LCC assessments is to optimise the economic performance of assets over their operational service life (e.g. over a period of 30 and 60 years). Life cycle costs include:

  • Initial capital cost,
  • Construction costs,
  • Maintenance including replacement and repairs,
  • Operation including utilities and cleaning,
  • Occupancy, including reception and security, and
  • End of life disposal costs.

ISO15686 part 5 service life planning for buildings and constructed assets is an international standard for life-cycle costing.

BS 890:2010 – Principles and Framework for Procuring Sustainably BS 8903 is the world’s first standard for sustainable procurement and was launched in 2010. This standard developed with support from a wide variety of participants including central government departments, the private sector and NGOs.

BS 8903 provides guidance on how sustainable procurement principles and practices can be embedded across an organisation and its supply chains. It also gives practical information that supports the implementation of these practices including an enabler section that covers:

  • leadership and governance,
  • people,
  • risk,
  • engagement and
  • measurement.

The standard articulates best practice and attempts to cover every single aspect of a procurement organisation from recruitment and training through to processes, supplier engagement and results measurement.

Each stage of the procurement process is covered by the standard and it is applicable to all sizes of organisations across the public, private and third sectors, and the standard is closely aligned to the five themes of the Uks Flexible Framework: The Sustainable Procurement National Action Plan.

Change management models
Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) Defra’s work on pro-environmental behaviour has been collected in their report, A framework for pro-environmental behaviours. It pulls together evidence on public understanding, attitudes and behaviours; identifies behaviour goals; and draws conclusions on the potential for change across a range of behaviour groups. It is designed to support policy development and implementation in Defra, in other Government Departments and externally.

Their 4E Model for Change is noted as a useful checklist to use with clients and also internally in professional services firms.

Social sustainability
Social Accountability Standard SA8000 SA8000 is a global social accountability standard for decent working conditions, developed and overseen by Social Accountability International (SAI). It is an auditable voluntary standard for decent working conditions based on the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Convention on the Rights of the Child and various International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions. SA8000 requires the adoption of policies and procedures that protect the basic human rights of workers, including: child labour, forced and compulsory labour, health and safety, freedom of association and right to collective bargaining, discrimination, disciplinary practices, working hours, remuneration.

Sigma Guidelines The SIGMA project has developed guidelines which help organisations to respond to social, environmental and economic challenges. The SIGMA Project Sustainability Integrated Guidelines for Management was launched in 1999 with the support of the UK Department of Trade and Industry. It is a partnership between the British Standards Institution (the leading standards organisation), Forum for the Future (a leading sustainability charity and think-tank), and AccountAbility (the international professional body for accountability).

They cover economic impacts, environmental impacts, labour practices and human rights as well as social issues such as community engagement and corruption, and extended producer responsibility for consumer health and safety, misleading advertising and control of personal information and privacy.

OECD Guidelines for MNEs The OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (MNEs) cover disclosure of information, fair employment and industrial relations, environmental protection, combating bribery, and protecting consumer interests.

ISO26000 Corporate Social Responsibility Guidelines ISO 26000 is a Corporate Social Responsibility Guideline document. It provides guidance on concepts, definitions and methods of evaluating corporate responsibility, and suggests issues that should be covered in a corporate responsibility report, ranging from human rights and decent work conditions to consumer protection, and minimising environmental impacts.

FIDIC Guidelines for Integrity Management (FIM) Corruption flourishes in the world of construction and international development, but there also are prolific efforts to stamp it out. In 2011, FIDIC updated its anti-corruption measures for companies. In light of the problems involving overseas agents at engineer SNC-Lavalin, these measures are worth reviewing. Double-checking a firm’s anti-corruption practices is a good idea any time, especially when it comes to agents who represent your company overseas.