Using sustainable resources and introducing recycling and waste reduction measures can have a positive effect on the environment, but can also improve your business’s profitability and reputation.

Follow our steps to help you:

  • set up an environmental management system
  • find ways to reduce energy and water usage
  • find support in your state and territory.

1. Get an environmental audit

An environmental audit looks at how your business affects the environment and sets a benchmark for improvement. It’s useful for finding the areas of your business that impact on the environment the most. Checking how well you meet environmental regulations also helps you manage business risk.

An environmental audit can help you:

  • assess the nature and extent of harm to the environment caused your business
  • assess how you can manage or improve the condition of the environment
  • prioritise what you need to do to reduce your environmental impact
  • show your business’s accountability to government, customers and shareholders.

To be successful, environmental audits must be independent, objective, credible and transparent. Get regular ongoing audits that compare to your benchmark or initial assessment – and include details in your business’s environmental plan.

2. Set up an environmental management system

Consider setting up an environmental management system (EMS). This is a tool to manage your business’s current and future environmental impact.

Your EMS can:

  • support your environmental management plan
  • improve your use of resources
  • make it easier to get licences and permits
  • help you meet your environmental goals.

What to include in an EMS

In your EMS:

  • identify the environmental impacts of your business
  • set your environmental objectives and targets
  • provide your operational and emergency procedures related to environmental matters
  • outline responsibilities and your reporting structure
  • identify areas for ongoing improvement.

Getting your environmental management system accredited

The ISO 14001 standard sets out the requirements for a certified EMS. If you’re thinking of getting your EMS accredited, consider:

  • if your customers think having a certified EMS is important
  • if your competitors have a certified EMS and benefited from it
  • how much time you’ll put aside to set up your EMS for certification.

3. Manage energy use

You may be able to manage how and when you use energy. Consider the following options to manage your electricity and energy usage.

In your home or business

  • Reduce heat escaping by double glazing windows and insulating walls.
  • Reduce draughts by sealing doors and windows and installing automatic doors.
  • Buy energy efficient light bulbs.
  • Install timers, smart meters and displays.
  • Purchase or lease energy efficient equipment.
  • Regularly maintain equipment.
  • Consider energy efficient heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems and use the thermostat to automate temperatures.
  • Look into cogeneration or tri-generation technology – if your business uses a lot of energy (such as an office, hotel or data centre). Cogeneration systems generate heat and power, tri-generation systems generate heat, power and cooling.
  • Reduce energy use during peak periods – switch off unnecessary equipment, install automatic timers or use alternative energy.
  • Compare energy offers on the Energy Made Easy website.
  • Get a free Business Energy Advice Program consultation on energy efficiency options best suited to your business.
  • See how you can improve your NABERS energy rating and save money on your energy bills.

In your vehicle

Switch to alternative energy

Consider switching to a green energy provider or installing solar systems to generate your own electricity. Before you decide, consider all your options to:;

  • ensure they suit your business needs
  • explore any potential costs
  • find out if you can get money for electricity you send into the network (a feed-in tariff).

If you plan to sell electricity, make sure you follow the Australian Energy Regulator’s guidelines. In particular, you’ll need to seek a retailer authorisation or a retail exemption if you plan to sell to other sites in your area.

Find energy assistance and funding

You may be eligible for assistance to help make the switch to more efficient energy systems.

  • Search our grants and programs to find energy grants available for business.
  • Check our Saving energy tips for energy-related support and incentives.
  • For local energy programs, see the resources for your state or territory.

4. Manage water use

There are many ways to reduce your water use, from choosing a water provider to having a water management plan. Find out how much water you need in all stages of your business and look for ways to make them more efficient.

Here's some tips to reduce your water use at work:

  • Look for water leaks in fittings and use a water meter or flow restrictor where possible.
  • Report leaking taps, toilets and showers.
  • Replace tap washers and seals annually.
  • Install rainwater tanks and water-saving devices.
  • Water garden areas only when necessary and use mulch to reduce water loss.
  • Consider re-using or recycling water where possible.
  • Involve staff or a ‘water champion’ to check meters and monitor water use, consult with external experts where possible.
  • Find out about using non-potable water (water that’s not of drinking quality).
  • Use products with a water efficiency label. Find out more from the Water Efficiency and Labelling Standards Scheme (WELS).
  • Consider having a water management plan.

5. Manage waste

The 3 Rs – reduce, reuse and recycle – can help you to manage your waste better. Here are some practical ways to help your business reduce its waste:

  • Know what your waste is – a quick look in your bins will help you to understand the types of waste and how much waste your business produces. Bin Trim is an audit tool that can help you measure the amount of waste your business creates and identify materials you could recycle or re-use.
  • Separate the different types of waste – it is important that you know what rubbish your business can recycle or reuse. Have separate bins for waste going to landfill and for recycling.
  • Introduce a waste reduction program – this is a great way to build cooperation and communication amongst your staff on reducing waste. Appoint a waste management coordinator who can identify local recyclers and establish a program for your business’s needs.
  • Review your products – consider whether the cost of disposing of materials is more than the cost of producing or buying them. Could your business use fewer materials in packaging, or better still, reuse or recycle them?
  • Buy green goods – talk to your supplier about using environmentally friendly products or materials.

Search for a list of recyclers as well as recycling options for around 90 different materials on the Business Recycling website.

Manage hazardous waste

Hazardous waste is material that has the potential to harm humans or the environment, such as solvent-based paints, garden chemicals, batteries, fuels and computer equipment. Find out about disposing of some common hazardous materials:

  • Asbestos – although asbestos is no longer used, its removal is still a big issue for many businesses where it remains. Find out how to manage and control asbestos in the workplace.
  • Radioactive waste – if your business deals with radioactive materials you must have procedures in place to classify, handle, store and dispose of it correctly. You can find the kinds of radioactive waste on the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources website.
  • Medical waste – this waste may contain blood, body fluids or other infectious materials. The usual disposal method is to incinerate. Another option is to place the waste in a prescribed container for collection and disposal by a licensed waste transporter.
  • Electronic waste find a recycling drop-off point near you for your old television or electronic waste.
  • Tyre recycling – find accredited tyre recyclers or join the voluntary Tyre Stewardship national scheme that promotes markets for old tyres.
  • Chemicals – if you have a chemicals business, download the Chemicals Business Checklist for requirements.

Chemicals business checklist

The checklist is useful for anyone working in the chemicals and plastics industry including those who import, manufacture, use, handle, transport or dispose chemicals.

The checklist includes:

  • a series of questions to help guide you through many of the issues you need to consider when operating your chemical business
  • a contact list to direct you to the relevant regulatory body or government agency

6. Know environmental management in your state or territory

Find resources for your area to help you manage your business’s environmental impact.

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