BSBSUS211 Participate in sustainable work practices

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Chapter 6

Participate in sustainable work practices


In this unit you will learn to;

  1. Measure sustainable work practices
  2. support sustainable work practices
  3. seek opportunities to improve sustainable work practices

What is a Carbon Footprint?

While the natural environment provides us with resources, it is [sadly] also a dumping ground for waste and resources that we no longer require. Our use and misuse of the world’s resources has a negative impact on the health of the natural environment and our own quality of life. So sustainable work practices mean that economic development must be ecologically viable now and into the future; taking care to lessen our impact on the environment.

A carbon footprint is the direct effect our actions and lifestyle have on the environment in terms of carbon dioxide emissions. The biggest contributors to carbon footprint today are travel needs, and electricity demands. However, in some way, all our actions have a direct or indirect impact. This includes (but not limited to):

  • the food we eat
  • the clothes we wear
  • the way we entertain ourselves
  • the way in which we move from place to place (cars, buses, aeroplanes)

All of these things need to be manufactured or produced in some way. Machinery requires energy, cars, buses and airplanes burn fuel, and in our homes and offices we use a significant portion of electricity that generally comes from fossil fuel burning power plants. All these actions contribute to accelerating global warming and climate change – leaving behind a ‘carbon footprint’. Many businesses are now looking closely at their work practices and the resources they use in terms of reducing their carbon footprint.

What are greenhouse gas emissions?

Greenhouse gases are gases in Earth’s atmosphere that trap heat. They let sunlight pass through the atmosphere, but they prevent the heat that the sunlight brings from leaving the atmosphere. The main greenhouse gases are: Water vapour and carbon dioxide.

Human activities are responsible for almost all of the increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere over the last 150 years.1 The largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities is from;

  • transportation; this generates the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions and primarily comes from burning fossil fuels for cars, trucks, ships, trains and planes.
  • electricity production; this generates the second largets share of greenhouse gas emissions from, again, burning fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas
  • industries; that burn fossil fuels or from certain chemical reactions necessary to produce goods from raw materials.
  • commercial and residential; from homes and businesses using fossil fuels burned for heat, the use of certain products that contain greenhouse gases and the handling of waste
  • agriculture; greenhouse gas emissions from this sector come mainly from livestock such as cows, or agricultural soils and from rice production

Climate Initiatives

There are a number of government initiatives at a national and global level directed at making improvements in the way we work; helping us think about the way we use energy, the products and services we use – and in turn produce, the way we produce them and, in general, assist in setting up what are known as ‘green’ offices. Some of these initiatives are, and can be found at:

  • Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources – This Department manages and delivers policies and programs that help Australia respond to climate change. They develop and administer our government’s domestic actions in order to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and meet our obligations under the Paris Agreement.


  • Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment – The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act) is the Australian Government’s central piece of environmental legislation. It provides a legal framework to protect and manage nationally and internationally important flora, fauna, ecological communities and heritage places — defined in the Act as matters of national environmental significance. The Department offers some excellent information on their website/s. See:

  • The Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement – “At the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted with the aim of stabilising greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a sustainable level and thereby counteracting serious consequences. It entered into force in 1994.The signatory states meet at regular intervals at the so-​called COPs (Conference of the Parties) to agree on further action in climate protection. In 1997, this meeting was held in Kyoto in Japan, during which the “Kyoto Protocol“, the first document with legally binding obligations for limits and reductions, was adopted by the ratified countries. The period of applicability was set for the years 2008 to 2012 (1. obligation period) and 2013 to 2020 (2. obligation period).  In order to be able to maintain the international climate protection process, after the initial agreement period was over (2020), a new climate agreement was required. This was adopted in 2015 at the COP in Paris as the “Paris Agreement“, which, for the first time, included a specific target for limiting global warming to well below 2°C above the pre-​industrial levels of 1750. The ratified countries set their own reduction targets, whereby a review and strengthening of the climate protection efforts was to take place every 5 years. In October 2016, the required number of at least 55 ratified countries, which are responsible for at least 55 % of the global greenhouse gas emissions, was reached, which meant the agreement could enter into force. “

  • International Standards Organisation – The International Organisation of Standardisation, (ISO) is a worldwide organization that develops many different kinds of Standards. ISO 14000 is a series of documents that relate to the implementation of an Environmental Management System (EMS). Within this series, ISO 14001 is the document which defines the requirements for the EMS and provides guidance for its use. An EMS gives an organisation a systematic approach for managing their environmental impact; the consequences of their business operations.


Measuring sustainable work practices

Establishing an environmentally friendly and sustainable workplace begins with looking at the way in which your organisation operates; determining if resources are used to their best advantage and that there is no unnecessary (and costly) waste.

Many organisations will have workplace procedures that they have been following for many years. They may also have used the same resources, purchased from the same supplier, with the general attitude being that “it has always worked … why change?”

Developing a sustainable workplace, however, is about more than just being more “environmentally friendly”. There are sound business reasons for changing to more sustainable practices; practices that will save time, energy and money.

When exploring how best to integrate sustainability into the work place it is necessary to look at current practices, and the resources you use, and determine if:

  • they are being used as effectively as possible. For example; are you using them in accordance with the manufacturer or organisational instructions? Incorrect use of resources can cause damage or injury, and waste resources
  • you are using the best resource for each particular job;
    • are there ‘green’ products that could do the job?
    • are there alternative methods of completing the task?
    • could you do without that resource altogether?
  • you are not wasting the resource needlessly; are you re-using and recycling resources wherever possible?
  • your purchasing procedures for resources reflect an environmentally sustainable strategy.
  • they present hazards to people or the environment. Working with chemicals or toxic substances, bad lighting or bad ventilation are all areas of concern, and if they exist in a given workplace, should be reviewed with alternative products and means in mind.

Identifying sustainable work practices in your own role

The best place and the easiest way to start the process of ‘greening’ your workplace is to look at things that you can, personally, control. Look at how your work habits might affect the environment and ways in which you could use resources more efficiently. For example:

  • turn off all computers, monitors and other office machines when not in use.
  • activate the energy-saving function that is installed on most new computers.
  • if your computer doesn’t have energy-saving software installed you can save energy by simply switching off the monitor when not in use. Monitors can consume three times the energy used by your PC.
  • re-set photocopiers and printers to default to double-sided printing.
  • always choose the low water consumption feature on dishwashers (ie. the short-wash option often called “Economy”). Put up a sign to this effect for all users, including cleaners.
  • Be mindful of your water usage; don’t leave taps on needlessly and ensure washers are replaced regularly to avoid water dripping.
  • remove light bulbs from areas where they are not needed or there are more than necessary. Some offices have many more ceiling lights than necessary. Make use of energy saving bulbs.
  • turn off lights when not in use (especially overnight and on weekends) and put up signs to remind other people to do so.
  • open windows – if you can – instead of using air conditioners. Remember that most air conditioning systems provide less than 10% fresh air.
  • program your climate control systems to turn off at the end of each day and on weekends – there’s no point heating and cooling empty offices.
  • install a desk-side recycling bin for all paper products – you can either re-use a cardboard box or ask your waste paper collection contractor to provide one. Most waste collection companies can provide these for you.
  • use e-mail wherever possible. Use on-line (versus hard copy) versions of documents such as annual reports, information memorandums etc. Cut and paste necessary information and/or print needed pages only (rather than whole reports). Avoid using cover sheets when sending facsimiles and ‘With Compliments’ slips when sending physical mail.
  • re-use envelopes, bags etc. Make a space in your stationery store area for people to recycle them.
  • re-use paper that is unprinted on one side for in-house drafts, fax machines, photocopies.
  • establish a ‘Green Office’ team or committee to implement longer-term and ongoing energy efficiency initiatives.
  • walk, cycle or use public transport if possible.

A successful, environmentally sustainable workplace, however, is bigger than just your own workspace. It requires the resources, support and commitment of the entire organisation to fully succeed.


What are your own, personal, work habits:  do you turn off lights or equipment when not in use? Do you recycle paper or other recyclable resources? Do you use paper un-neccarily?

Identifying, Measuring and Documenting Resource Use

Resources are all the things you need to do your job on a regular basis. They are the little things that you often take for granted and do not give any thought to.

Resources generally used in the workplace can include such things as:

  • paper products
  • machinery of any kind
  • electricity
  • plastic products
  • toner and ink cartridges
  • chemicals for cleaning
  • business equipment
  • office furniture
  • water usage… and so on

These, among many others, are the things that can make an enormous difference to not only the organisation’s cost efficiency but also its carbon footprint; the more of these products or services you use, the more must be produced using up yet more energy and natural resources.

Setting up sustainability policies and procedures requires a great deal of consideration and planning. Key questions in the initial process might include (but are not limited to):

  • Which resources are being used (what are the inputs in terms of energy, water and materials)?
  • Where do the resources come from?
  • How are the resources being used?
  • How many are being used?
  • Where do the resources end up after use?
  • How much is used and how much does it cost?
  • How much is wasted (how much does not end up in the final ‘product’)?
  • What is the organisational AND environmental impact of using these resources?
  • Why is so much used / wasted?
  • How efficient and/or effective are the current resources?
  • Are there any issues with the current resources?
  • Can current resources be replaced by eco-friendly products to do the same job?
  • Can the processes and procedures be amended to (possibly) cut out the need for using a product to fulfil the task altogether.
  • What can you do to reduce the quantities used, waste produced and environmental impact?
  • How will you do it (Action Plan)?
  • Has it made an impact?

Answering these, and other, questions will provide you with the basic information you need to fully understand your existing resources and their use, and to make informed decisions about what, if any, changes might need to be made for a sustainable environment.


Look at the above questions and apply them to your own work practices. How is your performance in terms of resource usage? Are you using them efficiently? Could you do better?

Recording and Measuring Resource Usage

There are a number of ways in which an organisation can track and monitor the way in which it uses resources. Some of these include;

  • use of software programs such as Excel (as shown in the table below).
  • depending on the industry you work in; the use of specialised technology to measure such things as noise emissions and efficiency of electrical equipment. This data can then be evaluated in terms of usage.
  • filing and examining invoices from suppliers
  • measuring resource usage under different conditions; are there times where resources are used more or less. For example, use of air conditioning would be higher in summer than in winter; using more energy and costing more money.
  • Checklists used for WHS and Environmental audits

Examples of how resources could be measured and recorded;

…. continued in the textbook…

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