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Tag Archives: Environment

Manufacturing and Life Cycle Assessment

The manufacturing industry plays an important role in global economic development, however it contributes to a significant share of negative environmental impacts in the form of pollution and waste. Manufacturing companies are subject to increasing pressure from consumers and legislation to improve their own activities towards more environmentally conscious manufacturing processes which create less environmentally damaging products. This pressure calls for product designers and production engineers to identify improvement measures for existing manufacturing systems, as well as create innovative concepts for new products. These investigations need to consider the entire life cycle of the manufacturing system and product, including the impacts related to production, use and end of life disposal. 

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a tool used by companies and product designers to better understand their products’ overall and complete impacts – positive and negative. It helps businesses to quantify impacts at the various stages and provides insights  to improve performance and reduce environmental impacts. 

Why undertake an LCA? There are various reasons:

Stakeholder and consumer expectations: Increasingly consumers are seeking products with reduced environmental impacts, this is reflected in product purchasing choices.
> Industry directions: The manufacturing industry in Australia has a leading role in improving sustainability of its products.
> Voluntary environmental management systems: ISO 14001 is driving continuous improvement and uncovering business efficiency. 

While the key objectives for an LCA often begin with aiming to better understand environmental footprint, the framework can be used to assess other issues including economic and social factors. Examples may include:

> Uncovering production losses, which manufacturing business may refer to as ‘scrap rates’.
> Identifying areas of high energy use, where if savings can be made, will reduce costs and greenhouse emissions.
> Transport and logistics reviews may reveal options to reduce emissions and save costs.
> Raw materials choice for manufacture, including reviewing supplier social procurement practices to protect business reputation.

Businesses that are currently assessing their internal footprint are already on the path to developing an LCA. Examples of this include energy efficiency studies, where energy per unit production helps set a benchmark for assessing business improvements. 

If you would like to know more about LCA’s and how an LCA study may help your business development please contact us.

A simple diagram of life cycle assessment

 

 

Climate Active

Climate Active certification provides businesses and organisations with the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to managing their environmental impacts and committing to sustainable outcomes. Climate Active is the Australian Government backed program that enables business to measure, manage and offset carbon emissions from their operations or products and services. Organisations can also apply the certification to events, buildings and precincts that demonstrates their commitment to driving voluntary climate action in the growing face of pressures from customers and investors.

The Climate Active certification is awarded to organisations and businesses that have credibly reached state of carbon neutrality/ net zero emissions. The certification and verification process as well as public reporting requirements ensures that like for like businesses can be compared with respect to assessing, reducing and offsetting carbon emissions. 

The emergence of voluntary schemes such as Climate Active are driven by “social license” and responsible business practice. The scheme presents the opportunity to achieve greater staff engagement and demonstrate to customers you have in place a robust climate strategy commitment. The scheme aims to incentivise voluntary action, with the certification assisting the greater community by making it easier to identify brands, businesses and organisations that are committing to making a real difference.

Addressing barriers to Product Stewardship in Australia

Product stewardship calls for companies, supply chains and retailers to take greater responsibility for their services and products across their whole life cycle, from design to production to use and, finally, disposal. 

Earlier in July the Product Stewardship Centre of Excellence released a white paper report “Addressing the Barriers: A needs assessment of product stewardship in Australia.” The paper aims to explore and understand the barriers to product stewardship in Australia, investigating opportunities for further development and expansion of product stewardship across the nation.

The paper discusses the major challenge such as free-riders; businesses or organisations that may benefit from product stewardship activity without contributing to the implementation or operation. 

Although not discussed in the paper, the voluntary trend of product stewardship in Australia is also an issue to consider. 

This trend is a particularly Australian phenomenon, as most other countries support regulatory approaches. Australian industry leadership towards product stewardship should be congratulated. For example, the recent announcement of the Australian Toy Association partnering with other leading brands to investigate product stewardship of toys, and the recognition of best practice for Tyre Stewardship Australia are positive developments. 

However, similar to the free-riding organisations, companies and industries who use voluntary as a means to defer, delay or avoid responsibility should be brought to account. 

Voluntary approaches cannot be realistically expected to work in a timely manner where there is no industry agreement and coordination, and where the brand owners are diffuse, have little or no local decision-making authority or are no longer trading. In such cases it at best will be a slow process and many years before some sort of voluntary approach is figured out. 

In general, the need for government intervention is generally greater the more complex the products and supply chain.

For product stewardship broadly to meet community expectations, to reach waste and recycling targets, to discourage free-riders and to support genuine leadership efforts, there therefore needs to be clear market signals that government will regulate when and where needed. 

While the Centre’s white paper correctly highlights key barriers, overcoming them will require the government to act where appropriate to put pressure on industry and ensure accountability, and that includes judicious use of regulatory powers.

ARENA launch $43 million Industrial Energy Transformation Studies Program

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency announced a $43 million grant program on behalf of the federal government to assist in identifying methods to cut industrial energy costs and emissions. The first round of the Industrial Energy Transformation Studies Program will offer $25 million to assist research and the development of business case projects for organisations in the mining, agriculture, manufacturing sectors, water supply, gas supply, waste services and data centres. Applicants can apply under one of two rounds: 

>Round 1A – Feasibility Studies (Up to $10 million available). Grants can be between $100,000 and $500,00 for up to 75% of eligible project costs
>Round 1B –
Engineering Studies (up to $15 million available). Grants can be between $250,000 and $5 million for up to 50% of eligible project costs.

The program aims to fund studies that deliver transformational improvements in de-carbonisation technology and energy efficiency practices for industry. Eligible projects must also demonstrate high replicability potential across similar industry settings.

Applications for the initial round of funding will be open on the 6th of July.

ARENA will be hosting separate information sessions for Round 1A and Round 1B in the week commencing 12 July, further information regarding these information sessions will be published on the Industrial Energy Transformation Studies Program website in the coming weeks.

Greenwashing and the ‘race to zero’

Global markets, shareholders and consumers are impelling corporates to announce climate action and net zero policies across the globe. This movement has resulted in a rush of company directors announcing net zero pledges without fully examining their capacity and ability to meet their goals.

Renew Economy stressed that failures to meet these goals, could be considered “guilty or misleading conduct”, resulting in legal or regulatory penalties. The long timeframe to achieve net zero goals and the current lack of clear, unified regulatory approach, may have set a false sense of ease. In March, The Conversation among other researchers published the first analysis of net zero commitments of 4,000+ sub-national governments and companies which account for 80% of global emissions. The study highlighted that only 60% of plans announced interim targets and 62% of the corporates announced reporting mechanisms.

If corporates are serious with their net zero intent, it will be met with robust measures in place and pledging a target which can be held accountable by shareholders and consumers. Credibility should be demonstrated by accreditations from impartial mechanisms such as a science-based target, which will validate whether the plan is credible. Last week Australia Post and Newcastle Port have become the latest Australian organisation to have their emissions targets recognised by the Science-Based Targets program, validating both the corporates’ efforts to limit temperature rise “well below two degrees”.

Net zero targets are statements of corporate intent, and should not be made unless research has been undertaken to ensure they are deliverable. Corporates are encouraged to seek advice and support regarding this. Goals should be genuine, and importantly realistic in their approach to reach net zero.

Placing an emphasis on supplier sustainability

Organisations in Australia are demanding more environmental reporting, driving suppliers to update and make mandatory environmental commitments and changes. This is a growing trend in the agricultural industry and supply chain in particular. Large companies such as Coles and Woolworths are seeking additional control and oversight, requiring their suppliers to help them meet their environmental targets. 

Last week the Coles group announced a “together to zero” campaign, outlining a collaborative scheme with consumers and its supply chain to meet their emissions targets. The group announced plans to be powered entirely by renewable energy by 2025 and to cut operational emissions by 75% below FY20 levels by 2030. 

Equilibrium is working with a number of suppliers in the agriculture and food manufacturing sectors to develop and implement sustainability programs, including Environmental Management Systems (EMS)

An EMS aims to implement a plan and system of environmental actions and targets which align with the company’s environmental policy and business objectives and extend all the way to a ground level approach. An EMS is a journey of continuous improvement (plan > do > check > act) and assists organisations to manage their environmental impacts through; 

> Achieving and maintaining compliance with relevant environmental laws, standards and the company’s environmental commitment
>Establishing systematic risk management processes to identify and rectify environmental risks;
>Establish a required level or environmental performance within the groups corporate environment to prevent the occurrence of events that are likely to significantly impact the environment
>Enabling visibility and periodic evaluation of environmental targets and performance metrics for decision making

The movement towards corporate responsibility, the ambition of businesses to meet their environmental objectives and better business outcomes are increasingly seen as mutually inclusive.

SMEs Weathering the COVID-19 Storm

From a recent article in Ondeck, Equilibrium’s Nick Harford shares some views about how a calm and steady approach to running an SME can help weather the COVID-19 pandemic.

The following story was originally published online at Ondeck.

In March, COVID-19 struck, and Equilibrium’s contracts were frozen as the national carrier, and its subsidiary, grounded their flying fleets. The Melbourne-based firm, which includes a team of six consultants, provides a range of private and government sector organisations with technical and strategic compliance services such as energy audits, environmental management systems reviews, and waste and recycling management advice lost 50% of its work in a matter of weeks.

But rather than losing their heads, the steady and strategic Harford, along with business partner Damien Wigley, pivoted their SME, and focussed on a range of opportunities to help weather the COVID-19 storm, which has once again reared its unpleasant head in the Victorian capital.

Staying cool and seeking new markets

Harford, whose firm operates across diverse industries and sectors, says Equilibrium particularly focused on existing contacts and government work.

“In the past, we were sometimes cautious about bidding for some government tenders because from a business sense they are very competitive, can involve a significant investment in time, and the return can be very risky.”

“But we put in extra work when COVID-19 hit by being more open to government tenders and proposals and taking any opportunities that arose. We gave it a red-hot crack,” Harford confirms.

Equilibrium also identified a spike in government grants promoting recycling and other business activities. Harford explains, “This wasn’t a business opportunity for Equilibrium that involved us working with government directly but rather an opportunity to be advising and assisting other businesses to access government funding and other support programs.”

Networking into new business

Apart from pursuing government work, Nick and his team upped the ante on networking. “We worked our contacts hard, making sure we understood where they were at and how we could help them address their environment and sustainability compliance issues.”

These business development efforts enabled Equilibrium to collaborate with a major Australian manufacturer that responded early to the pandemic threat by pivoting from packaging into sanitary and hygiene products such as disinfectants.

“The manufacturer needed a hand to make sure they had a range of systems in place. This work resulted from connecting with our contacts to see if we could help people with their compliance or strategic challenges.”

Dealing with the lockdowns

Apart from the loss of revenue, Equilibrium has needed to manage the impact of the first raft of lockdown in Melbourne between April and June. “We had to make sure we could work online. We have people in four different locations nationally but given the nature of the work we do, it’s not too hard for us.

“With the latest restrictions in place in Melbourne, we feel we are well-prepared for another extended period of working from home arrangements.”

Nick’s three tips for surviving COVID-19

1. Don’t panic:  Review the business profoundly and frequently. By not panicking and taking advantage of government support such as JobKeeper and the payroll tax relief, we have been able to keep all our staff employed.

2. Be prepared to take opportunities from left field:  Quickly pivot into new business opportunities when lockdowns and restrictions arise.

3. Cut unnecessary costs:  The other owner and I are also taking less income when needed. Where our people are underutilised, we’ve used them for other activities such as business development and to assist our marketing and communications activities.

Make contact with the Equilibrium team if you need help navigating COVID-19 from an environmental, waste or sustainability angle:  BH (03) 9372 5356.

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Prepared by OnDeck Capital Australia for general information purposes only. Content may belong to or have originated from third parties and OnDeck takes no responsibility for the accuracy, validity, reliability or completeness of any information. Information current as at July 2020. You should not rely upon the material or information as a basis for making any business, financial or any other decisions. 

For information on how Equilibrium has responded to auditing during lockdowns, read the following article.

Films for the Environment

Like many creative endeavours, environmental film making has a long history of storytelling through the lens. Few other mediums are able to capture the imagination of the public like the moving image.

From documentaries which uncover ground-breaking ecological research, through to fictional movies that craft future scenarios of planetary destruction, environmental films can inform, educate, engage and activate individuals and communities alike. As a tool for change and creative expression, there are numerous examples of how films have been pivotal in exposing the good, the bad and the truly shocking.

Ultimately ‘environmental films’ say much about how humans interact with place, be it in urban settings, the wilderness or highly modified agricultural landscapes. They can provide highly personalised accounts like the Erin Brockovich movie dealing with water pollution, or the ‘PowerPoint on steroids’ documentary featuring Al Gore’s ‘An Inconvenient Truth’.

Closer to home, Waste Not by the Total Environment Centre and A Plastic Ocean by Tasmanian born journalist Craig Leeson ram home the local and global impacts of our consumption and disposal choices.

There is an endless list of films dealing with the environment in all its forms. The extent to which such films have a positive impact on awareness and behaviour change depends on the specific film or movie, however in an age where videos and film are an integral part of a wider campaign using social media and political advocacy, the sum of the parts is what really achieves impact.

The Environmental Film Festival Australia (EFFA) is a unique and wonderful program of films accessible to local audiences and exposes viewers to the power and potency of film and the environment.

Films that acknowledge our environment whatever the outcomes, are an important part of the mix when it comes to informing and educating the public. Film-makers working with scientists, engineers, government, business and the community, provide a distinctive approach to achieving positive change and a sustainable future.

As a Festival Friend Partner, Equilibrium is especially excited about EFFA 2018 and the films to be featured from 11 – 19 October.

Visit the EFFA website for more information about this year’s program and tickets.

 

Stewardship for safety and the environment

It’s always refreshing to see new product categories added to the list of stewardship initiatives being developed in Australia.

a sign that more manufacturers and service providers can see the broader environmental and social benefits of managing the impacts associated with their products.

Consumer appetite for stewardship schemes that meet a clear need and are also equitable in their coverage nationwide, is strong and ever-increasing, but not always uncomplicated and adequately funded. Some are mature and meet community expectations, while others are nascent and in development.

Recent history has also shown us that not all product stewardship schemes are straightforward to design, fund and implement.

While there are multiple definitions and models of product stewardship and extended producer responsibility, the essence remains consistent. It primarily involves product manufacturers and associated service providers (including retailers) taking greater responsibility for their products across the life cycle from design and production all the way through to consumption and end-of-life management. Of course, there is a need for consumers and other players to play their role, and the need to share responsibility is essential.

Child Car Safety Seat Recycling Program

A new product category being investigated for stewardship action in Australia is the child car safety seat. Not always associated with take-back and recycling programs, the majority of these seats go straight to landfill at end-of-life despite being high recyclable. Over 90% of a typical child car safety seat contains materials that can be recovered and reprocessed when correctly dismantled. The category includes rear facing infant carriers and bases, forward facing seats and booster seats.

A trial program has been running for several months in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, with a view to generating information and data that can inform the design of a permanent national scheme.

An important aspect of the trial is its attention to both resource recovery and recycling as well as road safety requirements. This highlights a more holistic approach to defining product stewardship with a view to addressing multiple objectives.

A child may outgrow more than two safety seats before they are old enough to sit in a car without one. While some parents may choose to re-use seats or purchase them secondhand, it is recommended that child car safety seats be disposed of 10 years after the date of manufacture.

This is to protect children due to wear and tear and degradation of the seat, and to ensure outdated products are removed from the market and replaced by child restraints that meet current safety standards. Disposing of a child car safety seat once it reaches its fixed life span or after it has been involved in a crash can also give parents and carers peace of mind that their child will be protected.

In simple terms, removing worn or damaged child car safety seats from being reused not only protects children and infants, but provides an opportunity to responsibly divert seats into an efficient resource recovery and recycling program.

The trial program has provided parents and carers with a free and environmentally-positive option for disposing of their old child car restraints. By collecting and disassembling the seats on-site, the trial aims to divert in excess of 900 tonnes of waste away from landfill and back into the recycling stream.

Damien Wigley, who co-designed the trial, thought the challenge would be to encourage families to divert used seats that are currently left on the kerbside as litter, sold in garage sales or make their way into second hand stores and onto on-line shopping sites, for recycling.

“It’s been very encouraging that the community has been so responsive to disposing their seats in a responsible and convenient way,” said Wigley.

Enthusiastic collaboration between stakeholders has been a key feature of how the trial has been designed and implemented. A strong partnership approach has also helped to maximise community engagement and raise broader awareness about the potential for a permanent program.

The trial program received funding and support from the Queensland and NSW governments (Waste Less Recycle More Initiative – NSW), Victorian Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group as well as major car seat brands including Dorel and InfaSecure, and automotive association representatives from RACV, NRMA, RAA and RACT. Kidsafe and various social enterprises have also been involved in the trial’s promotion and delivery. Equilibrium developed the initiative and managed the overall implementation.

MWRRG case-study and video

The Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group (MWRRG) was involved in the Victorian component of the trial, which included close collaboration with seat manufacturers, automotive associations, local councils, recyclers and community groups.

MWRRG and Equilibrium jointly developed a case-study and video exploring the trial, its success and opportunities for further action.

For more information contact:

Damien Wigley, Equilibrium
Mobile: 0404 899 961  Email:  damien@equil.com.au

This story was first published in Inside Waste on 28 September 2017.

Australia celebrates World Environment Day June 5th

Australia is home to vast forests, oceans abundant with marine life and an enchanting range of flora and fauna unique to our continent. The Murray River is experiencing its best health in over a decade, with increased water flow replenishing drought-affected wetlands and floodplains, leading to a boom in flora and fauna growth. In positive signs for Australian marine health, Victoria’s Port Phillip and Western Port bays have reported record numbers of whale and dolphin sightings.

Despite these environmental positives, much of Australia’s rich biodiversity remains under threat. Over half of the native fish found in the Murray-Darling basin are now regarded as threatened species following years of drought and man-made wetland degradation. The world-heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef has experienced serious coral bleaching as sea temperature continue to rise. Meanwhile, Australian biodiversity and soil have been irreversibly impacted by deforestation and clearing for agricultural purposes, driving already endangered species to the brink of extinction.

The occasion of World Environment Day on June 5th provides us with the perfect opportunity to reflect on the environmental consequences of human activity in Australia. Established by the United Nations in 1972 to promote awareness of environmental issues, World Environment Day encourages people from across the globe to consider ways they can improve the quality of life of all living things without harming the environment. The day is also a means of celebrating the valuable work of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), who have worked tirelessly on the development of international environmental conventions and assisted national governments to implement environmentally responsible policies and practices.

The theme for World Environment Day in 2017 is ‘Connecting People to Nature’. This theme invites us to reflect on our personal connection with the environment, to appreciate the beauty of our native wildlife, and to pledge to protect Australia’s rich biodiversity from ever-increasing environmental challenges.

What can you do on World Environment Day?

People are urged to organise or take part in a variety of events and awareness campaigns, from beach clean-ups and tree re-planting to galvanizing collective action to protect the environment. Many state governments and local councils will be facilitating World Environment Day events, so get in touch with your local council to learn how you can participate.

You may also wish to attend the World Environment Day Awards, hosted by the United Nations Association of Australia. The awards will highlight and recognise the innovative and outstanding environmental programs and initiatives across Australia. More information on the awards can be found here.

And if photography is more your thing, people are invited to use social media to show their personal connection to nature by taking part in the UNEP World Environment Day photo competition. Entrants are urged to post photos and videos of their favourite places in nature with the hashtag #WorldEnvironmentDay and #WithNature, with the best photos to be featured in an exhibition held at the United Nations headquarters. More information on the competition can be found here.