Environmental performance

Health, Safety and Sustainability is one of our CSIRO Values and we strive to embed environmental sustainability into our everyday business practices. Cultural and behavioural change is important to ensure we achieve our targets and reduce costs. Energy consumption, waste generation and diversion from landfill and procurement are areas where our people can incorporate sustainability in their day-to-day decision-making.

Carbon and energy

In 2013–14, we re-focused our Carbon Emission Reduction Strategy, establishing a target of 20 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2020 against projected emissions. Achieving this target will reduce emissions below 1999–2000 levels and align CSIRO to the Australian Government’s national emission reduction target. Though challenging, it enables us to focus on strategic initiatives to achieve long-term and sustained emission reductions including building energy efficiency, modification of laboratory and office practices, reduced air travel, increased on-site electricity generation and reduction in site and building footprint.

Building energy efficiency

Our Building Energy Efficiency program aims to improve operational stability, occupant comfort, energy and emission reductions and cost savings. Current pilot projects in progress include:

  • optimisation of mechanical services and the associated thermal energy storage system in one of our buildings at Black Mountain in Canberra, by installing variable speed drives, re-balancing the mechanical services system and improved building monitoring
  • re-commissioning buildings at Waterford, Western Australia, with modified chiller set points and control, re-programed air handling units and improved building plant integration.

Building footprint

Under our CSIRO 2011–15 Strategy and current Annual Directions Statement, site consolidation projects were launched in Canberra and Clayton to provide opportunities for stronger science collaboration, improved facilities and significantly reduced building footprint.

By 2020, three CSIRO Canberra sites will be consolidated into a modern, fit-for-purpose campus at Black Mountain with flexible facilities. Design highlights of the new and refurbished buildings include:

  • significantly smaller building floor area, expected to reduce energy consumption per square metre and per staff member
  • construction of new best practice facilities to cater for mixed-use laboratory and office needs
  • refurbishing or removing ageing properties no longer fit for purpose
  • greater utilisation of selected current buildings and facilities to meet future research and enterprise needs
  • minimisation of current and potential health and safety risks.

9694m3 diverted from landfill, equating to 998 tonnes of carbon emissions saved 2013–14.

Waste and Recycling

We have vastly improved our oversight of waste and recycling practices across our national sites under the CSIRO National Waste and Recycling Services Contract, leading to a projected 28 per cent cost saving to the Organisation from 2012–13. We now actively manage 23 recycling streams.

We diverted 9694 cubic metres from landfill equating to 998 tonnes of carbon emissions (tCO2-e) saved in the period June 2013 to May 2014. This is a 36 per cent diversion rate from landfill for the waste and recycling streams captured under the contracted reporting. Adding recycling streams not collected under the national contract, such as printer/toner cartridges, some lighting waste and stored document destruction, increases the estimated diversion rates to approximately 40 per cent. We are on track to reach the target of 50 per cent diversion from landfill by December 2015, with continued improvement of service delivery expected.


Behaviour change is a key component of achieving a cultural shift reflecting our sustainability core value. Key programs this year included:

  • National Shut the Sash, targeting wasted energy, cost and safety issues from lab fume hoods sashes left open when no longer required or unattended.
  • Earth Hour 2014 has evolved into a long-term call for our people to become ‘Bright Sparks’ and devise methods to ensure all non-essential lights are turned off when not required in work areas.
  • More than 40 sites participated in Business Clean Up Week targeting electronic waste, metal, wooden crates and panels. Waste and recycling facility tours were successfully piloted.
  • A washroom poster campaign to increase staff engagement in our sustainability objectives.
  • In collaboration with our IT function, promoting TelePresence (a tele and video conferencing system) as part of our CSIRO Strategy to achieve a target of five per cent reduction per annum in domestic air travel and one per cent reduction in international travel.

Cross-promotions specific to program streams, combined with a cultural strategy focusing on generating staff dialogue, significantly increased staff connections across our geographically spread sites and diverse research domains.

C-Greens, our environmental sustainability staff volunteers, have impacted a range of areas, including:

  • reduced organics contamination and decreased disposable water bottle usage
  • increased battery recycling
  • a travel app is in development enabling staff to share vehicle use and cost when arriving at the same destination
  • strategies for waste and recycling collection at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory and Boolardy accommodation facility to reduce volume and transport costs
  • introduction of a recycling process for the lamps used in CSIRO Plant Industry’s controlled environment labs
  • reduced AAHL’s environmental footprint by introducing reusable eating utensils to replace disposable crockery and cutlery which have to be incinerated.

Our C-Greens based at the University of Queensland’s St Lucia campus also participate in the University’s Green Lab program through a CSIRO partnership.

Environmental Management and Heritage

Belmont site remediation

Our goal to increase fibre research collaboration included relocating our fibre research facility at Belmont, Victoria, to the Australian Future Fibres Research and Innovation Centre at Deakin University Waurn Ponds campus, also in Geelong. The Belmont site is now being remediated before being sold.

Heritage management at Crace and Black Mountain

We uphold our responsibility to protect our heritage sites and buildings. We developed management policies and updated the site heritage management plan for the Gungahlin Homestead Precinct at Crace in Canberra, to align with the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

An oral history and archival architectural recording preserved the history of two blowfly insectaries built in 1933 at Black Mountain in Canberra (since demolished). The recordings capture the buildings’ history through drawings, photographs and staff recollections.

Environmental performance

In 2013–14, our energy consumption fell slightly (one per cent) compared to the previous year (see Figure 3.4). A significant reduction in gas consumption (eight per cent) compensated for a two percent rise in electricity consumption for 2013–14. The increased electricity consumption was attributed primarily to the Pawsey Centre and the progressive rise in supercomputer processing power required to support projects such as ASKAP, both in Western Australia.

The fall in gas consumption resulted in a two percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, from 129 ktCO2e to 126 ktCO2e. Our emissions have decreased by six per cent over the past five years, while energy consumption has remained steady. Our water consumption increased by one per cent compared to the previous year, an increase of two megalitres across the Organisation. Significant increases in water consumption at some sites (for example Kensington, also due to the Pawsey Centre) have offset large reductions at our Australian Animal Health Laboratory and Clayton sites.

Fig 3.4: CSIRO energy and greenhouse gas emissions (electricity and gas only) and water consumption

Under our Carbon Emission Reduction Strategy, we have set the target of three per cent reduction in air kilometres travelled per annum. In 2013–14, we achieved a reduction in air travel of approximately six million air kilometres compared with 2012–13, a 5.2 per cent reduction (see Table 3.1). The kilometres travelled per staff member (FTE) increased slightly due to a reduction in staff numbers throughout the year.

Table 3.1: CSIRO energy, air travel and water intensities
Performance measure Indicator(s) 2009–10 2010–11 2011–12 2012–13 2013–14
Energy Purchased energy (electricity and gas) consumed per employee (GJ/FTE) 114 119 117 119 124
Air travel Air travel (million kilometres) 82 116 114 116 110
Air travel per employee (km/FTE) 13 768 20 069 19 930 20 214 20 318
Relative mains water use Amount of total water use per employee (kilolitres/FTE) 72 68 64 65 69

CSIRO research with leading environmental sustainability impact

Many of our research activities are focused on improving sustainability outcomes for Australia and broader global communities, while supporting the principles of ecologically sustainable development outlined in the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Examples of how our research contributes to ecologically sustainable development are illustrated Part two: Our performance.


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