Health, Safety and Sustainability is one of our CSIRO Values and we strive to embed environmental sustainability into our everyday business practices.

Contribution to ecologically sustainable development

CSIRO upholds the principles of ecologically sustainable development (ESD) outlined in the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) through both its operations and research activities.

To achieve its research goals, CSIRO operates numerous types of infrastructure, such as laboratories, glasshouses, farm properties and telescope facilities, as well as managing plants and livestock. These activities require significant quantities of energy and water and produce waste. Examples of the work undertaken to support our ESD principles are set out in Table 3.1.

Table 3.1: Examples of CSIRO’s contribution to ESD principles

Principles Examples of relevant CSIRO work

Decision-making processes should effectively integrate both long-term and short-term economic, environmental, social and equitable considerations.

CSIRO’s Values Compass identifies health, safety and sustainability as key values that guide the way CSIRO undertakes its business activities.

To reinforce these values, CSIRO introduced an updated Health, Safety and Environmental course for Leaders in 2011–12. The course assists managers understand the expectations that CSIRO places on its managers with respect to Health, Safety and Environmental leadership.

If there are threats of serious or irreversible environmental damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation.

CSIRO published the first (Australian and global) guidelines for developing management plans in Indigenous Protected Areas (IPAs). An IPA is an area of Indigenous-owned land or sea where traditional owners have entered into an agreement with the Australian Government to promote biodiversity and cultural resource conservation.

IPAs make a significant contribution to Australian biodiversity conservation and help Indigenous communities protect their cultural values for future generations and receive spin-off health, education, economic and social benefits.

The research has been translated into a resource as part of the IPA Manager’s toolkit on the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities website. Our Country Our Way is an illustrated guide that can be used by anyone interested in developing a management plan for an IPA. 

The principle of inter-generational equity – that the present generation should ensure that the health, diversity and productivity of the environment is maintained or enhanced for the benefit of future generations.

Our Healthy Water Ecosystems Theme, conducts research to inform the sustainable protection and rehabilitation of Australia’s creeks, rivers, wetlands, floodplains and estuaries.

The conservation of biological diversity and ecological integrity should be a fundamental consideration in decision-making.

In planning for the divesting of CSIRO’s Highett site in Victoria, CSIRO is working with the Bayside City Council for the preservation and on-going maintenance of the Remnant Woodlands on the Highett site.

Improved valuation, pricing and incentive mechanisms should be promoted.

In 2011, CSIRO in collaboration with Aecom, investigated the impact of the Government’s carbon price on the cost of living for Australian households. They found that the projected impact of the carbon price is within the range of changes in consumer prices and household cost of living, and that most households would receive assistance that offset all or a significant portion of the carbon price impact.

Effects of CSIRO’s activities on the environment

During 2011–12, CSIRO continued towards achieving its Environmental Sustainability Strategy (ESS) goals, focusing on reductions in carbon emissions, mains water consumption and waste to landfill, as represented in Figure 3.3*. The programs and initiatives also serve to increase alignment between CSIRO’s sustainability-focused research and innovation, and how we operate in our daily work practices.

*Figure 3.3: Key environmental sustainability initiatives implemented during 2011–12

Please refer to Part three: our organisation of the 2011-12 CSIRO annual report in PDF or RTF format available in the Downloads section for the full detail.


CSIRO continued to improve its energy-efficiency at its sites and to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. In 2011–12, CSIRO undertook studies to identify options to reduce energy consumption, manage demand and reduce associated costs. CSIRO improved the energy-efficiency of its printers through a printer refresh and improved its understanding of energy consumption of selected data centres.

In November 2011, CSIRO conducted an Eco Treasure Hunt at our Clayton site, Victoria, to identify energy and water saving opportunities. The event resulted in positive engagement between a number of business units and their staff, service suppliers and General Electric as a strategic partner. The recommendations will contribute to the generation of national programs engaging staff in our carbon and water reduction targets, while also creating cost savings.


Reducing mains water consumption continues to be a focus, with on-going roll out and upgrades of bore and mains water sub-meters and leak detection programs. Opportunities to capture and reuse rainwater, reverse osmosis reject water and other non-potable water sources will be expanded in future years with the development of a water reuse guide that was commissioned in 2011–12.

Staff engagement and behaviour change

During 2011–12, engaging staff in the Organisation’s ESS was a major focus for CSIRO. A ‘green’ ambassador network, called C-Greens was developed to assist with the implementation of current and future ESS projects. The C-Green network consists of site-based CSIRO volunteers drawn from all staff levels and roles, representing geographical locations and business units.


The C-Green network introduced green workplace recycling stations on most sites and has begun to engage staff at specific CSIRO sites in a sustainable laboratory program. Part of the program focuses on ovens, fridges and freezers to reduce our energy consumption.

To reduce our waste to landfill, CSIRO will source an organisation-wide solution for waste and recycling services, including hazardous waste in early 2012–13. This will assist the Organisation to reach its target of a 50 per cent reduction of waste to landfill.

A CSIRO Get Wasted Workshop was held in November 2011, to connect expertise and build networks across CSIRO. The workshop focused on research related to avoidance, minimisation and utilisation of waste in industrial and manufacturing processes, plus improved understanding of initiatives to achieve CSIRO’s waste-related goal.

Environmental reporting

CSIRO implemented an integrated environmental data management system to support ESS projects and to meet its external environmental reporting obligations, including submissions to the following programs: National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Scheme; Government Greenhouse and Energy Reporting, Energy-Efficiency Opportunities program, the National Pollution Inventory and relevant National Environmental Protection Measures.

CSIRO environmental performance indicators

CSIRO’s electricity and gas consumption has remained relatively stable over the last five years (see Figure 3.4*). Changes to CSIRO’s property portfolio and implementation of energy-efficiency measures in the design or retrofit of infrastructure has enabled the Organisation to stabilise its energy consumption over that period. For example, on-going plant upgrades at sites such as the Australian Animal Health Laboratory, have resulted in a 20 per cent reduction at that site in the past five years.

*Figure 3.4: CSIRO’s environmental performance

Please refer to Part three: our organisation of the 2011-12 CSIRO annual report in PDF or RTF format available in the Downloads section for the full detail.

The slight reductions in electricity and gas consumption during 2011–12 resulted in a slight decrease in greenhouse gas emissions (four per cent) attributed to energy sources. CSIRO’s net emissions decreased due to increased procurement of certified GreenPower purchased under its major electricity contracts.

CSIRO’s air travel reduced slightly during 2011–12 compared to 2010–11, noting the large reduction in air travel that occurred in 2009–10. CSIRO remains committed to minimising the need for air travel through the on-going use of video-conferencing and webcam facilities.

Mains water consumption has trended down over the past five years, reducing by approximately seven per cent per annum. Over the past five years, CSIRO has achieved significant water reductions at specific sites, and was recognised by the Western Australian Water Corporation with a Bronze Certificate of Recognition for a sustained water reduction of 4,000 kilolitres (kL) over the past five years.

Additional information on CSIRO’s performance is shown in Table 3.2.

Table 3.2: CSIRO’s energy, air travel and water intensities

Theme Performance measure Indicator(s) 2007–08 2008–09 2009–10 2010–11 2011–121


Consumption of green energy

Green energy purchased (TJ)






Relative energy uses

Green energy purchased divided by the amount of electricity purchased






Amount of energy (electricity and gas) consumed per employee (gigajoule (GJ)/FTE2)






Air travel

Air travel

Air travel
(million kilometres (km))

Not available




Air travel per employee (km/FTE)

Not available





Relative mains water use

Amount of total water use per employee (kL/FTE)






  1. Data as at 10 August 2012
  2. FTE – Full time equivalent

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