Department of the Environment

About us | Contact us | Publications

Settlements Header ImageSettlements Header ImageSettlements Header Image

Publications archive - Human settlements


Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Going Low Carbon

For Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs)

Climate Change

Climate change caused by greenhouse gases is one of the most serious challenges facing our community. Human actions—particularly burning fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) and land clearing—are generating more greenhouse gases. These additional greenhouse gases trap more heat and raise the earth’s surface temperature. This is called the enhanced greenhouse effect—it causes global warming and is changing our climate.

The impacts of climate change will have social, environmental and economic consequences that will affect all communities across the globe.

Why Small and Medium Enterprises

Greenhouse gas abatement is not just for the big end of town. Climate change will affect all of us and therefore it is to everyone’s benefit to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Most measures to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions will save you money in the long term, increasing profitability. Some measures will even help to improve productivity and the marketability of your business. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions should be seen as an opportunity to provide your business with a strong business advantage.

Going Low Carbon

Aiming to reducing the carbon footprint or greenhouse emissions of your businesses is an excellent goal and can often lead to business benefits. Going low carbon generally involves several steps, including:

Greenhouse Emissions Inventory

Determining the present greenhouse emissions impact of your business, or your carbon footprint, enables you to measure what you need to change to become a low carbon enterprise. These inventories are normally conducted according the Greenhouse Gas Protocol and cover either:

A Scope 1 and 2 inventory is usually sufficiently comprehensive for enterprises aiming to be low carbon businesses and includes the emissions from a business’ electricity and fuel use. There are many consultants now offering to assess greenhouse inventories and they can generally do this from your billing information on your past fuel and electricity use. Alternatively you can calculate your own emissions use relevant emissions calculators. See: technicaltools.html#emissions.

A scope 1 to 3 inventory is necessary if a company wants to claim carbon neutral status under the Greenhouse FriendlyTM program. See . This requires that all the emissions relating to a company’s inputs and their outputs of products/services, including waste, be counted in the inventory. The inventory is more complex to undertake and usually can not be undertaken without expert assistance. There are consultants available who can undertake this work on your behalf.

However you obtain your inventory, it should provide you with an understanding of what purchases and activities of your business are contributing to your greenhouse emissions and the amount each contribute.

Reduce Energy Consumption

The energy consumption of most businesses will be the key driver of their greenhouse emissions. Reducing energy consumption should be the first step towards becoming a low carbon enterprise and will involve improving the energy efficiency of your enterprise.

There is information on improving your energy efficiency available from the Greenhouse Challenge Fact Sheets and many other sources. Use these to improve your efficiency or alternatively obtain an energy audit to get professional advice on how to save energy. Many energy saving actions are very cost effective so reducing your energy usage may save you money!

See Energy Audits under:

Remember, reducing your energy use will involve reducing your fuel use on transport too. Make sure you analyse your transport use and needs, or obtain expert advice in this area.

Using Renewable Energy

The majority of the greenhouse emissions of businesses are connected with their energy use, which involves the burning of fossil fuels or using electricity sourced from fossil fuel-fired generators. So if businesses use more renewable energy and less non-renewable energy, their contribution to greenhouse emissions will be reduced.

A business can increase its use of renewable energy by purchasing renewable energy to supply the business’ needs, or by producing their own energy. Options to create renewable energy may include installing photovoltaic panels, wind generators or micro generators operating on bio-fuels or waste. Many SME s will prefer to purchase renewable energy by buying “green” electricity, gas or biofuels. SME s can choose to purchase any percentage of the power/fuel as renewable power, with the greater the percentage the greater reduction in emissions.

Care must be taken in selecting the supplier and energy product for the renewable energy. For electricity always buy certified “Green Power”, which means it has a government guarantee of being sourced from approved renewable energy sources. Green Power is available from many electricity retailers. Take care in purchasing though, as some suppliers are selling products with ‘environmentally friendly’ names or which claim to be from renewable sources, but which only contain a minority of certified renewable energy. Also when buying bio-fuels, check the percentage of certified bio-fuel before purchase.

Purchasing Carbon Offsets

Businesses may choose to purchase carbon offsets as a means of reducing the total greenhouse emissions they are responsible for. E.g. if a business is making 100 tonnes of emissions p.a., it could choose to purchases 100 tonnes of offsets to balance out its emissions, reducing its total net emissions to zero.

Carbon offsets are created when a greenhouse emission reduction project is implemented and creates a reduction in emissions. The rights to the emission reductions are sold as carbon offsets. Again it is recommended that only government certified offsets be purchased. At present the government credited carbon offset products available are:

These offsets can be purchased from traders who advertise on the web.

Offsets created under the new national carbon trading scheme will also be available when that scheme begins to operate.

Ongoing Monitoring of Emissions

It is important to continue monitoring the emissions of the SME , to continue to be sure the enterprise is meeting its targets regarding lowering its emissions. This at the minimum will involve conducting an emissions inventory on an annual basis.

Additional Benefits

Improved staff morale. A sincere commitment to improving the environmental impacts of a business can lead to improved staff morale and reduced turnover.

Improved marketability. By reducing greenhouse emissions and communicating this fact, a business can make itself more appealing especially to the more environmentally concerned sections of the market.

Savings in energy costs. Reducing energy consumption can lead to reduced energy costs while at the same time reducing the greenhouse gas emissions from your business.

Low Carbon Fundamentals

Download PDF