Ecologically sustainable development

Updated guidelines for Section 516A reporting

Under Section 516A of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) Commonwealth organisations have a statutory requirement to report on their environmental performance and how they accord with and advance the principles of ecologically sustainable development (ESD).

The guidelines were developed to assist organisations in meeting their statutory ESD and environmental performance reporting requirements under S.516A of the EPBC Act.

The guidelines have been revised and now include a set of indicators to measure environmental performance.

These guidelines outline an approach that aims to simplify and enhance the quality and consistency of ESD reporting across the Commonwealth.

It would be appreciated if reporting agencies could provide feedback on how useful the revised guidelines were for reporting against S.516A of the EPBC Act.

Any feedback should be directed to

Australia's National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development (1992) defines ecologically sustainable development as: 'using, conserving and enhancing the community's resources so that ecological processes, on which life depends, are maintained, and the total quality of life, now and in the future, can be increased'.

The Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts is the lead Government agency for developing and implementing national policy, programs and legislation to protect and conserve the natural environment. One of the key functions of the department is to promote and support ecologically sustainable development.

The department has implemented a number of initiatives to progress sustainability in Australia.

Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999

Australia's Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 promotes ecologically sustainable development through the conservation and ecologically sustainable use of natural resources.

Environmental performance reporting

The annual reports of Commonwealth departments, Parliamentary departments, Commonwealth authorities, Commonwealth companies and other Commonwealth agencies must under Section 516A of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, all now include a report on environmental matters in their annual reports.

More about government sustainability and reporting

International activities

At the international level, the department is responsible for reporting Australia's environmental performance and progress towards sustainable development commitments to international agencies such as:

National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development

The National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development provides broad strategic directions and framework for governments to direct policy and decision-making. The strategy facilitates a coordinated and co-operative approach to ecologically sustainable development and encourages long-term benefits for Australia over short-term gains.

The strategy was adopted by all levels of Australian government in 1992.

Since 1992, the pursuit of ecologically sustainable development has been increasingly incorporated into the policies and programs of Australian governments as a significant policy objective.

Work at the national level is undertaken within the context of the:

These agreements establish arrangements by which Commonwealth, state/territory and local governments interact on environmental matters.