Australian Government ICT Sustainability Plan 2010 - 2015

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Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, 2010

Section 2. Improving sustainable ICT procurement

Australian Government agencies currently manage significant quantities of ICT equipment, estimated at 350 000 PCs and laptops, 14 000 servers, and 37 500 imaging devices, as well as the consumables used in this equipment such as toner cartridges and copy paper. This volume of activity raises significant environmental management concerns over the life of products, mainly relating to energy use, carbon emissions, e waste and hazardous materials, packaging and the sustainable use of precious and scarce metals.

It is estimated that ICT currently produces around two per cent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.13 The high rate of growth in ICT penetration and increases in processing power mean that, without mitigation, the harmful contributions of ICT are likely to grow quickly.14 This issue is not dissimilar for Australian Government operations with ICT accounting for around 13 per cent of total government emissions.15 Reducing these emissions needs to be tackled on a number of fronts, including ICT procurement.

One of the primary drivers of ICT procurement is the high rate of product turnover due to rapid innovations in technology. This means that ICT products usually become technically redundant before being physically redundant. The materials comprising ICT products are resource intensive. Components consist of hazardous, precious and rare metals, and contain large volumes of plastics, glasses and other materials. Without reuse, or resource recovery through recycling, the high level of product turnover contributes to a significant waste and pollution issue, as well as generating emissions in the production, transport and recovery phases of the product life cycle.

The operation of ICT equipment in Australian Government agencies consumes considerable energy. The most energy consumed is in the operation of mainframe, midrange, data and telecommunications, and desktop systems.

In addition, the Australian Government procures large quantities of consumables necessary for ICT equipment. Products such as printer toner cartridges and office copy paper have the potential to contribute to significant waste and pollution.

Responsible suppliers and manufacturers are already addressing these issues. To support these efforts, to further encourage industry adoption, and to minimise and/or mitigate the impact of ICT on the environment, the Australian Government through this plan is introducing mandatory environmental standards into ICT procurement processes.

Mandatory environmental standards for relevant ICT acquisitions will also provide a catalyst for improving the environmental performance of supply chains through large scale government demand for sustainable ICT products and services driving resource efficiency and innovation. Similarly, the demand will support suppliers and manufacturers to invest, develop and produce more environmentally sustainable goods and services.

2.1 Mandatory environmental standards

Mandatory environmental standards will be applied to the purchase of ICT equipment and consumables posing significant environmental risk or impact. The standards are a minimum level of environmental performance and therefore will be a necessary condition of participation for any supplier to respond to an ICT request for tender (RFT).

ACTION: The mandatory environmental standards used in Australian Government agencies for ICT procurement are:

(ES1)  Compliance with ISO 14024 or ISO 14021 at the level of EPEAT Silver or equivalent as a minimum standard for relevant ICT equipment;16

(ES2)  Compliance with the current ENERGY STAR version for relevant ICT equipment;

(ES3)  Product take-back and appropriate reuse or resource recovery (a) mobile devices, such as mobile phones, PDAs and Blackberry devices; (b) toner cartridges; and (c) ICT equipment covered by the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme under the National Waste Policy (NWP);

(ES4)  General use office copy paper to have a minimum post-consumer recycled content of 50 per cent by July 2011, with progression to 100 per cent post-consumer recycled content by July 2015;

(ES5)  ICT suppliers are signatories to the National Packaging Covenant (NPC) by July 2011 or comply with the requirements of the National Environment Protection (Used Packaging Materials) Measure (UPM NEPM); and

(ES6)  Adoption by suppliers of an environmental management system (EMS) aligned to the ISO 14001 standard.

A brief explanation of these mandatory environmental standards is provided on the following pages.

Criteria for selecting environmental standards to address current and emerging risks

Over the duration of the plan new environmental risks may emerge from, for instance, the deployment of new technologies which have a potential to cause significant impacts. In such cases, additional mandatory environmental standards may be required to address these impacts. These impacts may arise from carbon emissions, energy use, materials use, water use, ozone depleting substances, hazardous substances and product disposal.

In addition, new standards that promote environmental benefits and support the CPRS will also be considered for use in Australian Government ICT procurements, such as the use of accredited renewable energies and verifiable carbon offsets in product production, distribution, use and resource recovery processes.

The assessment process to select minimum environmental performance standards for ICT procurement (current standards and any future standards to address new risks) is based on the following criteria:

The standard

  • uses a reputable standard accepted by industry and government17;
  • has widespread geographic coverage (eco-labels);
  • is appropriate for use in Australian Government ICT procurement processes;
  • can be easily applied by agency staff and evaluated during procurement processes;
  • contributes to demonstrated improvement in environmental performance over time;
  • is subject to continuous improvement through research and investment in further standards development (eco-labels); and
  • can be applied with minimal or no cost to agencies.

ES1 Compliance with ISO 14024 or ISO 14021 at the level of EPEAT Silver or equivalent as a minimum standard for relevant ICT equipment

Life cycle assessment is an internationally recognised approach to evaluating the potential environmental impacts of products and services.18 It evaluates environmental impacts covering whole-of-life processes from raw materials extraction to end-of-life. The standards and environmental performance criteria that underpin eco-labelling programs which take a life cycle approach are generally developed to comply with accepted international standards such as ISO 14024 Type I Independent Third-Party Certified (IC) eco-labels or ISO 14021 Type II Self Declared (SD) Product eco-labels.

In this plan the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) Silver rating, or equivalent, is selected as a minimum standard of environmental performance for relevant ICT equipment. As with EPEAT, the 'equivalences' must meet the environmental life cycle impact requirements contained within ISO 14024 or ISO 14021.

EPEAT is a self declared eco-label that assesses the environmental attributes and life cycle impacts of electronic products. Product manufacturers self-assess and declare the conformance of their products against EPEAT criteria grouped under eight environmental performance categories. These include:

  • reduction/elimination of environmentally sensitive materials;
  • materials selection;
  • design for end-of-life;
  • product longevity or life cycle extension;
  • energy conservation and renewable energies;
  • packaging;
  • end of life management, including product take-back; and
  • corporate performance.

Compliance with the EPEAT standard is a requirement in a number of other countries - notably the USA in relation to government operations - and has been accepted by the Australian ICT industry as a viable approach.19

The Australian Government uses and consumes significant quantities of ICT products to which the EPEAT eco-label, or equivalent, applies. Under this plan agencies are required to apply EPEAT Silver, or equivalent, to new procurements for the following ICT equipment categories:

Equipment categories Effective date
Personal computers 2010
Monitors 2010
Laptops, notebooks, netbooks or similar 2010
Integrated workstations 2010
THIN Clients 2010
Imaging equipment (such as MFDs, copiers and printers) 2011
Mobile devices 2013
Servers 2013

Standards or criteria for mobile devices, servers, imaging equipment20 and other ICT equipment categories will be progressively applied as relevant EPEAT Silver, or equivalent, criteria become available. Other equipment categories posing significant environmental risk may also be included for standards or criteria treatment over the duration of the plan.

New imaging equipment supplied must be able to print with 100 per cent post consumer recycled content paper.

Appendix 1 provides a brief overview of EPEAT and equivalent eco-labels.

ES2 Compliance with the current ENERGY STAR version for ICT equipment

ENERGY STAR is a widely recognised international standard for energy efficient electronic equipment and is utilised in the US, Canada, Europe, Asia and Australia. ENERGY STAR compliant ICT products aim to reduce the energy use and carbon emissions of ICT equipment during operation. Eco-labelling programs, such as EPEAT, often incorporate ENERGY STAR within their required criteria.

Under this plan agencies and suppliers are required to ensure that all relevant ICT equipment being procured comply with the current ENERGY STAR version.

ES3 Product take-back and appropriate reuse or resource recovery for: (a) mobile devices, such as mobile phones, PDA's and Blackberry's; b) toner cartridges; and (c) ICT equipment covered by the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme under the NWP

There are significant waste impacts arising from the high rate of product turnover of mobile devices. There are also opportunities to recover rare high-tech metals from mobile devices.

The Australian Government currently operates an estimated 37 500 office printers and multi-function devices (MFDs). The use of toner cartridges in such devices represents a significant consumable item and waste issue in Australian Government operations.

Agencies are required to include resource recovery and take-back provisions in relevant ICT procurement and service contracts for toner cartridges and mobile devices, and for ICT equipment such as televisions and personal computers (laptops, desktops and peripherals) covered by the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme under the National Waste Policy (NWP).21

ES4 General use office copy paper to have a minimum post-consumer recycled content of 50 per cent by July 2011, with progression to 100 per cent post-consumer recycled content by July 2015

Office copy paper

Office copy paper is a significant consumable item in Australian Government operations, with an estimated 6 500 tonnes consumed per annum.22 The use of recycled content paper reduces carbon emissions, energy use, water use, hazardous substances and other environmental loads compared to virgin fibre paper23 and also reduces competition for land use and the loss of biodiversity and habitat.

Agencies are required to source office copy paper for general purpose use with a minimum of 50 per cent post-consumer recycled content by July 2011 with progression to 100 per cent by July 2015.25 Remaining virgin fibre content is to originate from chain-of-custody sources, such as Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified sources/forests, Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) schemes or from sustainably managed forests.

These requirements support the agroforestry and recycling industries, as well as Government policies, including the Plantations for Australia - the 2020 Vision policy and National Packaging Covenant. This initiative also supports international agreements, such as the 2008 Australia-Indonesia Forest Carbon Partnership, which has programs that reduce carbon emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

External printing and design

Agencies are required to introduce similar paper content standards for external printing and design contracts, where possible.

ES5 Participation of ICT suppliers in the National Packaging Covenant or compliance with the National Environment Protection (Used Packaging Materials) Measure

Packaging relating to ICT equipment and consumables delivery represents a significant waste component of Australian Government operations. The National Packaging Covenant (NPC) is a voluntary initiative by government and industry with the key objective being to reduce the environmental impacts of consumer packaging and office paper in Australia. The covenant aims to minimise these environmental impacts through better design and production processes and to facilitate the reuse and recycling of used packaging materials.

The NPC also has an associated regulatory instrument, the National Environment Protection (Used Packaging Materials) Measure (UPM NEPM). Relevant companies that are not to signatories to the NPC are legally required to comply with the UPM NEPM.

For the purpose of this plan, agencies will require suppliers of ICT equipment to be current signatories to the NPC or to commit to participation in the NPC, or its replacement, by July 2011.25 Suppliers who choose not to participate in the NPC must comply with the UPM NEPM (unless exempt by legislation). Guidance will be provided on this requirement in relation to the NPC, its replacement (the Australian Packaging Covenant or APC) and transition arrangements, and the UPM NEPM.

In general, suppliers are required to minimise packaging while allowing for appropriate packaging to prevent damage; reduce the amount of non-recyclable packaging; and improve used packaging materials reuse and recycling.

ES6 An environmental management system (EMS) aligned to the ISO 14001 standard

To ensure that suppliers are committed to managing their impacts on the environment, they will be required to have in place an EMS aligned to ISO 14001. This includes processes to ensure compliance with environmental legislation, regulations and related policies and guidelines, as well as internal environmental policies, procedures and processes.

Agencies must ensure that suppliers have an EMS aligned to the ISO 14001 standard or ensure that suppliers will have business processes aligned to the EMS ISO 14001 standard within six months of contract signing. (Note: this requirement does not require ISO certification).

Guidance will be provided to agencies in order to evaluate this criterion.

2.2 Other ICT procurement considerations

There are other considerations during ICT procurement processes that will ensure better sustainability outcomes. These include the adoption of environmental sustainability principles and practices; management of consumption and demand; and inclusion of an appropriate evaluation measure or weighting for environmental criteria within ICT procurement evaluations.

Environmental sustainability principles and practices

In addition to the mandatory environmental standards outlined in Section 2.1 above, agencies are required to apply the environmental sustainability principles and practices that are embedded within the Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines (CPGs) when procuring ICT equipment, software applications and consumables.26

Of particular importance are the principles of whole of life value for money assessments, corporate social responsibility, ethical behaviour and sound governance structures.27

Additionally, the AGIMO Green ICT Procurement Kit provides guidance and tools to help agencies when procuring ICT products and services, and to manage environmental issues relating to manufacture, distribution, packaging, energy efficiency and disposal.

ACTION: Agencies will apply the provisions of the Green ICT Procurement Kit and environmental sustainability principles and practices to ICT procurement.

Managing resource consumption, resource demand and waste

Managing demand and avoiding unnecessary consumption is an opportunity for agencies to control and reduce costs and improve environmental performance without compromising overall business objectives. For instance, strategies to reduce paper and toner cartridge consumption are easily implemented and can deliver considerable savings.

Additionally, consolidation and integration strategies can optimise equipment utilisation and total cost of ownership - such as server virtualisation and deploying multi-function devices. Other strategies include centralised laptop pooling, laptop docking stations and hot desking, which assists to minimise demand, consumption and cost. These strategies are most effective where supporting policies and procedures underpin the initiative.

While mandatory environmental standards for e-waste will be relevant for new ICT procurement processes, there will also be a requirement to manage waste arising from pre existing ICT equipment and consumables. These include:

  • e-waste;
  • packaging (eg. pallets, paper, cardboard, plastic wrapping, polystyrene and other forms of packaging);
  • toner cartridges; and
  • office copy paper.

Agencies are required to manage waste through strategies to responsibly reuse and recycle waste and minimise resource consumption. These strategies are promoted through the National Waste Policy and National Packaging Covenant.

ACTION: Agencies are required to implement strategies to effectively manage resource consumption, resource demand and waste - where practical.

Evaluation in procurement processes

Agencies will apply the mandatory environmental standards identified in this plan as part of the evaluation criteria used in procurement processes, in addition to the various criteria normally used in the comparative assessment of tender responses - such as technical worth and capability, product quality, corporate experience, service levels, pricing and ultimately value for money. To ensure the Government's objectives in relation to ICT sustainability are achieved, an appropriate priority needs to be given to the environmental criteria. For instance, a minimum weighting of 20 per cent could be applied to these procurement criteria as part of the evaluation process.

ACTION: Agencies will include an appropriate evaluation measure or weighting for environmental criteria within ICT procurement evaluations.

2.3 Agency targets

The targets below are set at a level to achieve real change in an agency's ICT operations.

Agency targets Government
Sustainable procurement (Sec 2.1 of this plan ) Implemented in procurement processes from 1/7/2010 or commencement of plan but allowing transitional arrangements for suppliers
Relevant ICT equipment meets ISO14024 or ISO14021 standards at a level of EPEAT Silver or equivalent as a minimum standard              
ICT equipment complies with current ENERGY STAR version              
Product take-back and appropriate resource reuse or recovery for mobiles; toner cartridges; and ICT equipment covered by national TV & Computer Recycling Scheme of NWP              
General use office copy paper (post consumer recycled content)     50%
Suppliers participate in National Packaging Covenant or comply with Used Packaging Materials NEPM              
Suppliers EMS aligned to ISO14001              
Managing resource consumption and demand (Sec 2.2 of this plan)
Internal copy paper per end user (reams per annum) 18.6     13     9
Desktop computers to printer ratio 8:1     14:1     20:1
Desktop devices (inc. laptops) per end user 1.6:1     1.4:1     1.2:1
Managing waste (Sec 2.2 of this plan)
e-waste reused or recycled             75%
ICT packaging recycled(targets as per NPC timeframes) 48%

Supporting notes to the above table


When measuring agency compliance with targets, regional and remote offices with less than 20 staff are excluded.
Targets are to be reviewed mid-term of the plan ie 2012-13.
Where no baseline is indicated no data exists at this point.

Sustainable procurement

General use copy paper target - flexibility will be considered for special circumstances.

Resource consumption and demand

Internal copy paper per end user28 - target based on printer rationalisation, deploying follow-me print solutions, electronic document management systems and training programs. The baseline is 18.6 reams per person.29
Desktop computers to printer ratio - target based on printers rationalised through movement to high-speed MFDs, follow-me print and training programs. The government baseline has been derived from total desktop PCs, printers and MFDs. Flexibility will be considered for special circumstances.
Desktop devices per end user - target based on rationalisation of devices through improvements to resource and demand management, and technology innovation. The baseline is 1.6 desktop devices including laptops per APS employee.30


e-waste reused and/or recycled - 75 per cent by July 2015 is a target for Australian Government agencies to demonstrate leadership. This supports the overall aims of the Government's National Waste Policy and the e-waste recycling scheme target of 80 per cent by 2021 for general consumers.
ICT packaging recycled - 65 per cent post consumer packaging recycled by July 2010 is included to reinforce the Australian Government's commitment as a signatory of the NPC.31

13 Smart 2020: Enabling the Low Carbon Economy in the Information Age, The Climate Group and GeSI (2008), 

14 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Measuring the Relationship Between ICT and the Environment, 30 July 2009.$FILE/JT03268374.PDF 

15 Australian Government ICT carbon emissions are based on a high-level estimate by DEWHA.

16 Information will be provided on eco-labels that provide an equivalent or better environmental standard for relevant ICT products.

17 Reputable implies the use of an eco-label compliant to national and/or international standards; or an established level of performance that has been widely accepted within the Australian Government.

18 Refer to ISO 14040:2006  also RMIT University, Centre for Design, October 2009, 

19 Based on formal industry submissions received 30 September 2009.

20 The 'effective dates' shown in the table for these 3 equipment categories are approximates only and are dependent on the successful development of new standards by working groups of the IEEE Standards Association.

21 The National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme will commence in 2011 and be progressively implemented over a five year period. Further guidance will be provided in regard to the ICT equipment recycling, the product stewardship (e-waste) scheme and the NWP.

22 ANAO, Audit Report No 25 2008-09, Green Office Procurement and Sustainable Office Management. p58.

23 Department of Environment and Climate Change NSW, 2009, Know your paper - a guide for purchasing recycled content office paper, 

24 There may be circumstances where the use of recycled paper is not appropriate for an agency (eg special reports, awards, regional areas, etc). Guidance will be provided and consideration given in regard to this requirement.

25 The NPC is due to expire on 30 June 2010.  It will be replaced by the Australian Packaging Covenant (APC) in 2011.  Transition arrangements will apply for a period of up to 12 months until the APC is operational.

26 The CPGs establish the core procurement policy framework and articulate the Government’s expectations for agencies in relation to procurement. The CPG is No 1 of the "Financial Management Guidance series" of publications of which a number relate to procurement and may be relevant (eg FMG series No 10 and No 13).

27 Refer Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines (2008) Division 1, in particular paragraphs 4 and 6.

28 The term 'end user' will be aligned to an appropriate definition, such as (1) APS employee staff, or (2) occupied workpoint, or (3) Full Time Equivalent (FTE)

29 ANAO, Audit Report No 25 2008-09, Green Office Procurement and Sustainable Office Management,  p58

30 Review of the Australian Government’s Use of Information and Communication Technology, Commonwealth of Australian, August 2008, , p50

31 Refer to the Australian Government National Packaging Covenant Draft Action Plan 2008-2010 for details of Australian Government agencies' NPC commitments. This plan will be reviewed to account for the introduction of the Australian Packaging Covenant (see footnote 25).