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Category Archives: Environment

Emerging environmental compliance in Victoria

The need for business transition

Protecting the environment is a major area of activity for governments and business, particularly as we face complex pollution and waste management issues that can affect human health and sensitive ecosystems.

The Victorian Government has been working systematically to modernise the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) in order to meet Victoria’s environment and human health challenges. The government response to the EPA Inquiry details the suite of reforms for the overall transformation of the EPA to a world class environmental regulator. It is important to note that these are the first major reforms since the EPA was formed in 1971.

The implementation of the reforms seeks to ensure that the:

> EPA will protect Victorians’ health and their environment, preventing and reducing harmful effects of pollution and waste.

> EPA will deliver efficient, proportionate and consistent regulation which is vital for economic prosperity by ensuring Victoria is an attractive place to invest, work, live and visit.

In many respects, the reforms establish a stronger emphasis on preventing environmental harm and foreseeable hazards and risks.

Figure 1. Summary of the EPA reforms and business regulation
The need for businesses to be prepared

The process highlights the on-going need for businesses to identify compliance issues and risks and be ready to transition to new requirements in a timely and considered manner.

The Victorian Environment Protection Act has now been updated and includes new provisions for governance arrangements.

The reform agenda will also bring about significant changes as to how businesses and organisations will be regulated in regard to environmental risk. A key change is the introduction of a ‘General Duty’ that will be used to strengthen EPA capability to prevent environmental harm.

The introduction of a General Duty will involve the use of ‘Codes of Practice’, an approach that is already widely used within Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) legislation and regulation. For example, in Victoria OHS Law and Code of Practice provides practical guidance on how to comply with relevant regulation. The VIC EPA now makes it clear that this approach provides a preferred model to apply in regard to environmental regulation in Victoria.

Adherence to Codes of Practice will certainly involve sites that require EPA Licensing and Works Approvals. Beyond such sites, the VIC EPA is looking to create a register of businesses with activities that have a regulatory significance.

Initially the register may be based on the dangerous goods notifications register managed by WorkSafe, which could involve up to 2,800 businesses. The EPA is also looking to register other businesses that have a potential higher risk profile, examples of which include dry cleaners, electroplaters, petrol stations and non-intensive agricultural businesses.

The range of activities requiring works approvals and licensing is also set to be expanded. The current recommendations involve potentially expanding licensing to:

> Waste companies
> Recyclers
> Transfer stations
> Agriculture based businesses

The EPA has put in place a five-year strategy to implement the reform recommendations.

Guidance and support for businesses

Helping companies to be prepared and ready for the reforms is an essential part of the process.

Equilibrium is well positioned to support businesses to assess and prepare for impending regulatory changes. Our depth of experience relating to environmental and OHS risk management is at the forefront when it comes to identifying and preventing harm to human health and the environment from pollution and waste.

Equilibrium’s knowledge of risk analysis and developing risk management strategies is founded on working to meet compliance requirements of Environmental and OHS regulations across Australia. Our experience covers leading projects across Australia.

Regular updates on reform implementation program are available at https://engage.vic.gov.au/reform-epa

More information

Contact Nicholas Harford for more information about Equilibrium’s services and how we can support your readiness for the reforms:

Nicholas Harford
Mobile: 0419 993 234  or  nick@equil.com.au

 

Blockchain and Environmental Applications

Digital disruption applied to environmental objectives holds great potential to build transparency across the supply chain

The need to confirm, verify and certify processes and outcomes is a major element in responsible and measurable environmental management, be it to establish accurate disposal paths, quantify recovered materials or document a robust chain of data and activity.

From forestry and fisheries through to energy, carbon reduction and abatement programs and the recycling and recovery of waste, the need for unassailable digital tools is an essential part of responsible environmental management and business sustainability in the broadest sense.

How often do we hear about the need for effective ‘chain of custody’ for materials or a particular product, or for certified recycling outcomes?

Digital solutions that are free of any single vested interest, and have the architecture to enable transparency and widespread adoption, will allow organisations, and their sustainability practitioners to reach new levels of knowledge transfer, environmental performance, supplier accountability and customer confidence.

Blockchain 101

There are plenty of definitions with a recurring theme but it’s all about decentralization through a platform ‘owned by no one and useable by everyone’.  In very simple terms it’s a ‘shared record book’.

Some succinct explanations further describe its essential characteristics:

“Blockchain is a decentralized digitized database that maintains a list of records of a complete history of transactions or movements of a product.”

“The blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.” Read more: Don & Alex Tapscott, authors Blockchain Revolution (2016)

Because the “chain” can’t be modified it can immediately provide proof of purchase for any transaction, whether that be procurement of sustainable materials to purchasing renewable energy.

Fundamental to the structure of blockchains is the ability to maintain encrypted copies of any information stored on every server or “node” in the network.

Blockchain systems record all transactions, enabling a transparent trail that can be easily audited, even automatically which can be used to validate transactions preventing double counting and the authenticity of chain of custodies around products and materials.

Relevance to sustainability and environmental objectives

So could the blockchain be part of the transparency revolution that business sustainability demands?

Heather Clancy, the editorial director of GreenBiz talks about the blockchain’s emerging role in sustainability in a manner that is both plausible and compelling. The scenarios she describes are clear candidates highlighting how a ‘shared record book’ can bring noteworthy environmental benefit and customer confidence through the ultimate in transparent platforms.

“Picture, if you will, a tracking system that discreetly verifies the provenance of products as they move across a supply chain — sending proactive alerts about unexpected detours that could signal potential tampering or environmental conditions that might pose safety issues. Or, imagine a database that monitors the clean electricity generated by on-site solar panels, issues renewable energy certificates as certain production thresholds are achieved, then distributes them according to predetermined contracts. Automatically.”

Clancy however is a realist and acknowledging the hype but certainly not dismissing the blockchain and its future applications. While lavish claims and embellishment are the norm for early innovations and over-excited entrepreneurs, there is a logic and clarity around why and how the blockchain can address data and verification gaps not always possible or reliable via conventional methods and systems.

“While the hype level seen during 2016 isn’t likely to last — it sometimes seems every other tech headline is rife with blockchain promises — the next few years will usher a wave of experiments. Where sustainability professionals are likely to see the most action: among utilities or renewable energy developers seeking a more efficient way of pricing and selling clean power; at consumer products companies and retailers seeking a better way of validating supply-chain claims; and among banks and insurance companies interested in verifying the provenance of minerals, commodities or raw materials.”

In support of her insights, Clancy shares some specific examples of companies to watch and how they are utilising the blockchain to address a diverse range of energy, environment and supply chain imperatives from conflict minerals and product life-cycle management all the way through to renewable energy trading:

IBM — sells a private cloud service that could help organizations develop and get blockchain applications up and running quickly. Its technology is behind pilots by retailer Walmart, for food safety, and Everledger, which certifies the origins of diamonds.

LO3 Energy — its TransactiveGrid system helps automate the trading of power across microgrids. The startup just scored a notable strategic partner, German energy management company Siemens. (A similar company is Australia’s PowerLedger.)

Nasdaq — has been investing in blockchain technology for more than three years. Its Linq service could be the foundation for new business models, such as a system for issuing renewable energy credits automatically.

Provenance — a relatively low-key London firm has piloted the use of blockchain to track tuna supply chains in Indonesia and to monitor produce for British grocer Co-op Food. It wants to make it simpler for companies to verify sustainability claims.

Skuchain — the California startup’s software is behind a test by Commonwealth Bank and Wells Fargo initially focused on trading cotton between Texas and China.

Heather Clancy’s article complete with more detail can be viewed at GreenBiz. It is a reader-friendly excerpt from a more comprehensive report published in partnership with Trucost in 2017. Read more: https://www.greenbiz.com/article/blockchains-emerging-role-sustainability

Indeed we have local examples. Power Ledger based in Perth has launched a successful ICO (Initial Coin Offering). The company uses a blockchain platform that allows neighbours to trade surplus energy from rooftop solar panels and batteries at prices that exceed feed-in-tariffs, as well as sharing solar panels and batteries on multi-dwelling apartment blocks and community facilities. Read more here: http://www.afr.com/news/power-ledger-builds-energy-business-amid-bitcoin-mayhem-20171215-h05c5v#ixzz55AxqIDbH

The World Economic Forum has also been proactively discussing the relevance of the blockchain and its role in helping deal with climate change and resource conservation.

In relation to climate change the WEF speculates on what’s possible, desirable and necessary staying that the blockchain features benefits for both producer and consumer, as well as other players throughout the supply chain:

“Imagine a world in which carbon emissions and credits can be tracked transparently and reliably. Retailers will be able to sell a product and take into account the carbon impact it creates at the same time. Governments will be able to measure, track and trade emissions transparently. And crucially, for the first time consumers will be able to understand the environmental impact of the products they are buying – both positive and negative – at the point of sale, and will be able to mitigate this in an instant, with millions of micro-transactions scaling up to make a huge collective impact.”  Read more: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/09/carbon-currency-blockchain-poseidon-ecosphere/

New uses and applications emerge weekly which also highlights that the platform has captured the imagination of innovators and entrepreneurs, as well as the major financial institutions who have much to gain and lose should they not understand its potential.

The here and now of the blockchain is mostly being used in cryptocurrency because of its two main advantages i.e. the highly secure nature of the platform, and its transparency. These attributes have been quickly identified by users as the ‘shared record book’ reaches into new markets and solutions, including:

> Plastic Bank: uses blockchain technology to pay for the collection of plastic in poverty-stricken areas reducing the overall waste.

> Poseidon+: carbon credit market that will allow consumers to purchase climate positive products and having the confidence to trust it because of blockchain tracking.

> Catenaut: is blockchain made for a timber supply chain, knowing where the timber comes from and the amount coming in accurately.

Ultimately the blockchain delivers a degree of transparency that in fact spawns new uses, or improved uses compared to conventional, less-secure methods and systems.

A blockchain future will be able to:

> track energy in a decentralized system
> track products from cradle to grave/ tracking products that may be reused/recycled
> track food sources i.e. consumers knowing where it comes from. Seeing food miles and other information
> continually track products across and throughout the supply chain
> accurately audit supply chains as it provides a clear paper trail of products that cannot be tampered

Its success and widespread application will in part depend on compelling, evidence-based case-studies that stimulate thinking across sectors and industries, including energy, water, waste, mining, agriculture and fisheries.

If the blockchain can achieve a step-change improvement in relation to accurate data sharing, verification, monitoring and tracking, then we are likely to see greater uptake over the coming months and years. And if its application can directly and indirectly contribute to achieving a more resource efficient and productive sustainable future then its value-adding capacity is noteworthy.

It could also be the platform that helps to underpin the circular economy and its focus on extending the life of products, components and materials to unprecedented levels.

Transparency combined with closed loops is a powerful partnership in pursuit of regenerative and restorative solutions.

Authored by: John Gertsakis and Tom Pollock from Equilibrium
31 January 2018

 

Equilibrium Joins C2P as a Knowledge Partner

Global advisory company Compliance & Risks tracks global policies, regulations and standards across key product and policy areas.

It is one of the most trusted names in compliance knowledge management, and provides a range of tools and services to help companies effectively manage the avalanche of global regulations as businesses struggle to keep up with market access rules.

Equilibrium is very pleased to announce that it has joined Compliance & Risks as a Knowledge Partner covering content for the Australian market.  We are well placed to share our knowledge and insights to the benefit of businesses who understand the broader benefits of being a sustainable enterprise.

A key tool in liberating businesses from an otherwise complex regulatory landscape is C2P: a comprehensive, online product compliance knowledge management platform. Compliance & Risks has developed and expanded C2P over many years of detailed development. It is supported by some of the best legal, business, supply chain and environmental specialists, who bring local regulatory news and insights from around the world.

Reporting on policy and regulatory initiatives in Australia

Specifically, Equilibrium will be contributing compliance news, alerts, key dates and commentary to C2P on a variety of topics including: batteries, climate change, conflict minerals, CSR, ecodesign and ecolabeling, e-waste/WEEE, waste management and resource recovery, energy efficiency, packaging, transport of dangerous goods and hazardous substances.

Equilibrium holds a wealth of experience related to many of these topics and will be able to share its knowledge with C2P customers around the world. This is increasingly important as many companies and governments transition to circular thinking and action.

Many of C2P customers include major blue-chip companies, OEMs and brands from the following industries:

– Electronics, lighting and telecommunications
Medical devices and chemicals
Energy and HVAC
Textiles
Automotive
Toys

Equilibrium’s contribution to C2P will reach companies in 120 countries around the world, and help ensure that they are kept abreast of key policy and regulatory developments in Australia. This includes the review of the Product Stewardship Act, proposals to develop a national battery recycling scheme, stewardship for photovoltaics and energy storage and progress on the e-waste landfill ban for Victoria.

Visit the Compliance & Risks website for more information about C2P, and make contact with Equilibrium about local compliance related issues.

More information

John Gertsakis
Director, Communications
Equilibrium
Mobile:  0409 422 089
Email:  john@equil.com.au

 

NRMA – Child restraint recycling trial a triple-whammy win for community

Road safety, environmental benefits and regional jobs: a program that can deliver on any of these targets could expect the support of NRMA, so a scheme that has ready-made outcomes for all three gets our full attention – and it deserves yours too.

Add to that the fact that children and the disabled are the primary beneficiaries and it’s clear that the child car safety seat stewardship trial has the potential to deliver enormous positives for the community.

In order to ensure a permanent recycling program, Equilibrium must demonstrate significant community engagement and support. People with used and expired child restraints are urged to drop them at the following locations to support this valuable trial:

Kiama Community Recycling Centre: 446 Riverside Dr, Minnamurra.

Penrith Community Recycling Centre:Gate 3, 96 Dunheved Circuit, St Marys.

Tamworth Community Recycling Centre: 123a Forest Road, Tamworth.

Nudgee Resource Recovery Centre, 1402 Nudgee Rd, Nudgee Beach, Queensland

Willawong Resource Recovery Centre, 360 Sherbrooke Rd, Willawong, Queensland.

Reedy Creek Community Waste and Recycling Centre, 61 Hutchinson Street, Burleigh Heads, Queensland.

Darebin Resource Recovery Centre, 30 Kurnai Avenue, Reservoir Victoria

Australia to host Beyond Plastic Pollution conference

Great to see that Australia has a visionary conference focused on reducing marine plastic pollution in the Asia-Pacific region. The Beyond Plastic Pollution conference will take place at Darling Harbour in Sydney from October 30th to November 1st, 2017.

The conference aims to bring together government, science, business, academia and the community to discuss the challenges facing the world’s oceans and to identify solutions to start addressing the problems. An extensive three-day programme has been released, jam-packed with informative sessions combing keynotes, panel discussions, practical workshops, real-world case studies and more.

By exploring the latest research and encouraging diverse interests to collaborate on solutions, the conference seeks to find a pathway to eliminating plastic pollution in the ocean.

CONFERENCE DETAILS:
When: 30th October-November 1st 2017.
Where: Darling Harbour, Sydney, Australia.

To find out more about the conference, and to register your attendance, head to:

http://www.beyondplasticpollutionconference.org.au/

For a fascinating yet disturbing insight into the extent of marine pollution globally have a look at the award-winning film, A Plastic Ocean –  https://www.plasticoceans.org/a-plastic-ocean/

Australia celebrates World Environment Day June 5th

Australia is home to vast forests, oceans abundant with marine life and an enchanting range of flora and fauna unique to our continent. The Murray River is experiencing its best health in over a decade, with increased water flow replenishing drought-affected wetlands and floodplains, leading to a boom in flora and fauna growth. In positive signs for Australian marine health, Victoria’s Port Phillip and Western Port bays have reported record numbers of whale and dolphin sightings.

Despite these environmental positives, much of Australia’s rich biodiversity remains under threat. Over half of the native fish found in the Murray-Darling basin are now regarded as threatened species following years of drought and man-made wetland degradation. The world-heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef has experienced serious coral bleaching as sea temperature continue to rise. Meanwhile, Australian biodiversity and soil have been irreversibly impacted by deforestation and clearing for agricultural purposes, driving already endangered species to the brink of extinction.

The occasion of World Environment Day on June 5th provides us with the perfect opportunity to reflect on the environmental consequences of human activity in Australia. Established by the United Nations in 1972 to promote awareness of environmental issues, World Environment Day encourages people from across the globe to consider ways they can improve the quality of life of all living things without harming the environment. The day is also a means of celebrating the valuable work of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), who have worked tirelessly on the development of international environmental conventions and assisted national governments to implement environmentally responsible policies and practices.

The theme for World Environment Day in 2017 is ‘Connecting People to Nature’. This theme invites us to reflect on our personal connection with the environment, to appreciate the beauty of our native wildlife, and to pledge to protect Australia’s rich biodiversity from ever-increasing environmental challenges.

What can you do on World Environment Day?

People are urged to organise or take part in a variety of events and awareness campaigns, from beach clean-ups and tree re-planting to galvanizing collective action to protect the environment. Many state governments and local councils will be facilitating World Environment Day events, so get in touch with your local council to learn how you can participate.

You may also wish to attend the World Environment Day Awards, hosted by the United Nations Association of Australia. The awards will highlight and recognise the innovative and outstanding environmental programs and initiatives across Australia. More information on the awards can be found here.

And if photography is more your thing, people are invited to use social media to show their personal connection to nature by taking part in the UNEP World Environment Day photo competition. Entrants are urged to post photos and videos of their favourite places in nature with the hashtag #WorldEnvironmentDay and #WithNature, with the best photos to be featured in an exhibition held at the United Nations headquarters. More information on the competition can be found here.