Getting started


You have already taken the first step to realise the benefits of going green by entering this section. The challenge is knowing where to start – how to define the best areas for action which will bring real benefits to your business and the environment.

The following simple but important steps will help you start your business on the sustainability journey.

Step 1: Commit to change
Step 2: Understand what matters
Step 3: Establish baselines & benchmarks
Step 4: Assess
Step 5: Focus on easy wins
Step 6: Set goals and make a statement
Step 7: Involve your staff and clients
Step 8: Monitor, measure and communicate your progress

Step 1. Commit to change

The most important step in taking an active approach to sustainability is to make a commitment to change.  For larger organisations this means obtaining senior management commitment and engagement.  Management’s support is necessary as they tend to have an overall view and active participation in daily business operations and strategy development.

In smaller tourism businesses, it is the business operator or owner making the commitment to change daily business practices to realise the benefits of greening the business.

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Step 2: Understand what matters

You must to know what you use and produce before you can reduce it!

In order for a business to progress and realise savings, it is necessary to understand your current resource usage.  Start by gathering the most recent year’s worth of utility bills (electricity, gas, water, waste, fuel etc) to become familiar with your resource consumption and related costs and help you identify your biggest resource concerns. Organise this information into a meaningful format.

Too often the bills are paid without checking for errors or major changes. After all, you can only manage what you can measure. An example pf how to record waste and water suage is provided here: Sample environmental policy statement for tourism operators (29 kb)Document

Alternatively, there are software programs available that assist in tracking resource consumption, including carbon emissions such as the carbon calculator External link on the Carbon Neutral website.

Look for spikes or other patterns in your bills to determine when your consumption is highest, and why.  Spikes in usage naturally occur seasonally (e.g. air conditioners running all summer) and daily (e.g. when a business “starts up” in the morning and employees arrive and turn on lights and equipment), but there may be other unexpected surges that you can identify and try to alleviate. 

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Step 3: Establish baselines & benchmark your efforts

Once historical and current usage data have been obtained, it is important to establish a baseline.  A baseline is the amount of a resource (water, energy, supplies and waste) that your business typically uses. The baseline is used as the comparison rate for monitoring future progress and benchmarking against industry best practice standards.

Benchmarking your resource consumption against industry average guidelines/standard will help determine potential savings opportunities.

Using the average consumption rate from a recent year (12-24 months) is an appropriate baseline.

Regular monitoring of usage and cost against the baseline will identify the efficacy of your sustainability efforts and also alert you to any discrepancies that need to be resolved, such as leaks or equipment that needs to be repaired.

NABERS Ratings for hotels

NABERS Energy and Water ratings External link allow you to accurately compare the performance of your hotel to other similar facilities, and can assist you to manage the impact of your hotel on the environment.

NABERS is the industry standard for measuring and benchmarking the environmental performance of existing Australian buildings, incorporating the trusted Australian Building Greenhouse Rating for offices. NABERS is a national initiative of federal, state and territory governments, and is managed by the NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change.

NABERS ratings are based on actual data related to the performance of your premises over the last 12 months. For a certified rating that you can promote, you will need to engage a NABERS Accredited Assessor to calculate your rating. This will enable you to use the NABERS trademark. You can self-assess the environmental performance of your office premises at no cost using the NABERS Rating calculator External link but cannot promote this rating.

5Star Sustainability for Industry and SMEs online tools

Developed by Sustainability Victoria and Zero Waste SA, 5Star Sustainability External link is a simple online assessment guide that assists companies by rating current performance and showing what is required to improve performance. It also provides guidance in minimising resource use and moving towards an overall 5StarSustainability rating.

Businesses need to register to access the 5StarSustainability for Industry and SMEs online tools. Find out more and register External link

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Step 4: Assess

Now that you have an understanding of basic concepts and possible resource efficiency measures, you’re ready to conduct a simple environmental assessment.

A simple environment assessment of your business should be conducted to determine the impacts of your energy & water use, transportation, materials and waste and detect areas where money is being wasted.  For instance, environmental assessments recently conducted by VECCI of 59 tourism businesses identified potential annual savings of $2,850 per business and realised with an average payback period of 1.95 years.

For any organisation a good starting point is a walk-though assessment and this can generally be done in-house if you have a relatively small operation.  A basic self-assessment of current resource usage can be conducted over one or two days to analyse the types and volumes of resources used in your business.  This allows you to identify obvious opportunities and will help you to decide whether you need specialist support.

If you don’t want to conduct this assessment yourself, you can engage a professional to conduct assessments or more detailed environmental audits on a fee-for-service basis.  The latter can provide detailed analysis of your resource usage, as well as data enabling you to set targets, measure ongoing progress, and communicate benefits to guests and staff.  This type of audit requires an engineer or auditing professional who will provide a detailed assessment of your business resource use.

In many ways an environmental audit is similar to a financial audit.  Many water and energy utilities also provide this service.

An environmental assessment will result in a list of opportunities with associated costs and savings, from which you can determine your priorities. Some measures, such as resetting heating controls, will cost you nothing at all, while others will require investment. Once you have a list of possible opportunities, you will know where you need more information and advice. 

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Step 5: Focus on Easy Wins

Starting on the sustainability journey can seem overwhelming at first, but by starting small and focusing some early actions that require relatively little effort and are inexpensive (quick payback times), you’ll quickly see results that will energise your staff and provide the foundation for future activities. 

These ‘no brainers’ can start saving your business money fairly quickly, giving you incentive to keep going.  Do things by increments so that you know what works and what doesn't without compromising your business’ bottom line.

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Step 6: Set Goals and Make a Statement

Setting environmental goals, objectives and targets, and why you have them, and making a clear statement about them are invaluable first steps on the road to a green tourism business. 

The development of a formal environmental policy means you can put your targets in writing and helps you and your staff focus on achieving these targets. 

It also informs clients that your business has made an environmental commitment and is attempting to reduce the environmental impact of its activities, but above all else it provides the focus for the development and implementation of an action plan.

Developing, implementing and tracking an action plan will help ensure that your business meets its environmental goals on time with the desired results.   An action plan can be as simple or as complex as you want but it needs to be workable and based in reality.

Be sure to capture the actions you’ve already begun to take.

The following steps will help you create your business’s environmental action plan.

Identify your goals

In order to achieve results, goals should be set on an annual basis. Using the audit/assessment as a baseline, the goals should be attainable and measurable.

For example, a goal such as “Reduce energy consumption where possible” is a great idea, but much too vague to be practical. A clearer and more suitable action plan would be to “Replace all incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents wherever possible” or to create “a policy that all housekeeping staff keep all window drapes closed and lights turned off when a room is not in use”.  This can then be translated into meaningful and measurable goals, such as percentage reduction in a year, and also how much money that reduction has saved.

These goals should fit within the mission and overall business strategy of your business and be linked to your environmental policy.

In order to get you on track with the action plan:

  • Choose goals in the first year that are easily attainable. An example is setting all printers to double-sided printing.
  • Keep track of all the cost savings measures. It will be easier to justify bigger expenses in energy conservation.
  • Pick projects that will inspire participation and action from your employees.
  • Select some goals that are easy to implement and provide immediate results. Achieving early success in your program will increase enthusiasm for more difficult, long-term initiatives.
  • When picking the number of goals you would like to set, make sure you have sufficient resources to address each area. Small businesses just getting started on green programs typically select no more than five goals in the first year.

Create metrics to assess progress

Create metrics to assess progress. For each goal you select, determine the best way to measure progress toward meeting that goal. Keep it simple, using data that is already available, if possible, especially in the early stages of going green.

Set improvement targets

For each goal you’ve selected and using the data from your environmental self-assessment / audit, determine your current performance level (baseline measure) and set an improvement target for the measurement period. Be sure to set realistic targets that are challenging, yet achievable. Meeting or exceeding targets in the first year will help employees feel encouraged about their progress and provide momentum for more challenging goals and targets in future years.

Assign responsibility

Where possible, designate an accountable individual for each goal who will have primary responsibility for achieving the improvement target.

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Step 7: Involve your Staff and Clients

Without the involvement of your staff and clients, an environmental program will rarely succeed.  It is imperative to engage and consult with staff before starting and during the development and implementation phase of an environmental program. Employees also have a better understanding of the areas where savings can occur and of small improvements that have the potential to make a big difference. {see Involving Staff section for more information}

With advice from your employees, you will get a better understanding of both the environmental issues within your property and of your employee’s concerns, interest and passions.

Involving clients in your environmental activities will provide them with a sense of achievement by “doing their bit” to help the environment. 

Display your environmental policy where your visitors are most likely to see it; this communicates your objectives and enables your customers to get involved as well.  You can also incorporate your policy into your wider marketing messages.  Display polite notices to remind clients to support your environmental initiatives.  Find out more about marketing your green credentials

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Step 8: Monitor, measure and communicate your progress/successes

In business, it is impossible to manage something that isn’t measured.

Keeping track of your progress will provide tangible proof that your green efforts are working.  Measure how much energy you're saving, how much water you're conserving, and how much waste you're keeping out of the landfill through your efforts.

These measures can be used to quantify the overall effectiveness of your environmental initiatives against the established targets- and how much money you've saved in the process.  They will also identify areas for improvement.  Communicate these successes to your staff and clients.

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Last Updated 9th July 2013