There are many different ways in which Australian businesses can manage their environmental impact, just as there are for individuals and households. Some of the actions and activities measured in the 2008-09 ABS Energy, Water and Environment Survey include: development of an environmental plan/policy or system; water management practices; energy audits; setting energy performance targets or indicators; purchasing GreenPower; operating renewable energy systems or equipment; undertaking energy efficiency or energy reduction measures; or any of a number of other environmental management activities.
The commentary in this and ensuing chapters features business size. The following definitions apply:
Large businesses are those employing 200 or more persons; medium sized business employ between 20 and 199 persons; and small businesses employ between 0 and 19 persons.
During 2008-09, 4% (or 40,800) of businesses had an environmental plan, policy or system in place. Of the 3,100 large businesses, 45% (or 1,400) had an environmental plan, policy or system in place. In contrast, only 3% of small businesses (or 32,900 businesses) had one of these measures in place.
For the same period, 29% (or 313,600) of businesses undertook environmental management activities, with 75% (or 2,300) of large businesses doing so.
Of all the businesses operating in the Electricity, gas and waste services industry, 53% (or 1,400 businesses) undertook an environmental management activity in 2008-09. It should be noted that the Water supply, sewerage and drainage industry was not in-scope for this survey (see Explanatory Notes paragraph 8). The Mining industry showed the second largest proportion with 49% (or 1,900 businesses).
During 2008-09, 22% (or 235,300) of all businesses undertook water management practices. Large businesses had the highest proportion undertaking water management practices with 60% (or 1,900 businesses). For the same period, small businesses had the smallest proportion undertaking water management practices with 20% (or 213,100 businesses).
For the same period 55% of all businesses had an energy efficiency or energy reduction measure in place. Large businesses had the highest participation rates in implementing these measures, with 88%. In contrast, 54% of small businesses undertook energy efficiency or energy reduction measures. Of all businesses, 21% cited the major barrier to investing in improving energy efficiency practices was the cost involved or the length of the payback time.
The Accommodation and food services industry showed the largest proportion of their businesses undertaking energy efficiency measures with 76%, followed by Manufacturing with 72%.
During 2008-09, total expenditure on electricity and fuels was $75.0b. This expenditure was dominated by electricity and non-renewable fuels. Expenditure on non-renewable fuels included $17.5b on diesel, $13.0b on electricity and $5.9b on natural gas. A total of $29b was spent on other non-renewable fuels (excluding LPG, petrol, coal, coke and coal by-products), largely crude oil used by the petroleum industry. Businesses spent $60m directly on renewable fuels (liquid biofuel, biogas, bagasse and wood/wood waste) and GreenPower electricity accounted for just 1% of (or $95m) of total businesses expenditure on electricity.
By industry, Manufacturing accounted for the biggest share ($33.4b or 45%) of total expenditure on electricity and fuels, followed by Transport, postal and warehousing which accounted for $12.0b (or 16%) of the total.
Just under 7% of electricity generated (17,579 GWh) was sourced from renewables, with hydroelectricity contributing about two-thirds of this amount. The use of non-renewable fuels, coal, and coal by-products generated over 70% of electricity, followed by natural gas at 19%. The largest renewable fuel type was hydroelectricity (11,849 GWh).