Workplace policy for sustainability

What can be done?

As organisations grow and become more complex, written policy helps improve workflows and streamlines decision-making. However, they can also lock-in wasteful practices. Ultimately, trials or pilot green practices that are successful should be incorporated to ongoing company policy.

Why focus on policy?

An amendment to official company policy can make a big difference. For example, a simple requirement to purchase specified brands of recycled paper can avoid tonnes of forestry products plus water and energy over the course of a year.

A policy is the written embodiment of a company’s values. By including sustainability considerations into the day-to-day operations, organisations are walking the walk and not just talking the talk. On top of the immediate gains from reducing energy waste, smart choices can be made each time that a particular choice or decision is influenced by the workplace policy.

How to start

The approach towards policy change will be different for every organisation. The top considerations for those seeking to improve sustainability for the long term are to acquaint yourself with what policies you already have, who owns them, and what their review point is. 

Research, case studies, or data from within the organisation will all help to contribute to demonstrating the value of policy adjustments to meet sustainability goals. Some examples of how sustainability considerations can be included in day-to-day policies:


  • Hiring and Human Resources – environmental obligations can form part of people’s job descriptions, their KPIs, induction or training.
  • Flexible working arrangements – working from home may have health and safety considerations, but the documentation and decision-making could also account for travel-related greenhouse emissions saved.
  • Sponsorship policies – Are there requirements for sponsored companies to demonstrate their own sustainability credentials in order to propagate good practice?
  • Asset management policies – How things are owned by the organisations can influence their environmental impacts. For example, making sure printers are shared amongst many saves electricity wasted in standby power.
  • Accounts receivable – The way some expense items are recorded can hamper efforts to accurately measure workplace emissions. For example, if flights are bought on employee credit card the true impact of flying will not measurable via a dedicated code in accounts.
  • Supply chain management and procurement – from curtains to furniture, paper and appliances, all purchases can consider sustainability, and there are many guidelines and resources for green procurement.


Related resources

Case study: Frasers Property and healthy buildings

Case study: Frasers Property and healthy buildings

This case study looks at how Frasers Property Australia are creating places that support healthier lives.

Case study: KPMG Australia and sustainability

This case study discusses how KPMG is embedding corporate sustainability in its organisation.

Government sustainability policies (NSW Government)

The NSW Government has policies covering energy efficiency and resource efficiency for government agencies.

Environmental Sustainability Policy (Australian Government)

The Australian Government has a range of environmental policies to minimise the impact of government operations on the environment.
Slide deck: Leading by doing Sydney event

Slide deck: Leading by doing Sydney event

Slides from the CitySwitch event held for signatories in Sydney: Leading by doing - How business can take action in an uncertain policy environment.

Best practice waste & recycling contracts for business

Get a best practice waste and recycling contract underway with the help of this Sustainability Victoria guide. This resource has been created to help small to medium sized businesses navigate the waste contract procurement process and to get the most efficient and cost effective service.

APCC Sustainable procurement guides

The Australasian Procurement and Construction Council (APCC) provide guides to sustainable procurement of office paper, cleaning services, business machines, ICT products, print services, and office furniture, plus a guide to assessing the sustainability credentials of a contracted supplier, for example when writing tender documents.

Sustainable Procurement of Services Guide (AUS)

Detailed information about the sustainability issues to consider when procuring services, such as financial, best practice performance criteria that can be used in approaches to market and possible contract requirements. Produced by the Australian Government.

Sustainable Procurement Guide (Australian Government)

Guide for Australian Government purchasers to include sustainability considerations in all stages of the procurement process, from identifying the business need to disposing of goods. Commissioned by the Australian Government and developed by ECO-buy.

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