Ecological Footprint case study - VicSuper
VicSuper's Ecological Footprint Pilot Project (2003)
"I am delighted that VicSuper has participated in this innovative project. The results of EPA Victoria's Ecological Footprint initiative have provided valuable insights into our environmental impact and will help us deliver our sustainability objectives."
Bob Welsh, Chief Executive, VicSuper
VicSuper offers superannuation services for people during their working lives and after they retire. It has approximately 210,000 members and around $4.2 billion in assets (as at 30 April 2006). The majority of members work for Victorian public sector, schools and statutory authorities.
VicSuper is a sustainability leader within its industry due to its innovative approach. In November 2001, VicSuper commenced a program to invest 10 per cent of its equity portfolio in companies rated as sustainability leaders in their industry sectors, which, as a proportion of fund assets, represents the largest commitment to sustainability investing by a superannuation fund in Australia.
In addition, VicSuper offers an investment option which enables members to invest up to 100 per cent of their total account balance in sustainability leaders. In 2003 VicSuper also became the first organisation to sign up to a sustainability covenant with EPA.
VicSuper has adopted sustainability as the central operating principle for its organisation. Participating in EPA's Ecological Footprint Pilot Program has provided VicSuper with the opportunity to determine its environmental impact. This has assisted it in developing and implementing its long-term sustainability plan.
Description of the pilot project
What was measured
As part of the Ecological Footprint Pilot Project, VicSuper has measured the impact of its office and some of the products and services consumed in its office operations.
Description of office
- Size: 1803 square metres (1/10th the size of the Melbourne Cricket Ground oval)
- Type: 21-storey building
- Life expectancy of the building: 85 years
- Area occupied by the building: approximately 1352 square metres
- Number of employees: 102 (as at end July 2003)
Products and services consumed
VicSuper's Ecological Footprint calculation included its consumption of electricity, gas, water, goods and food, as well as waste produced and recycled, and travel undertaken.
VicSuper calculated that its total Ecological Footprint was 156.4 hectares of land per year, or 1.5 hectares (just under one Melbourne Cricket Ground) per employee per year. This means that 156.4 hectares of land is required to supply the goods and services used by VicSuper each year. This land would be used for activities including cropping, pasture, biodiversity conservation, energy supply and management of wastes created.
This information was obtained in the financial year 2001-2002 by a variety of methods:
- Building information such as size of the building was collected with assistance from the building manager.
- Information such as business travel, fuel consumption and catering was obtained from records in the Finance department.
- Travel data was collected through a staff travel survey, developed by VicSuper and administered by the internal staff sustainability group.
- Waste and recycling data was obtained through quarterly waste audits conducted by the internal staff sustainability team; this was the hardest data to collect.
- Other teams such as Information Systems and Communications assisted in the collection of data including the number of toner cartridges recycled and printed materials used.
- Other data such as staff numbers, energy use and paper purchases was collected from already assembled records used for sustainability reporting to staff and the board.
It helped in the collection of data to have procedures and systems, such as waste audits and the recording of paper consumption, already in place. Having established databases made it far easier to collect information as the data was already assembled, collated and up to date.
By calculating the Ecological Footprint of its office based activities, VicSuper observed the following:
- Printed materials and publications account for around 40 per cent of its ecological impact.
- Other stationery items have the next biggest impact.
- Catering and electricity use were also major contributors to VicSuper's ecological impact.
- The majority of staff use public transport to get to work (68 per cent), followed by private car alone (23 per cent) - the remainder of travel options are not frequently used by VicSuper staff.
Value of the calculator as a measurement tool
- gave VicSuper the impetus to collect information not previously collected - for example, how staff travel to and from work.
- provided the basis for VicSuper to estimate data such as water usage, which it previously could not measure as water in VicSuper's building is not broken down by tenant.
- allowed VicSuper to compare the impacts of different activities and determine which ones have the largest ecological impact.
Value of the calculator as a communication tool
VicSuper found that the tool is an excellent vehicle for communicating the environmental element of sustainability. Converting such a broad range of data into something as tangible as an area of land required to support activities brings real meaning to the measurements.
Limitations of the calculator or concept
VicSuper found the only limitation with the calculator was that the results of the Office Ecological Footprint Calculator cannot be added to the results individuals obtained from the Home Ecological Footprint Calculator (due to issues surrounding double accounting).