Our approach

Environmental management is a key component of Downer’s Zero Harm philosophy. Downer is committed to managing and minimising the impact of its activities on the natural and built environment. We place a strong emphasis on meeting and exceeding our environmental compliance obligations.

A core focus of Downer’s Urban Services strategy is to develop and maintain innovative solutions that contribute to a lower environmental footprint.

Together, these represent Downer’s keys to long-term success.

Our environment and sustainability performance commitments are outlined in our Environmental Sustainability Policy, our Zero Harm Management Framework and our 10 Environmental Principles. These principles are critical to ensuring our employees and broader stakeholder groups are engaged and aware of our environmental sustainability commitments.

Downer is also cognisant of our social licence to operate, through improving sustainability of our operations, achieving the goal of Zero Harm to the environment and our people, and avoiding legal liability and negative impact on our reputation, business value and ultimately shareholder wealth.

The effective management of our environmental impacts is fundamental to Downer's approach to the delivery of all services and is embedded in our overall risk management processes.

Downer’s environmental management system (accredited to AS/NZ ISO14001:2015) is integrated into our Group-wide management system, called The Downer Standard, which ensures a comprehensive, systematic and consistent approach to identifying and controlling environmental hazards and risks, and monitoring our environmental performance across the organisation. In addition, the

environment management system is audited, both internally and externally by independent third parties.

We place significant emphasis on both effective control through our Critical Risk program and continuous improvement through lessons learned to sustain the natural environment for future generations.

Each Business Unit has an Environmental Sustainability Plan (ESP) that details the necessary strategies and objectives and aligns to the Group Environment and Sustainability three-year strategy. The ESP allocates internal responsibilities for reducing the impact of our operations and business activities on the environment. Downer has a centralised network of professional environment and sustainability resources with extensive knowledge, expertise and experience across the different sectors in which we operate. This network provides an efficient support service to our operations to ensure our environmental obligations are being fulfilled.

Downer remains focused on developing solutions to reduce our energy consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, while increasing our cost competitiveness. We are also committed to developing strategies that will improve the resilience of our assets and portfolio to the impacts of climate change, progressing the circular economy and looking at innovative ways to reuse waste materials in our products. The development of the Reconophalt™ asphalt pavement product is an example of this focus in action, representing principles of the circular economy in incorporating recycled soft plastics into the asphalt product.

Our performance

Downer committed to achieving the following environmental targets and objectives in FY20:

Zero environmental prosecutions
Zero serious environmental incidents (Level 5 and 6)
Fewer than three Environmental Penalty Infringement Notices
Achieve a ‘Stretch’ target1 of 7,214 tonnes of annualised GHG emissions (CO2-e) reductions for energy efficiency initiatives
  1. This is Downer’s internal GHG emissions reduction target associated with efficiency initiatives and linked to Downer’s Short-Term Incentive program.

The performance information in this section includes Downer, its contractors and joint ventures in the following business lines: Australian Operations, Spotless and New Zealand including Hawkins. Joint ventures have been included for environmental energy and GHG emissions performance data where Downer is deemed to have operational control as defined by the National Greenhouse Energy Reporting Act. Further information on joint ventures is detailed in Downer’s 2020 Annual Report.

Downer’s environmental sustainability performance is measured against the key areas of risk management, compliance, minimising environmental impact and maximising resource efficiency opportunities in our own and our customers’ businesses. Significant progress was made this year in delivering on focus areas that were disclosed in Downer’s 2019 Sustainability Report. Downer’s key focus areas during the year were to:

  • Continue to focus on the resilience and assurance of environmental risk controls
  • Incorporate sustainability rating tools and initiatives into major projects
  • Improve environmental workforce capability
  • Engage with customers regarding Downer’s environmental capability
  • Execute on plans to prepare the business for a transition to a low carbon economy, through the planned divestment of the capital intensive Mining and Laundries businesses.

In FY20, Downer carried out its plan to continue to improve and consolidate our sustainability reporting platform. This has facilitated the reporting of waste data for the first time in

FY20, and allowed us to collect data feeding into a preliminary estimate of water impacts across the organisation, including usage and impacts. This year represented the second year in Downer’s three-year GHG reduction program, and the progress against this is reported in the ‘Managing our GHG emissions’ section. Other areas Downer focused on in FY20 were to:

  • Further utilise low-emissions technology across our fleet, plant and equipment to reduce fuel consumption, carbon and air emissions
  • Further improve energy efficiency in our Rollingstock Services business, where Scope 2 emissions are proportionately high compared to the rest of the business, and energy efficiency opportunities are more abundant
  • Develop The Downer Standard for land contamination – a company-wide procedure to ensure a consistent approach to identifying and assessing land contamination at sites we own or have acquired, leased or sub-leased
  • Implement and rollout a suite of learning modules for operational staff on various environmental management and sustainability topics
  • Further rollout Downer’s Environmental Awareness training to New Zealand and Spotless
  • Develop technological solutions to manage environmental risk, such as web-based GIS platforms linked to artificial intelligence and machine learning for in-field applications
  • Increase the number of Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia (ISCA) Infrastructure Sustainability (IS) ratings for our infrastructure projects to improve our sustainability.

Environmental compliance

Downer maintained its Group-wide target of zero Level 52 or Level 63 environmental incidents and zero Significant Environmental Incidents4 and zero prosecutions during FY20.

Case study

Cedar Grove Environmental Centre

Water management

Downer delivers complete water lifecycle solutions for municipal and industrial water users. Downer’s expertise includes water treatment, wastewater treatment, water and wastewater network construction and rehabilitation, desalination and biosolids treatment.

Contamination management

Downer owns, occupies and operates facilities where historical activities have caused land and groundwater contamination. These include emulsion manufacturing, asphalt manufacturing, commercial laundry and dry cleaning operations, rail maintenance and defence sites.

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In FY20, contamination liability remained a key consideration for Downer and, in particular, Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination, due to growing industry concern about the impact of PFAS chemicals on human health and the potential damage they present to the environment. The issue is growing in prominence and there has been significant media attention on the Westgate Tunnel in Melbourne, Victoria, and various airports and defence facilities in Australia and New Zealand. In response, Downer undertook a review of its legal risk and mitigation strategies for the management of PFAS contamination risk within the Downer Group. The review identified some governance and procedural recommendations when assessing contracts and the consideration of latent condition and unforeseen contamination issues.

The review also involved understanding Downer’s insurance policies with respect to PFAS contaminations and the limits of cover. The review confirmed that Downer has a comprehensive insurance regime that provides extensive cover for any significant events. Downer holds two insurance policies that indemnify Downer in response to events that cause contamination, including PFAS in most cases, which include:

  • General Public Liability Policy – which provides coverage for ‘sudden and accidental’ incidents
  • Contractor’s Pollution Liability Policy – which provides coverage for ‘gradual’ contamination incidents.

In conjunction with Downer’s strategic decision to move away from capital intensive industries, we undertook a detailed review of the contamination risks and ongoing management associated with the laundry and dry cleaning operations of Spotless. This involved a comprehensive environmental assessment being undertaken by an independent consultant which provided Downer with a contamination baseline for each of the sites assessed. This consisted of current operational sites in Australia and New Zealand as well as sites no longer in use.

Advancing the work completed in previous years, a Group-wide Contamination Management Procedure that sets out processes when acquiring or divesting a business or entering or exiting a lease was integrated into The Downer Standard. In addition, the Group-wide Contamination Risk Register was updated to reflect the work completed in Downer’s Laundries and Mining businesses.

The Group Contamination Risk Register and supporting information is provided to Downer’s Finance team to ensure that financial provisions are accounted for to cover any make good or site remediation obligations which also assist in the divestment process.

Heritage management

In FY20, there have been highly publicised events where sites of significant cultural heritage have been destroyed. This has led to an increased focus on heritage management.

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To Downer, heritage consists of all aspects that make up a country’s identity. This includes historic buildings and sites, spirit and ingenuity, and unique living landscapes. One of our top four Environmental Critical Risks is ‘unauthorised clearance of protected areas’, which relates to preventing unlawful heritage damage.

We have a robust Group-wide Heritage Management process in place, which requires all practicable measures to be taken to limit the impact of our operations on heritage sites. This includes the immediate notification and response procedures to limit potential impacts in the event of an unexpected discovery of heritage sites, Indigenous artefacts or remains.

When working in a high-risk area, a preliminary investigation must be undertaken. This includes collaborating with the land owner, the local Aboriginal/Iwi authority and the relevant regulatory authority, as well as searching publicly available information to determine if a heritage site can be impacted.

A comprehensive heritage study must also be conducted in conjunction with project design, and must take into consideration any potential for adverse impacts on surrounding heritage sites. In circumstances where our customer provides the heritage study, Downer validates the results prior to performing any work activities.

Before commencing any work, heritage requirements must be determined and included within the Environmental Management Plan (EMP). The EMP may require approval from the regulatory (Aboriginal/Iwi) authorities prior to the actual or potential disturbance of a heritage site. In accordance with the EMP, effective controls are implemented to prevent any unauthorised damage to heritage from occurring. These controls are inspected and monitored for their effectiveness throughout the duration of the works.

Waste management

The materiality assessment we conducted in FY19 reinforced that waste management is an important issue to Downer.

Managing our GHG emissions

As an integrated service provider, Downer operates within capital and carbon-intensive industries such as mining services, asphalt manufacturing and laundries. A key challenge for us is the effective management of our carbon related activities and implementing strategies to reduce our GHG emissions. We also have the opportunity to engage with our customers and supply chain to positively influence change that reduces their GHG emissions.

Case study

Leading the charge towards future energy solutions

Environment performance data

Climate change and Downer’s TCFD response

Climate change presents a challenge to enhancing liveability, sustaining the modern environment, Downer’s business operations, and the natural environment.

Our Environment response to COVID-19

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The past 12 months have brought great adversity for the Australian and New Zealand environments.

Throughout the summer, Australia was ravaged by devastating bushfires which were fuelled by historic drought and record temperatures. This was followed by intense storm events in Australia and New Zealand, which caused severe flooding in some parts of both countries. In February 2020, torrential rain and floods hit many parts of New South Wales and Queensland with more rain falling in a few weeks than in the entirety of 2019.

Then, in March 2020, Australia and New Zealand witnessed the first signs of the COVID-19 outbreak and government restrictions were soon introduced.

Some of Downer’s responses to these events are expected to result in long-term structural change. Downer’s air travel emissions (which represent close to seven per cent of Downer’s overall Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions profile) dropped 50 per cent year-on-year, including a 90 per cent drop during the period between April 2020 to June 2020, compared to the same period in 2019.

At Downer, our specific responses to COVID-19 included:

  • Flexible working and remote working arrangements, which have led to a significant reduction in employee travel emissions
  • Adapting to web conferencing technology to hold meetings, conferences and events that would have otherwise been attended in person. This has had a positive social impact, with people saving time commuting to their workplace, reducing the number of cars on the road, reducing the amount of GHG emissions and particulates, and allowing people to become more engaged and connected with their families and friends. This technology could displace the need for corporate travel in many instances, with the exception of flying to conduct work on-site.

Case study

Spotless uses machine learning to knock out noxious weeds

Our future focus

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In FY21, Downer will continue to focus on driving improvement in our environmental and sustainability performance and risk management while further embedding sustainability within our business. To achieve this, we will:

  • Continue to support the growth of Downer’s Urban Services strategy by providing services that promote a sustainable future and transition to a low-carbon economy, including renewable energy, facilities management, water treatment, telecommunications, sustainable transport, waste to energy and waste recovery
  • Work with our financial partners to assess opportunities for sustainability-linked finance to further demonstrate Downer’s commitment to sustainability and unlock capital that would allow Downer to meet its sustainability goals and objectives
  • Maintain and improve Downer’s strong environmental regulatory compliance through the implementation of Downer’s consolidated Integrated Management System, known as the Downer Standard, and support the business in achieving a single certification accreditation to ISO14001:2015, with continued focus on our Critical Risk program
  • Establish waste to landfill reduction and water reduction targets and identify initiatives to assist in achieving these targets
  • Continue to explore and deploy innovative technology solutions in order to continuously improve the way we deliver our products and services and meet our legal, commercial and customer obligations
  • Take a whole-of-life approach when considering initiatives and specifying materials. Apply lifecycle assessment to our road pavement products (i.e. the development of an Environmental Product Declaration for Downer’s recycled asphalt products)
  • Improve sustainability performance and achieve sustainability ratings, such as ISCA Infrastructure Sustainability ratings, for targeted infrastructure contracts to improve our sustainability performance and build internal knowledge and capacity that can be leveraged to other parts of Downer
  • Protect high value biodiversity found on the sites we own, occupy or operate. Work with our customers to enhance and restore existing biodiversity, otherwise offsetting any losses, wherever possible
  • Educate our staff, supply chain and the broader communities on key environmental sustainability issues and the role Downer has in addressing them.

Case study

46 million plastic bags used in sustainable asphalt in two years

Emerging issues and market trends