Our approach

Environmental management is an important component of Downer’s Zero Harm philosophy. Downer is committed to managing the environment in a responsible manner and to mitigating the impact of our activities on the natural and built environment. We are committed to meeting and exceeding our environmental compliance obligations.

Downer is also conscious of our social licence to operate – and we respond to this by improving the sustainability of our operations, aiming to achieve Zero Harm to our people, minimise harm to the environment, avoiding legal liability and always striving to positively impact Downer’s reputation, business value and ultimately shareholder wealth.

Downer’s Urban Services focus delivers many environmental and social benefits, including a move to lower capital intensive and lower carbon activities, which supports Downer’s climate change resilience and decarbonisation pathway, as detailed in the Our Performance section.

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

Downer’s environmental management system (accredited to AS/NZ ISO 14001:2015) is integrated into our Group-wide management system, The Downer Standard, which ensures a consistent approach to identifying and controlling environmental hazards and risks, and monitoring our environmental performance across the entire organisation. In addition, the environment management system is audited, both internally and externally by independent third parties.

The effective management of our environmental aspects and impacts is fundamental to Downer's approach to the delivery of our services. We place significant emphasis on ensuring effective controls are implemented through our Critical Risk program and continuous improvement through lessons learned to sustain the natural environment for future generations.

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Our performance

Downer committed to achieving the following environmental targets and objectives in FY21.

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 2007. Further information on joint ventures is detailed in Downer’s 2021 Annual Report.

Zero environmental prosecutions
Zero serious environmental incidents (Level 5 and 6)
Fewer than three Environmental Penalty Infringement Notices
Achieve Science-Based Aligned Absolute Target performance
(528,509 tCO2-e)
Achieve Science-Based Aligned Intensity Target performance –
(42.75 tCO2-e/$AUDm)
Business Units to produce a decarbonisation plan aligned with Downer’s Science-Based Target/SDG Improvement Plan

To achieve the targets and objectives in the table above, in Downer’s FY20 Sustainability Report we outlined the following key focus areas for FY21:

Focus from 2020
Achievements in 2021
Deliver Downer’s Urban Services strategy by providing services that promote a sustainable future and transition to a low-carbon economy.
Divestment of capital and carbon intensive Laundries and Mining businesses, with the exception of Open Cut East. We are continuing to explore opportunities to divest Open Cut East. In the event Downer is unable to complete the sale, we will fulfill our contractual commitments. Once the terms of these contracts are complete, Downer will have no further participation in Mining services.
Work with our financial partners to assess opportunities for sustainability-linked finance.
Successfully completed a new $1.4 billion Sustainability Linked Loan (SLL) facility.
Implement Downer’s consolidated Integrated Management System, and achieve a single certification accreditation to ISO 14001:2015.
Achieved third-party certification to the International Standards, and ISO 14001 (Environment), ISO 9001 (Quality), and ISO 45001 (Safety). This gives us a single system of work for safety, environment, and quality.
Take a whole-of-life approach when considering initiatives and specifying materials
Downer worked with its customers in New South Wales and South Australia to develop localised lifecycle assessments of its asphalt product, Reconophalt. This will enable an Environmental Product Declaration to be obtained for Reconophalt in New South Wales, like the one obtained in South Australia last year.
Improve sustainability performance and achieve sustainability ratings, such as ISCA Infrastructure Sustainability ratings.
Downer commenced several IS-rated projects in FY21.
Protect high value biodiversity found on the sites we own, occupy or operate.
Downer has disclosed its impacts on biodiversity in this year’s report.
Educate our staff, supply chain and the broader communities on key environmental sustainability issues and the role Downer has in addressing them.
The implementation and review of environmental Critical Controls was a key component of this year’s Group-wide ‘Our Safety Focus’ program. Other education sessions included: ISCA knowledge shares; Peer-to-peer sessions; Lunch n’ Learns; Zero Harm Bulletins; and GEMS environmental awareness training course.
Establish waste to landfill reduction and water reduction targets and identify initiatives to assist in achieving these targets
Deferred until FY22.

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.

Environmental compliance

Downer maintained its Group-wide target of zero Level 51 or Level 62 environmental incidents and zero Significant Environmental Incidents3. Regrettably, Downer received one prosecution during FY21.

Case study

City Rail Link – leading the way in waste diversion

Sustainability rating tools

In partnership with our Government customers, Downer continues to deliver sustainability ratings for projects and contracts, which presents us with both challenges and opportunities.


The application of sustainability rating tools, such as Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia (ISCA), for nominated infrastructure projects allows us to integrate sustainability thinking into the asset’s whole-of-life, through the planning, design, delivery and operational phases. ISCA’s IS rating tool allows Downer to benchmark and drive sustainability performance within infrastructure projects and assets, delivering more sustainable outcomes for our customers and end users (including motorists and rail commuters). This year, Downer commenced several IS-rated projects, including Warrnambool Line Upgrade in Victoria, Transport Access Program Tranche 3 in New South Wales, and South Australia road maintenance services.

Downer’s Infrastructure Projects team in New Zealand has developed a Sustainability Standard for use on smaller projects, where delivering an ISCA rating is not feasible. The Standard provides a structured approach to identify, target and track key sustainability outcomes, tailored to customer objectives and stakeholder requirements.

The Standard is being piloted on two projects – the Tamaki Drive Cycleway in Auckland and the SH58 Safety Improvements project in Wellington. The process has included running collaborative workshops between the customer and project teams to assess the key material sustainability issues for the project, and then developing initiatives that respond to these. Through implementing the Standard, Downer has delivered a GHG emissions saving of 290.15 tonnes of carbon equivalent compared to the baseline. This has been achieved through actively reducing transport requirements, working with the customer to agree alternative specifications, reusing materials and developing less carbon intensive construction methodologies.

On top of this, a number of additional outcomes have been achieved including enhancing local ecology through additional planting, reduced water consumption, Iwi-led cultural inductions and social initiatives that support the local communities.

Waste management

The materiality assessment Downer conducted in 2021 reinforced that waste management is an important issue to Downer.

Resource management

Downer is committed to reducing the environmental footprint of the products we provide to our customers. Emissions is one component of this. Natural resource usage is another and Downer is committed to the principles of the circular economy, including understanding products’ lifecycles to ensure that their burden on the natural environment is kept to the lowest possible level.

Water management

Like waste management, water management ranked as an important issue to Downer in the materiality assessment we conducted in 2021.

Case study

Turning human waste into energy

Managing our GHG emissions

As an integrated service provider, Downer operates within capital and carbon-intensive industries such as mining services and asphalt manufacturing. A key challenge for us is the effective management of our carbon-related activities and the implementation of strategies to reduce our GHG emissions.

Climate risk and Downer’s decarbonisation pathway

Downer acknowledges that climate change mitigation is a shared responsibility. To support the transition to a low-carbon economy in an equitable manner, Downer recognises the need to develop emissions reduction targets that align with the 2015 Paris Agreement goals to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C by the end of this century.

Climate change and Downer’s TCFD response

Downer acknowledges that climate change mitigation is a shared responsibility. To support the transition to a low-carbon economy in an equitable manner, Downer recognises the need to develop emissions reduction targets that align with the 2015 Paris Agreement goals to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C by the end of this century.

Case study

Leading the way in Hydrogen innovation

Environment performance data

Our future focus


Downer will continue to focus on driving improvements in our environmental and sustainability performance and risk management while further embedding sustainability within our business.

To achieve this goal, and the Environment targets, in FY22 Downer will:

  • Continue to focus on our 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, biosolids gasification and resource recovery
  • Achieve our Science-Based Aligned Targets of 511 ktCO2-e, and 41.48 tCO2-e/AUD$m revenue
  • Aim to validate our Science-Based Aligned Targets with the Science-Based Target Initiative. As part of this, Downer will add a commitment in relation to its Scope 3 emissions portfolio, subject to validation and confirmation from the SBTi
  • Refresh our climate-related financial risks and opportunities, in line with changes in the company since our 2018 assessment. This will present an updated picture of risks and opportunities that stem from Downer’s Urban Services strategy
  • Undertake a climate-related financial impact assessment of Downer’s fleet (light and heavy), fixed assets, asphalt plants and physical climate impacts
  • Increase our ESG ratings scores, namely CDP – B+ and S&P CSA (DJSI) – Gold Class
  • Increase percentage of recycled content in asphalt (from 15.7 per cent to 17 per cent)
  • Roll out initiatives that will help increase the percentage of electricity derived from renewable sources to 10 per cent by FY25 for sites within Downer’s operational control
  • Continue to pilot EVs and commit to at least three more pilot trials of EVs
  • Establish waste-to-landfill reduction and water reduction targets and identify initiatives to assist in achieving these targets
  • Continue to 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)
  • Increase our supplier engagement around decarbonisation by FY23, through an increased response rate to our CDP supply chain survey, which forms an important part of our Scope 3 emissions portfolio.

Downer’s project/contract National Significance Biodiversity Register


Emerging issues and market trends