Environmental sustainability is increasingly critical for commercial success and every aspect of a food business can benefit. It can be a marketing advantage and it can also help you improve efficiency.
It is hardly surprising the Australian food industry, which is so dependent on the natural resource base, has had to keep abreast of advances in our understanding of the Australian environment and natural resource capability. Environmental and natural resource management are two areas of business risk that have become increasingly important since the early 1970s.
Environmental management is the management of people’s activities that effect the environment and is focussed towards reducing any negative impacts of that activity such as pollution or degradation. Industry practices in all sectors have been changing over the past few years to reduce impact on our soils, water resources, air quality, and to protect our biodiversity in terms of the richness of our native flora and fauna.
An environmental management system or EMS is a management tool any business can use to control the impacts its activities have on the environment. It is a structured framework used to provide guidance on good management practice. In recent years such systems have become increasingly sophisticated business tools and their application in sectors such as mining and manufacturing have resulted in real benefits for the environment.
Two international standards are regularly cited in environmental management: ISO 14001, which outlines environmental management systems and their use and ISO 14004, which provides guidelines, systems and support techniques for environmental management.
Your Guide to Sustainable Business in Food
Food SA and Zero Waste SA have developed ‘Your Guide to Sustainable Business in Food’ to help new food processing and manufacturing businesses consider their environmental sustainability. The guide provides practical tips on recycling and waste disposal, energy consumption and packaging.
The Guide includes sample checklists help people working in all aspects of the food business assess their energy and water use to reduce wastage and costs and to consider alternative uses for organic waste as well as demonstrating how to audit your business’ green credentials in packaging and labelling and advice on supplier relationships, training your staff, what equipment you buy and how to harness energy resources such as water and carbon.
EMS support in Australia
Managing your impact as well as your environmental responsibilities can ensure your business is environmentally friendly and reaping the added benefits. Your business can benefit from implementing an environmental management system in a number of ways, such as through rationalising resource use, making licences and permits easier to obtain and helping meet your own environmental and quality targets.
There are two nationally funded programs for the EMS framework in Australia, covering both agriculture and eco-efficiency projects. Other state-based programs and grants are also available through Zero Waste SA, Business SA and the Environment Protection Authority (EPA).
The EPA delivers a program designed to support businesses wanting to work with their partners and suppliers on “greening their supply process”.
‘Greening the supply process’ is a way of reducing the effects of business activities on the environment and bringing benefits to both customers and suppliers. ‘Greening’ is in the form of improving efficiency of the use of materials, energy, water and recyclables and decreasing pollution, waste disposal and effects on the environment. The outcome is a more environmentally conscious supply process rather than a greener end product.
The term ‘trade waste’ refers to any wastewater or materials in wastewater that occur as a result of a trade or manufacturing activity that is discharged through your property’s internal sewer to the sewerage system. SA Water provides guidelines for the management of these wastewater types and substances as these are not covered by the standard SA Water service for domestic sites.
There are different treatment and disposal requirements depending on the type of wastewater and specific authorisations are required for their disposal. These authorisations are required by law and can be obtained by contacting the Trade Waste Branch at SA Water by phoning (08) 7424 1336.
For more information SA Water has produced a series of Guidelines and Fact Sheets including:
- Bunding and Blind Tanks
- Commercial Food Preparation and Service
- Cooling Water Discharge
- Dissolved Air Flotation (DAF)
The introduction of carbon pricing by the previous federal Government focused even more attention on the costs of doing business and alternative energy sources. It also added price pressures to the business environment and needs to be factored into your business planning for long term sustainability. The Coalition Government elected in September 2013 plans to repeal this previous policy and introduce new legislation.