Downer’s commitment to decarbonisation has been strengthened by the registration of our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction target with the Science-Based Target Initiative (SBTi), and the inclusion of GHG emissions reduction KPIs in our Sustainability Linked Loan facility. Downer has also linked emissions reduction KPIs to its Short-Term Incentive executive remuneration scheme.
Downer recognises that we play a key role in minimising emissions that occur throughout our value chain. Therefore, we have expanded our commitment to decarbonisation to incorporate Scope 3 emissions.
For more information please refer to Downer’s Climate Change Report.
Downer owns, occupies and operates facilities where historical activities have caused land and groundwater contamination. These include emulsion manufacturing, asphalt manufacturing, rail maintenance and Defence estates and base facilities.
Contamination liability remains a key consideration for Downer, in particular, Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination. There is growing industry concern about the impact of PFAS chemicals on human health and the potential damage they present to the environment. Downer has a comprehensive insurance regime, which provides extensive cover for significant events. Downer holds two insurance policies that indemnify the company in response to events that cause contamination, including PFAS in most cases, which include:
A Group-wide Contamination Management Procedure has been integrated into The Downer Standard and sets out processes when acquiring or divesting a business or entering or exiting a lease. In addition, the Group-wide Contamination Risk Register has been updated to reflect the recent divestments of 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.
Downer’s exit from the Mining Services and Laundries businesses across FY21 and FY22 considerably lowered Downer’s land contamination risk profile and associated financial liability.
Downer advocates for the circular economy in a number of ways, including reducing the amount of waste we generate through resource recovery, avoidance, reuse and recycling.
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.
Downer’s preferred waste management contractors are Cleanaway in Australia and EnviroWaste in New Zealand. In Australia, Downer and Cleanaway have agreed to ambitious key performance indicators to drive improved waste management practices and innovation that will ultimately reduce the amount of waste going to landfill. The KPIs consist of:
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.
While Downer provides end-to-end water management solutions to its customers, we are also acutely aware of the need to manage our own water usage and the associated impacts this has on the environment and surrounding communities. Downer collates water data on a consolidated level allowing us to understand, at a high level, where our largest impacts lie and to develop an estimate for disclosure in investor questionnaires, such as the Carbon Disclosure Project Water disclosure, in which Downer was rated a B- in FY22.
Most water usage and discharges across the organisation relate to those with public utilities providers, including operation of wastewater treatment plants, which treat various forms of wastewater to provide recycled water for non-potable uses, such as for irrigation and agricultural activities.
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 detailed 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 landowner, the local Aboriginal or Iwi (Māori tribe) authority, the affected community 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 any potential for adverse impacts on surrounding heritage sites must be taken into consideration. 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 are 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 subject to regular inspection and monitoring for their effectiveness throughout the duration of the works.
Biodiversity is a global issue and an important issue for Downer, our customers and the broader community. It is an issue that our customers trust us to manage on their behalf with the utmost diligence. Biodiversity is the responsibility of the Executive Management and reported to the Board Zero Harm committee where necessary.
Downer’s approach to biodiversity, conservation and land use management is to carry out our activities in a compliant and responsible manner that protects biodiversity and ecosystems. Prior to disturbance activities, ecological assessments are undertaken to identify key species and habitats. Downer commits to, and requires its supply chain to, avoid operational activities near sites containing biodiversity of global or national significance.
Downer takes biodiversity into consideration when planning projects that could potentially impact areas with high biodiversity value. The organisation follows the Environment Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) in Australia and the Resource Management Act 1991 in New Zealand, which aligns with the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List. The IUCN Red List is the world’s most comprehensive information source on the global extinction risk status of animal, fungus and plant species.
In these circumstances, Downer or our customers seeks approval from the relevant regulatory authority and commits to the implementation of the mitigation hierarchy to avoid, minimise, restore and offset potential or actual impacts from these activities.
Regardless of who receives the approvals, Downer’s management response and controls are the same and apply to our suppliers and subcontractors. Downer has well established biodiversity management and biosecurity procedures and standards, which address the risks related to biodiversity. At a site level, a threatened species management plan and a conservation plan are created for each site when an approval is triggered. These plans include preventative and mitigatory controls to protect biodiversity in affected areas.
In Australia, the goal of the EPBC Act is to provide a ‘net benefit’ – and therefore in some cases, offsets are required where our operations are unable to achieve the desired net benefit to local species.
We also contribute positively to biodiversity through the services that we deliver. Our land management services within the Defence business is one example. The services we deliver ensure that protections are in place if Defence operations overlap with protected areas of national significance or areas of high biodiversity value.
We’re also conscious of the biosecurity risks (pests and pathogens) that can be transported to our worksites – and the impact that could have on local ecosystems. This is controlled by our environmental management system through our monitoring and inspection regime.
Across Downer’s operational sites, there are 34 species of National Significance consisting of eight flora species and 26 fauna species, and four ecological communities under our management. In FY22, there have been no breaches of our national significant biodiversity management system within Australia or New Zealand.
For further information, please refer to Downer’s Biodiversity of National Significance Register.
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 (ISC), 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. ISC’s Infrastructure Sustainability 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).