Our environment

Focusing on resource efficiency is a win-win: making our businesses more resilient and reducing the negative impact of our business on the environment.

We have a responsibility to current and future generations to do what we can to minimise our impact on the environment and tackle climate change. Our material environmental issues include:

  • reducing greenhouse gas emissions and energy use;
  • limiting waste by increasing recycling and reducing packaging; and
  • controlling our water use.

Greenhouse gas emissions and carbon pricing

Carbon emissions are reported as Scope 1, 2 and 3, depending on the level of control a company has over a particular emission source. 

Emissions are reported in tonnes of equivalent carbon dioxide (CO2e), which measures the global warming potential of the relevant greenhouse gas.

Overall, our Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions for this year were 5,066 thousand tonnes CO2e, which represents a 13 per cent decrease compared to the same categories last year. 

Wesfarmers reports its Scope 1 and 2 emissions under the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act 2007 (NGER Act). This year, our total reportable Scope 1 and 2 emissions under the NGER Act are 4,126 thousand tonnes CO2e, which represents a 12 per cent decrease from last year. This was largely driven by the realisation of further benefits from the nitrous oxide abatement technology in our Chemicals, Energy and Fertilisers division’s ammonium nitrate business.

Carbon emissions from WESF businesses


Some Scope 1 and 2 emissions are not reportable under the NGER Act, such as certain refrigerant gases, emissions from businesses that are owned but not controlled by Wesfarmers (such as our Port Kembla air separation unit) and international facilities. This year, our non-NGER Act emissions were 115 thousand tonnes CO2e. This was considerably lower than last year, largely due to our Australian Gold Reagents business now being reportable under the NGER Act and a 19 per cent reduction in the use of the relevant refrigerant gases primarily in the Coles business.

We also report our Scope 3 emissions, to better understand the indirect impact of our operations. This includes 485 thousand tonnes CO2e of indirect emissions from the transmission and distribution of the electricity and natural gas we use, 162 thousand tonnes CO2e from our waste disposal, 26 thousand tonnes CO2e from air travel and 131 thousand tonnes CO2e in indirect emissions from our Port Kembla facility. With other emissions of 21 thousand tonnes CO2e, this gives Scope 3 emissions of 825 thousand tonnes CO2e, compared with 868 thousand tonnes CO2e for the same categories of Scope 3 emissions last year.

For more divisional details about Scope 1,2 and 3 emissions, see the Databank.

The data above relates to businesses that are owned by Wesfarmers. We also hold interests in a number of joint ventures (details of these joint ventures are on the Other businesses page of this website). Wesfarmers’ equity share of the emissions from these joint ventures was 269 thousand tonnes CO2e this year. This was lower than last year, largely due to nitrous oxide abatement technology introduced at the ammonium nitrate facility operated by our QNP joint venture.

Measuring our greenhouse gas emissions against revenue provides a meaningful comparison of how efficiently we are using energy resources to create revenue. The figure below shows the downward trend in our emissions intensity over the last five years, reducing to a total emissions intensity this year of 85 tonnes of CO2e per million dollars revenue. 

emissions intensity

Our Chemicals, Energy and Fertilisers division and our Resources division both include liable entities under the Clean Energy Act, and have been compliant with their obligations under that legislation. Both entities have met their commitments for the first surrender of carbon units. These businesses have undertaken modelling in relation to likely future carbon pricing and have worked with Wesfarmers’ treasury department in relation to the future purchase of carbon units. 

In light of the recent change to the federal government, our businesses are staying abreast of developments to ensure that they will be ready to comply with any new legislation.

Coles backs word first horticulture system

Coles backs world-first horticulture system

Coles has supported the development of a state-of-the-art glasshouse which recycles fish waste to grow herbs in western Sydney.

Seven years after winning their episode on the ABC’s ‘The New Inventors’ program, Andrew Bodlovich and Hogan Gleeson’s landmark aquaculture concept – to simultaneously grow barramundi and organic herbs with zero effluent – has become a commercial reality.

On a seven hectare block at Cobbitty, New South Wales owned by the University of Sydney, Urban Ecological Systems Australia (UESA) has established a glasshouse where beds of herbs are linked by a complex system of pipes to water tanks containing barramundi.

As the barramundi grow, their waste is biologically transformed into safe plant nutrients and then used to feed parsley, basil and coriander. The only way that water leaves the system is through evaporation from the plants. 

The unique and patented system, which is the first of its size and scale in the world, is forecast to produce over ten times more organically-certifiable food than traditional field horticulture.

UESA will sell the herbs and barramundi through its marketing partner, Edison, to Coles each week. 

Reducing energy use

Energy efficiency initiatives offer an opportunity to reduce a significant business cost while generating positive benefits for the environment. This year, despite our growth, our total energy use for the Group was 29.8 petajoules, a slight decrease since last year. This shows a four per cent improvement in our energy efficiency, with petajoules used per million dollars revenue improving from 0.52 last year to 0.50 this year.

This year, Wesfarmers submitted its Energy Efficiency Opportunities Assessment Plan for the next five year cycle, as a registered entity under the Energy Efficiency Opportunities Act 2006. Last year’s annual public Energy Efficiency Opportunities report is available here and this year’s will be available from December 2013. 

More information on divisional energy use can be found in the Databank.

Recycling, waste and packaging

This year, we decreased our waste to landfill by 10 per cent to 143,515 tonnes. We also increased our recycling to 255,409 tonnes. 

These waste improvements were largely driven by the rolling out of an organics recycling program to approximately one third of Coles supermarkets. Coles also expanded the SecondBite program, which now operates in approximately 420 stores. Coles’ Community Food with SecondBite program redistributes surplus fresh food to community food programs around Australia. There was also an increase in cardboard recycling at Coles in line with store growth.

As CSBP had removed contaminated soil and concrete waste from demolition in the previous year in preparation for its ammonium nitrate expansion, this year saw a significant decrease in the waste to landfill from our Chemicals, Energy and Fertilisers division.

More information on divisional waste and recycling can be found in the Databank.

Wesfarmers is a signatory to the Australian Packaging Covenant (APC), which is a voluntary packaging waste reduction and recycling initiative between governments, the packaging industry, retailers and consumer brand owners. Wesfarmers’ five year action plan and annual report are available via the APC website. This covers packaging improvements from most of our divisions, including:

  • a Bunnings review of packaging for more than 60 suppliers;
  • improvements in fresh produce packaging at Coles;
  • the Officeworks BringITBack program 
  • (see below for more detail); and
  • a review of packaging at Kmart for 
  • garden products, audio visual accessories and linen.

Officeworks, Kmart and Target are all covered by the Product Stewardship (Televisions and Computers) Regulations, which require companies that manufacture or import television and computer equipment in Australia to fund the recovery and recycling of discarded equipment. Under their Product Stewardship Agreement with DHL Supply Chain, our businesses have funded the recovery and recycling of 54 tonnes of television and computer equipment this year. 

Blackwoods sets new benchmark

Blackwoods sets a new benchmark in sustainable building

In March 2013, the Industrial and Safety division’s Blackwoods business opened a new warehouse, office and showroom, in Karratha (WA), which was built based on the Green Building Council of Australia’s Green Star Rating tool. As the owner of the land, Blackwoods was able to build the facility to the highest environmental specifications, to reduce its environmental impact and reduce operating costs. Some features of the facility include:

Energy efficiency

In the warehouse, efficient high bay lighting is linked to light sensors to turn off the lights when there is enough daylight, and motion sensors to turn lighting on and off in areas that are used less frequently. The warehouse office also has efficient lighting and air conditioning with motion sensors in enclosed rooms. 

Solar power

The building has a 40 kilowatt solar system which provides 60 per cent of the electricity required when operating at capacity. The combination of the energy efficient fit-out and the solar panels means the building is expected to have 85 per cent lower emissions than a standard warehouse.

Air quality

The warehouse office has improved indoor air quality as the air conditioning system provides 150 per cent more outside air than a standard building and the carpets, paints and fittings were selected based on their low emission properties. 

Wastewater treatment 

The on-site wastewater treatment plant enables water to be reused in bathrooms and for irrigation in outdoor landscaped areas. 

Other features

In addition, the timber used in the building is from a sustainable source. Bicycle parking spaces are available and sub-meters for electricity and water usage enable detailed consumption monitoring. 

This facility sets a new benchmark for sustainable buildings in the Industrial and Safety property portfolio and elements of it will be used in future buildings where possible.

Officeworks provides end of life solutions

Officeworks provides end of life solutions for its products

Officeworks understands that its environmental responsibility for the products it sells extends beyond when a product leaves its stores.

In 2008, Officeworks Ballarat and Dandenong were the first retail destinations in Australia to trial the receival of computer equipment for recycling. Building on the trial’s success, it created the BringITBack program that was rolled out to more than 100 stores nationally in the 2013 financial year.

BringITBack is a free service exclusive to Officeworks that aims to keep old computers and computing accessories out of landfill. With the growth in electronics, this program will help find ways to recover valuable metals and materials previously sent to landfill. Up to 98 per cent of the equipment collected from this program will be recycled. During the year, 51 tonnes of waste, the equivalent to 5,100 computers, was collected across the participating Officeworks stores nationally. 

The program is similar to the Cartridges for Planet Ark, MobileMuster, and Batteryback programs that provide our communities with a place to recycle their e-waste for free. This year, Officeworks collected more than 850,000 printer cartridges, 4,500 mobile phones and the equivalent of 72,000 AA batteries for recycling. 

Bunnings pursues packaging best practice

Bunnings pursues packaging best practice

In January 2013, Bunnings commenced a three-month trial on four separate products to determine whether changes to secondary and tertiary packaging could provide environmental benefits as well as financial savings. 

The trial demonstrated that reducing product packaging also reduced associated transport and labour costs, equating to operational cost savings on these four products alone of more than $600,000 per annum, and a total saving of more than 276 tonnes CO2e per annum. As one example, a shift from individually wrapped plastic packaging to shrink wrapped cardboard cartons resulted in greater stacking efficiencies and handling properties. 

As a direct result of the trial, Bunnings is currently revising packaging guidelines to all suppliers to demonstrate how similar efficiencies can be achieved. Over time, it is Bunnings’ intent to mandate these guidelines.

Reducing water use

This year, the Group used 17,682 megalitres of water. 

The biggest change in our water use this year relates to how water use data is captured at our Resources division’s Curragh coal mine in Queensland. Located on 12,600 hectares, Curragh holds significant quantities of water in fifteen dams, including reclaimed water from the tailings dam, rainfall and groundwater removed from pits. This water is reclaimed for dust suppression, in the Coal Handling Preparation Plants (CHPP) and for other mining processes. Water that is used in the CHPPs is then returned to the tailings dam, and cycles through the process again.

With the commissioning of the new CHPP in 2012 Curragh has improved its on-site monitoring and measuring capabilities to capture the quantity of water that is reclaimed in this way. Additionally, Curragh can now measure the quantity of reclaimed water used for dust suppression purposes on-site from one of four water points. As a result Curragh has reported an additional 4,639 megalitres of reclaimed water was used on-site. For further detail on water recycling at our Curragh operation, see the case study on this page. 

Excluding the additional reclaimed water data reported by the Resources division, our water use remains in line with last year’s, despite our growth.

This year, Coles reduced its water consumption by 713 megalitres, or 18 per cent, through better identification of leaks and other water issues, after the introduction of smart meters into 174 supermarkets. This improvement was counteracted by the increases in water use due to the commissioning of the new CHPP at Curragh. Further information about divisional water use can be found in the Databank.

water use by source

Resources increasing recycled water use

Resources – increasing recycled water use

Above average rainfall throughout central Queensland over a number of wet seasons resulted in excess water being stored on-site in dams and pits. While our Curragh mine is allowed to release water into surrounding watercourses under certain conditions, the opportunities to do so are limited. As a result, Curragh investigated ways to reduce the need to purchase raw water (untreated water from local water sources) by increasing mine water re-use. With the commissioning of an additional Coal Handling Preparation Plant (CHPP) in the 2012 financial year, demand for raw water increased. 

We identified an opportunity to recycle up to 80 per cent of the water returned from the two CHPPs to the tailings dam for future use in the CHPPs. This will reduce the reliance on water sourced from the Mackenzie River and increase the remaining life of the tailings dam.

The $0.8 million project allowed for installation of a stand-alone pump, four kilometres of polyethylene pipeline and a solar electrical plant to be installed at the tailings dam to allow water to be pumped to the CHPP. The initial results, from April to the end of June 2013, indicate that the project has potential to reduce purchased water for this purpose by 15 to 20 per cent. The project also developed a water use tracking tool and metrics for measuring total site raw water use per tonne of coal produced. This is an exciting development as it will allow the site to determine water intensity values and set targets for raw water use.

Since the implementation of this project, we identified further possible improvements to increase recycled water volumes relating to the capacity of retention dams, drainage into these dams and the need to improve metering capabilities. Data collected over a 12 month period will be used to validate initial results and track cost savings.


There have been no environmental prosecutions in any of our divisions during the year but we have engaged with regulators on a number of material environmental matters.

A small number of inspections at our Coles Express sites have resulted in notices being issued, which require upgrades or clean up works to be undertaken on stormwater management systems. Our alliance partner, The Shell Company of Australia (Shell), is responsible for any works involving the underground petroleum storage system, which includes stormwater management. Shell and Coles Express have worked closely to resolve these matters to the satisfaction of all parties. 

During the year, a product imported by Bunnings had weight inserts which contained a plastic sleeve of untreated imported sand material. The Department of Agriculture and Food required the sand to be tested. No harmful material was identified but a product recall was undertaken as a precaution.

All the following environmental matters, which occurred in our Chemicals, Energy and Fertilisers division, were self-reported and none resulted in any material environmental harm.

In December 2012, CSBP Albany (WA) was issued with an environmental licence to operate. The licence included new surface water discharge criteria for nutrients, which CSBP initially found difficult to meet. CSBP exceeded the discharge limit for phosphorous on seven occasions, however two of these incidents occurred between the licence being issued and CSBP receiving it. On one of these occasions, the discharge limit for zinc was also exceeded. There was also a single incident where routine water samples were not taken and an incident investigation report did not include all the necessary information required by the licence. Improvements to equipment and processes on site have been implemented to address these issues. An internal review identified that the collection, handling and preservation of water samples collected at the Albany and Esperance depots vary from the mandated Australian standard. CSBP is undertaking a detailed review of sampling practices at site and seeking to revise the standards applicable to sampling. At Esperance groundwater monitoring identified that spillage of fertiliser was potentially washing into drains and finally into unlined soaks. Fertiliser handling practices are currently under review.

CSBP Kwinana (WA) exceeded the licence limit for manganese in wastewater discharged. The monthly average daily load limit for manganese in wastewater for April was 0.268kg/day compared to our licence limit of 0.240kg/day. The licence limit has since been increased to 1.0kg/day after CSBP demonstrated that there is no ecological risk associated with the revised limit.

Water sampling and testing was not carried out in accordance with the groundwater abstraction licence operating strategy for the Wellard Road site (WA). An amendment to the operating strategy is being progressed, which will resolve the situation.

A lined stormwater dam overflowed at CSBP Bunbury (WA) after heavy rainfall, with no discernible impact identified. 

During the year, groundwater extraction volumes at the Kleenheat Gas operation in Kwinana (WA) were in excess of the groundwater licence allocation. The groundwater is used for testing the on-site deluge system in accordance with the fire safety requirements for a Major Hazard Facility. An increase in the groundwater allocation has since been approved. 

Australian Vinyls was issued with a Pollution Abatement Notice (PAN) following the emission of approximately 169 litres of ethyl chloroformate vapour in Laverton (Vic) over an extended period of time, due to a faulty pressure relief valve. No people were affected and the actions specified in the PAN are being implemented to schedule.

Site remediation

Some of our businesses are actively managing contaminated sites. 

Wesfarmers is involved in the remediation of several contaminated sites that were owned or leased by former Wesfarmers businesses that have ceased operations from the sites. Wesfarmers continues to undertake ongoing monitoring and reporting obligations on the sites, and in most cases active remediation activities have been completed. 

The Chemicals, Energy and Fertilisers business CSBP continues to monitor groundwater and comply with the statutory audit process in relation to a former fertiliser site at Bayswater (WA).

National Pollutant Inventory

Two of our divisions, Chemicals, Energy and Fertilisers, and Resources, are required to report under the National Pollutant Inventory (NPI). Full details are available on the NPI website, with 2012/13 data expected to be available in April 2014. 

For three of our Chemicals, Energy and Fertilisers sites, NPI reports were submitted past the required date, as data showing the sites met the NPI reporting thresholds was not available until after this time.

Other voluntary environmental reporting

As in previous years, Wesfarmers participated in the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) Carbon Survey this year and its submission is available at www.cdproject.net. Wesfarmers also participated in the CDP Water Survey and the CDP Forests Survey (which was previously the Forest Footprint Disclosure Project). 

This year Wesfarmers is not reporting environmental expenditure as a separate item as it is increasingly incorporated into business-as-usual expenses.

CSBP meeting environ prod challenges

CSBP meeting environmental and production challenges

Following five years of research and development, CSBP achieved a win-win for both farmers’ productivity and the environment with the launch of its new low water soluble phosphate pasture fertiliser Super SR in March 2013.

In 2007, the Western Australian State Government announced it was restricting the use of phosphate fertilisers in the Peel Harvey catchment to support minimisation of algal growth. CSBP took up the challenge to develop a fertiliser that was as effective as its mainstay pasture fertiliser Super Phos, but with a low water soluble phosphate component that allowed the sustained release of phosphate, thus reducing the risk of phosphate leaching into sensitive waterways.

CSBP continued research and development and launched Super SR in 2013. 

Super SR has already been recognised by the industry, winning a 2012 Platypus Award from the Fertilizer Industry Federation of Australia and a 2012 Wesfarmers Innovation Gold Award.


Governance for creating value