Medicare Australia Case Study

Click here to download the Medicare 2008 Environmental Sustainability Report (2.3 MB PDF)

Organisational context and background

Medicare Australia plays a vital role in the delivery of health information and payments on behalf of the Australian Government.  In administering Medicare, PBS and other government programs, Medicare Australia processes around 500 million transactions each year, pays benefits of approximately $30 billion a year, and manages large volumes of personal information within strict privacy requirements.

Medicare Australia has around 6000 staff and operates a network of 238 Medicare branch offices. Medicare Australia also has offices in each capital city and a head office in Canberra.

In September 2006 Medicare Australia commenced implementation of a national environmental management framework, which is based on international standards using Environmental Management System (EMS) ISO 14001. This standard, as well as other standards in the ISO 14000 series have been integrated into normal business operations. The framework has been developed in the context of governing legislation and policies, business processes, organisational structure and stakeholders. The framework also supports Australia Government environmental and industry policies. 

Environmental Management Chief Executive Instruction and policy

A key feature in managing Medicare Australia’s environmental performance is the commitment and endorsement of executive management to the environmental policy.

In November 2006 Medicare Australia developed a Chief Executive Instruction (CEI) to commit the organisation to best practice environmental management. In conjunction with this commitment, Medicare Australia developed an environmental policy to manage:

  • significant environmental aspects and impacts
  • statutory and legal environmental obligations
  • promotion and support of Australian Government environmental and industry policies, and
  • environmental, objectives, benchmarks and targets.

The environmental policy is active in procurement processes for Medicare Australia where the organisation engages suppliers and/or products that meet environmental policy objectives.

Medicare Australia gives preference to suppliers and/or products:

  • meeting Environmental Management System (EMS) ISO 14001 certification
  • certified to independent assessment environmental labelling standards under ISO 14024, or
  • compliance with self declaration environmental labelling standards under ISO 14021.

The environmental policy is supported by a series of Medicare Australia environmental procurement guidelines, including:

  • office refurbishments and relocations
  • paper products and printing
  • office and ICT equipment
  • textiles and fabrics
  • cleaning and waste management, and
  • water fixtures and fitting.

During the procurement evaluation process, Medicare Australia will assess responses against environmental performance provisions with consideration given to cost constraints and functional effectiveness.

Environmental governance and corporate scorecard

The Medicare Australia corporate scorecard is used at an executive level to manage corporate objectives and strategies. The corporate scorecard is monitored by Medicare Australia’s primary governance committee.

The environmental benchmarks, which fall under the ‘Environmental and Social perspective’ of the Medicare Australia corporate scorecard, have increased from one in 2003-04 to 15 in 2006-07. These include monitoring energy targets, water targets, recycled and hazardous waste targets, as well as paper and materials consumption targets. These targets are underpinned by the Environmental Management Strategy – a three year plan.

Environmental objectives and targets have not remained constant due to the evolution of new government environmental policies and targets. For instance the 2006 Energy Efficiency in Government Operations (EEGO) policy targets for 2011-12 reduced from 10 000 MJ per person for office light and power to 7 500 MJ per person. This highlights the importance of continual monitoring, measurement and improvement processes within the EMS strategy.

Environmental risk management

Further to Medicare Australia’s October 2006 preliminary Environmental Review, an environmental risk assessment has been used as a structured management approach to determine and assess organisational environmental aspects and risks. The risk assessment process has been used to treat significant environmental risks and enhance environmental policy development.

According to EMS ISO 14001 A3.1, an organisation might have many environmental aspects and associated impacts and should establish criteria to determine their significance. The ISO standard also states that there is single method for determining significant environmental aspects but the method used should provide consistent results. The method should include evaluation criteria for environmental matters, legal issues and the concerns of internal and external interested parties. As such, the following criteria have been used to identify and assess environmental risks:

  • compliance to legislation and government policies
  • management of environmental aspects that contribute towards significant environmental impacts
  • delivery of significant environmental outcomes, and
  • improvement to corporate image and reputation.

The above criteria can be mutually exclusive of other criteria and the approach is consistent with the Risk Management Standard AS/NZS 4360:2004 and HB:203 Environmental Risk Management handbook. The environmental aspects of are reviewed each year in accordance with Medicare Australia’s Environmental Management Strategy.

Environmental site assessments and audits

Since May 2007, Medicare Australia has implemented a process of environmental assessments at National, State and Branch offices to gain standardised infrastructure, technology, practices and procedures. These assessments include:

  • identification and measurement of environmental aspects
  • how environmental policy standards as followed
  • effectiveness of introduced initiatives, and
  • effectiveness of ongoing environmental performance.

The environmental audit and assessment process is based on ISO 14015 Environmental Assessment of Sites and Organisations standard, ISO 19011 Guidelines for Quality and/or EMS Auditing standard, and contemporary environmental management practice. The processes and procedures followed are documented in Medicare Australia’s Environmental Audit and Assessment Guidelines (2007).

While the Environmental Management Unit (EMU) is responsible for undertaking the environmental assessments, at larger sites independent energy audits are commissioned to determine baseline energy measurements and areas for improvement. The findings are included in an environmental assessment report and given to the site manager for planning and budget consideration.

Environmental impact assessments

An environmental impact assessment (EIA) process has been introduced into Medicare Australia business case templates. A management process has been established where managers are required to consult with EMU to identify if project aspects incur significant environmental impacts. If the project does, the EMU area will discuss a range of options with the manager to reduce or mitigate these impacts., with an intention of maintaining desired functionality.

The primary aim of the EIA process is to manage or prevent unintended environmental consequences from the introduction of new projects. The EIA preserves Medicare Australia’s environmental performance benchmarks and has the added benefit of achieving better business and resource management outcomes.

Environmental awareness and communication

A key feature of an EMS is raising environmental awareness among staff, contractors, suppliers and other stakeholders.

Medicare Australia has adopted a number of strategies to raise environmental awareness. These include:

  • establishment of a state environmental coordinators network
  • introduction of a dedicated environmental management site on the corporate intranet
  • implementation of Green Office Awareness Lessons (GOALs), which includes e-Learning modules and a DVD/media file, to assist with staff induction processes and other specified training needs. The GOALs shared first prize in the 2008 Asia Pacific LearnX Green Training Awards with SAI Global and AMP
  • environmental tips and information in the weekly corporate newsletter, including feedback on environmental performance
  • distribution to of our environmental policy and environmental procurement guidelines to key suppliers
  • environmental policy publicly available on the internet    
  • Medicare Australia’s Values includes ‘maintain a strong connection with our community and care for the environment. The values are underpinned by staff procedures to attain performance and desired outcomes
  • EMU internal logo to identify environmental management initiatives and signage.

Environmental Communication Network

In order to standardise environmental performance over 260 property sites, a network of environmental committees have been established to support EMU. The EcoNet consists of two representatives from each state, while the State Environmental Committees consist of representatives within each state.

EMU’s role is to provide information on environmental planning and reporting, environmental policy and education development and environmental audits and assessments.

The EcoNet and State Environmental Committees have a local or regional role of communicating the environmental policy, promoting green office awareness lessons and overseeing the implementation of environmental recommendations from audits and assessments.

Environmental management intranet site

The Medicare Australia intranet contains a dedicated site for environmental management information. The site includes contemporary environmental management information, policies, staff education, assessment reports, strategies and suggestions for environmental improvements and opportunities.

One of the operational challenges for EMU is providing scientific evidence-based information to staff on contemporary environmental management issues. Consequently, within the Medicare Australia intranet site there are web links to scientific research papers and reports relevant to Medicare Australia’s environmental aspects.

Green office awareness lessons

Medicare Australia has raised staff environmental awareness centred on a green office environment.

An in-house e-Learning program and DVD/media files has been developed for staff. These resources are included in the human resource capability framework and induction training programs.

The e-Learning modules are available on the intranet and present fully interactive sessions about green office environmental aspects, such as stationary energy, transport energy, paper waste, water consumption and recycling.

The DVD/media files have been modelled on the e-Learning structure.

Corporate environmental survey

In October 2007, staff were surveyed about the level of green office awareness, individual environmental commitment and awareness of corporate environmental management initiatives. The results showed the organisation is effective in communicating key messages to staff, with 85 per cent of respondents aware of the organisations environmental program, with 92 per cent of respondents aware of at least one environmental management initiative.

More recently, the 2008 Medicare Australia annual staff satisfaction survey introduced an environmental question into the survey – to gauge the level of environmental commitment to the corporate value of ‘maintain a strong connection with the community and care for the environment’. 80 per cent of respondents had a high satisfaction of their team complying with the environmental policy.

Environmental performance

Since introducing the corporate EMS, Medicare Australia has improved environmental performance beyond government benchmarks, and in doing so, have achieved associated cost savings. Since 2005-06, our achievements include:

  • won the 2008 LearnX Asia Pacific ‘Green Training Award’ –  shared with AMP and SAI Global
  • reduced energy use by 11.5 per cent
  • reduced greenhouse emissions by 10 per cent and a 2007 finalist in the Greenhouse Challenge Plus for government services
  • standardised water infrastructure to highly efficient fittings
  • reduced landfill waste from 25 per cent down to 6 per cent of total office waste
  • introduced hazardous waste recycling streams and improved waste management infrastructure
  • shifted to 50 percent recycled copy paper
  • enhanced numerous contracts to include environmental standards and provisions, such as printing contracts
  • increased green office products from 5 to 45 per cent, and
  • implemented video conferencing as a means to reduce staff air travel.  

Medicare Australia is proud of its achievements towards sustainable operations and is fully committed to raising the bar and striving for continual improvement in environmental management practices.
Mick Dawes
Environmental Manager
Medicare Australia
18 March 2009