The challenge of turning your business green is knowing where to start. How do you define the best areas for action which will bring real benefits to your business and the environment?

The following simple, important steps will help you start your business on the sustainability journey.

Step 1: Commit to change

The most important step in taking an active approach to sustainability is to make a commitment to change. For larger organisations, this means obtaining senior management commitment and engagement. Management's support is necessary as they tend to have an overall view and active participation in daily business operations and strategy development.

In smaller tourism businesses, it's the business operator or owner making the commitment to change daily business practices to realise the benefits of greening the business.

Step 2: Understand what matters

In order for a business to progress and realise savings, it's necessary to understand your current resource usage.

Start by gathering the most recent year's worth of utility bills (electricity, gas, water, waste, fuel etc) to become familiar with your resource consumption and related costs, and identify your biggest resource concerns. Organise this information into a meaningful format.

Too often bills are paid without checking for errors or major changes – you can only manage what you can measure.

Alternatively, there are software programs available that assist in tracking resource consumption, including carbon emissions such as Carbon Neutral's carbon calculator.

Benchmarking your resource consumption against industry average guidelines/standard will help determine potential savings opportunities.

Using the average consumption rate from a recent year (12-24 months) is an appropriate baseline.

Regular monitoring of usage and cost against the baseline will identify the efficacy of your sustainability efforts and also alert you to any discrepancies that need to be resolved, such as leaks or equipment that needs to be repaired.

National Australia Built Environment Rating System

The National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) for hotels allows you to accurately compare the performance of your hotel to other similar facilities and can assist you to manage the impact of your hotel on the environment.


  • is the industry standard for measuring and benchmarking the environmental performance of existing Australian buildings, incorporating the trusted Australian Building Greenhouse Rating for offices.
  • is a national initiative of federal, state and territory governments, and is managed by the New South Wales Department of Environment and Climate Change.
  • ratings are based on actual data related to the performance of your premises over the last 12 months. For a certified rating that you can promote, you'll need to engage a NABERS Accredited Assessor to calculate your rating, enabling you to use the NABERS trademark.

You can self-assess the environmental performance of your office premises at no cost using the NABERS Rating calculator, but you can't promote this rating.

Step 4: Assess

Now that you have an understanding of basic concepts and possible resource efficiency measures, you're ready to conduct a simple environmental assessment.

  • A simple environment assessment of your business should be conducted to determine the impacts of your energy and water use, transportation, materials and waste and detect areas where money is being wasted. For instance, environmental assessments recently conducted by VCCI of 59 tourism businesses identified potential annual savings of $2850 per business and realised with an average payback period of 1.95 years.
  • A good starting point is a walk-through assessment and this can generally be done in-house if you have a relatively small operation. A basic self-assessment of current resource usage can be conducted over one or two days to analyse the types and volumes of resources used in your business, allowing you to identify obvious opportunities and help decide whether you need specialist support.
  • If you don't want to conduct this assessment yourself, you can engage a professional to conduct assessments or more detailed environmental audits on a fee-for-service basis providing a detailed analysis of your resource usage, as well as data enabling you to set targets, measure ongoing progress, and communicate benefits to guests and staff. This type of audit requires an engineer or auditing professional who will provide a detailed assessment of your business resource use.
  • An environmental audit is similar to a financial audit, and many water and energy utilities also provide this service.
  • An environmental assessment will result in a list of opportunities with associated costs and savings, from which you can determine your priorities.
  • Some measures, such as resetting heating controls, will cost you nothing at all, while others will require investment.
  • Once you have a list of possible opportunities, you will know where you need more information and advice.

Step 5: Focus on easy wins

  • Starting on the sustainability journey can seem overwhelming at first, but by starting small and focusing some early actions that require relatively little effort and are inexpensive, you'll see results that will energise your staff and provide the foundation for future activities.
  • These 'no brainers' can start saving your business money fairly quickly, giving you the incentive to keep going.
  • Do things by increments so that you know what works and what doesn't without compromising your business' bottom line.

Step 6: Set goals and make a statement

Setting environmental goals, objectives and targets (and why you have them) – while making a clear statement about them – are invaluable first steps on the road to a green tourism business.

The development of a formal environmental policy means you can:

  • put your targets in writing
  • focus on achieving these targets
  • inform clients that your business has made an environmental commitment and is attempting to reduce the environmental impact of its activities
  • provides the focus for the development and implementation of an action plan

Developing, implementing and tracking an action plan will help ensure that your business meets its environmental goals on time with the desired results. An action plan can be simple or as complex, but it needs to be workable and based in reality.

Be sure to capture the actions you've already begun to take. The following steps will help you create your business's environmental action plan.

Identify your goals

In order to achieve results, goals should be set on an annual basis. Using the audit/assessment as a baseline, the goals should be attainable and measurable.

For example, a goal such as "reduce energy consumption where possible" is a great idea, but too vague to be practical. A clearer and more suitable action plan would be to "replace all incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents wherever possible" or to "create a policy that all housekeeping staff keep all window drapes closed and lights turned off when a room is not in use".

This can then be translated into meaningful and measurable goals, such as percentage reduction in a year, and also how much money that reduction has saved.

These goals should fit within the mission and overall business strategy of your business and be linked to your environmental policy.

In order to get you on track with the action plan:

  • Choose goals in the first year that are easily attainable, such as setting all printers to double-sided printing.
  • Keep track of all the cost savings measures will be easier to justify bigger expenses in energy conservation.
  • Pick projects that will inspire participation and action from your employees.
  • Select some goals that are easy to implement and provide immediate results - achieving early success in your program will increase enthusiasm for more difficult, long-term initiatives.
  • When picking the number of goals you would like to set, make sure you have sufficient resources to address each area - small businesses just getting started on green programs typically select no more than five goals in the first year.

Create metrics to assess progress

  • For each goal you select, determine the best way to measure progress toward meeting that goal. Keep it simple, using data that is already available, if possible, especially in the early stages of going green.

Set improvement targets

  • For each goal you've selected and using the data from your environmental self-assessment/audit, determine your current performance level (baseline measure) and set an improvement target for the measurement period.
  • Be sure to set realistic targets that are challenging, yet achievable. Meeting or exceeding targets in the first year will help employees feel encouraged about their progress and provide momentum for more challenging goals and targets in future years.

Assign responsibility

  • Where possible, designate an accountable individual for each goal who will have primary responsibility for achieving the improvement target.

Step 7: Involve your staff and clients

Without the involvement of your staff and clients, an environmental program will rarely succeed.

  • It's imperative to engage and consult with staff before starting and during the development and implementation phase of an environmental program. Employees also have a better understanding of the areas where savings can occur and of small improvements that have the potential to make a big difference.
  • With advice from your employees, you'll get a better understanding of both the environmental issues within your property and of your employee's concerns, interest and passions.
  • Involving clients in your environmental activities will provide them with a sense of achievement by "doing their bit" to help the environment.

Exhibit your commitment to the environment

  • Display your environmental policy where your visitors are most likely to see it – this communicates your objectives and enables your customers to get involved as well. You can also incorporate your policy into your wider marketing messages.
  • Display polite notices to remind clients to support your environmental initiatives.

Step 8: Monitor, measure and communicate your progress/successes

In business, it's impossible to manage something that isn't measured. Keeping track of your progress will provide tangible proof that your green efforts are working.


  • how much energy you're saving
  • how much water you're conserving
  • how much waste you're keeping out of the landfill.

These measures can be used to:

  • quantify the overall effectiveness of your environmental initiatives against the established targets and how much money you've saved in the process
  • identify areas for improvement
  • communicate these successes to your staff and clients

Handy tools

Sample environmental policy (DOCX 19.82 KB)DOCX icon