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Australia’s First Carbon Neutral Charity

18 February 2016 at 10:19 am
Xavier Smerdon
A South Australian Not for Profit has become the first charity in Australia to be certified as carbon neutral by the Federal Government. Uniting Communities, which provides a range of community services including aged…

Xavier Smerdon | 18 February 2016 at 10:19 am


Australia’s First Carbon Neutral Charity
18 February 2016 at 10:19 am

A South Australian Not for Profit has become the first charity in Australia to be certified as carbon neutral by the Federal Government.

Uniting Communities, which provides a range of community services including aged care, alcohol and drug support and mental health counselling, received the certification following a five year commitment to significantly reduce its carbon footprint.

Federal Minister for Education and Training, Simon Birmingham, officially recognised Uniting Communities under the government’s Carbon Neutral Program this week, along with South Australian Minister for Climate Change, Ian Hunter.

The charity is also the first South Australian organisation of any kind to be officially certified as carbon neutral.

CEO of Uniting Communities, Simon Schrapel, said the charity committed to its carbon neutral program in 2010.

“Becoming carbon neutral makes sense for our organisation; we have a strong moral compass and research tells us that climate change will most affect people in our client base – the elderly, socially disadvantaged and people on lower incomes,” Schrapel said.

“This is also a big win for Adelaide, with its goal of becoming the world’s first carbon neutral city through the Premier’s Carbon Neutral Adelaide initiative. It’s a tremendous example of a locally based company taking leadership and ‘walking the talk’ to reduce emissions and transit to a low-carbon economy.

“We are hoping other South Australian businesses will follow suit and take up the challenge and opportunity to become carbon neutral.”

Schrapel said the charity had also experienced significant financial benefits too, saving more than $1 million over the life of its carbon neutral program.

“Over the five years we have been reducing our carbon emissions, substantial dollar savings have been achieved, which far exceed the costs outlaid in achieving the national certification,” he said.

“The conversion to hybrid vehicles alone has achieved annual savings of over $650 per vehicle. With the passenger fleet now being 65 per cent petrol-electric, that’s over $50,000 a year in savings and this figure is rising. All fleet vehicles are also carbon offset through local company, CMI Toyota.”

The organisation said it had examined purchasing practices and engaged suppliers who could provide 100 per cent carbon neutral products, such as carbon neutral copy paper through Fuji Xerox and stationery from Lyreco International – a demonstration of local businesses working together to combat climate change.

Other carbon reduction activities included energy efficient building upgrades to two residential aged care facilities and the city-based head office.

With 85 sites across South Australia, Uniting Communities encouraged staff to commit to lowering emissions by switching off lights and computers when not in use and reducing waste to landfill.

Schrapel said that a low-carbon approach was now part of organisational policy and culture of the charity.

“We have site representatives across the organisation to facilitate emissions reduction. And all position descriptions within the organisation include a commitment to carbon reduction,” he said.

Through a competitive tender process, Carbon Neutral was chosen by Uniting Communities as the primary carbon offset supplier for the 2015/16 financial year.

Uniting Communities has purchased 2,448 tonnes of carbon offsets in the Yarra Yarra Australian Native Reforestation Project – a Carbon Neutral developed project that has been certified under the International Gold Standard, and which has restored over 10,000 hectares of degraded farmland into a healthy landscape of native vegetation and wildlife in a biodiverse global hotspot.

The project employs mostly local indigenous people, consults with the traditional owners and engages over 80 local businesses.

Xavier Smerdon  |  Journalist  |  @XavierSmerdon

Xavier Smerdon is a journalist specialising in the Not for Profit sector. He writes breaking and investigative news articles.

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