Carbon neutrality goal standards set for others

The reception at Hydroflux HQ is just the first image people get when seeing their carbon neutrality mission

“How many carbon emission savings will you make in delivering this project for me?” It’s a question that many contractors, suppliers and anybody who wants to work with government departments, water authorities, and an increasing number of private enterprises will have to think about before submitting a tender. Achieving carbon neutrality is a sign of the times. 

Julia Seddon knows it. Seddon is the CEO of Cress Consulting, a branch of Hydroflux, a company that specialises in water management across a whole stream of water initiatives. The Cress Consulting part of the business specialises in sustainability. It was the ideal lead when the company decided to become carbon neutral certified.

“Because the business works across the breadth of the water industry, we have noticed some agencies and businesses that are sophisticated in their tendering processes,” she said. “They tend to have some very strict requirements around sustainability.

“There’s an increasing expectation among clients, particularly those at the more mature end, that companies must be aware of the climate issues. Large utilities like Melbourne Water and Sydney Water and many in the food and beverage (F&B) space have all got strong, tough targets on carbon neutrality and reducing emissions.”

Why seek out carbon neutrality

Hydroflux’s carbon neutrality certification was brought about due to the company realising there were many immediate and long-term benefits. Seddon said Hydroflux doesn’t have a huge carbon footprint. Still, some of its clients do, which led management to think that they should get their own house in order first if they were going to start advising clients on carbon neutrality and emissions responsibilities.

Seddon and her team started by doing a detailed sustainability analysis for all of the companies within the Hydroflux group. They identified key issues and hotspots where they knew where there could be some improvements. She said that overall, there was a solid understanding of the need to limit emissions and global warming to 1.5 degrees above preindustrial levels as laid out by the climate change accords that have come into effect over the past two decades.

“Essentially, that involves the company making up-front commitments,” said Seddon. “The managing director of our group of companies committed to becoming carbon neutral. Being Hydroflux, the time frame was extremely ambitious.”

Carbon neutrality goal reached fast

Most companies take between six to 12 months to become certified. Hydroflux took about three. The first step was to start compiling a comprehensive emissions inventory to account for all the carbon emissions throughout the organisation. They wanted to look closely into the areas of the business that could stop emissions. The audit discovered plenty of places where such savings could occur. Those emissions included energy used on a day-to-day basis, opting for electric vehicles and the type of light bulbs used in the office.

Seddon points out that even though Hydroflux got the certification, it is still a work in progress. That is due to issues such as having energy contracts in place that haven’t run out yet. There are also diesel and petrol-powered vehicles that haven’t reached their use-by date. In the case of the vehicles, they will be replaced with those whose carbon footprint will be a lot less.

During the audit process, the company did a deep dive on many aspects, such as comparing the energy it costs to produce an electric vehicle and its ongoing running costs. 

“The analysis showed that electric vehicles produce fewer emissions,” said Seddon. “If you’re able to use green electricity, which is what we’re moving towards across Australia – we know that the state-based grids are becoming greener over time – that those emissions reduce your footprint even further.”

Process for carbon neutrality

Hydroflux used a three-step process to implement the plan. There was the inventory, the reduction plan, and a financial outlay in purchasing carbon offsets.

“There are steps within those steps. For example, it might be that we think we can reduce emissions by 10 per cent in a particular area,” she said. “It’s not a huge price to pay to say we’ve dealt with our carbon emissions at this point. We know we’ve compensated for the carbon-emitting into the atmosphere due to our activities.”

For those that sell products and services to Hydroflux, Seddon is letting it be known that they are also looking at others’ sustainability and carbon emission practices.

“Sustainable procurement is another thing that the business is implementing. Once we’ve done that, we can move on to the next thing,” she said.

Sustainability is one of the main planks of the company’s business model. As well as carbon neutrality, it realises that water is a valuable asset on such a dry continent as Australia. Educating clients and the wider community about this issue is something Hydroflux takes seriously.

“The business sees it has a role to play in raising that awareness around the value and the preciousness of water,” she said. “When looking at a wastewater project, for example, if you consider it end to end, you’ve probably spent $5/kL or more purchasing clean water, heating, cooling, or running it from here to there. Then you might have spent another $5/kL treating it and then discharging it. It all adds up.”

Rainfall and carbon neutrality

Seddon said that more than 85 per cent of Greater Sydney’s water supply relies on rain. The city is vulnerable to periods of drought and at risk of running out. The state government is looking at feasibility studies of making some of the dam walls higher. Even then, it will be hard to meet the area’s water needs. A higher dam wall or more dams are unlikely to fix the problem. Desalination plants are expensive to build and run while shipping water in is prohibitively costly.

“It’s a bit frightening, to be honest. I recall Sydney Water running a water conservation campaign at the time around something like ‘water is life,” she said. “You can’t have life as we know without water. Yet we just turn a blind eye to conserving it all the time.”

With the company’s expertise in many aspects of the water industry and its new carbon neutrality certification, Seddon is confident that it can play a leading role in making sure that when it comes to industrial water applications and reducing a company’s carbon footprint, Hydroflux can help meet both governmental and consumers’ expectations in that space.

“This is where the company culture lies now,” she said. “We’re helping companies contribute to the overall reduction of emissions. That’s in the future for Hydroflux.” 

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