Environmental Stewardship Policy
The conservation of plants, ecosystems and ecosystem services is central to the future survival of the Earth’s biosphere as we know it. These elements with their associated organisms and natural ecology have intrinsic value irrespective of any direct benefits they may have to humans.
Globally, Botanic Gardens have recognised their critical role in minimising the destructive impacts of human activity through contributions to scientific research, in situ and ex situ conservation, horticultural research and displays, education and dissemination of knowledge.
The Royal Botanic Gardens Board Victoria (RBG) expresses this critical contribution to a sustainable future through its mission:
To advance knowledge, enjoyment and conservation of plants through excellence in biodiversity research and management, horticultural displays and public programs
In 2002, the RBG released the Policy for Conservation of Plant Biodiversity, to define and reinforce its commitment to activities and modes of operation that support plant conservation aims.
The capacity of the RBG to contribute to a sustainable future has expanded over the past decade. There has also been a greater recognition of the interconnectedness of all areas of our operation and the importance of minimising environmental impacts from these activities. In addition, there has been a significant increase in the environmental auditing and government compliance requirements of public sector organisations. This broadening of capacity, knowledge, influence and compliance has prompted the RBG to develop this Environmental Stewardship Policy(’the Policy’) which replaces the Policy for Conservation of Plant Biodiversity.
The Policy identifies the key areas of activity where the RBG will strive to influence society toward a more sustainable future and to highlight the key operational considerations and commitments that will minimise the organisation’s impact on the environment.
Our commitment to environmental sustainability
The RBG is committed to making environmental sustainability a priority in all of its operations including: planning; budgeting; decisions; projects; and programs.
There are three core areas where the RBG can contribute most to environmental stewardship: Biodiversity and Ecology; Community Engagement; and its Landscapes.
Biodiversity and ecology
The biosphere comprises all living things and their environment. The ecosystem services provided by the biosphere enable us to survive and undertake all human activities, but these services are being severely compromised by climate change, increasing human demand caused by a growing population, increasing consumption of goods and services, and a greater ability to unsustainably exploit resources.
The RBG will contribute to conserving biodiversity by:
- undertaking research into, and identification and monitoring of plant biodiversity
- undertaking research into urban ecological systems
- disseminating information to aid conservation
- researching and practising integrated plant conservation to protect genes, species, habitats and ecosystems
- ensuring its management and operations encourage and do not threaten biodiversity.
Changing human behaviour is the single most important factor in reducing human-induced environmental degradation occurring around the globe. The creation, dissemination and sharing of scientific information is a key element in influencing positive behavioural change.
The RBG will continue to engage with its diverse community by delivering stimulating and innovative programs that connect people with the natural world, and foster appreciation of the pressing need to conserve biodiversity through activities on-site, off-site, online and by other means.
The increasing population and density of Australian cities reinforces the importance of green spaces in urban environments in providing important ecosystem services such as atmospheric cooling, carbon storage, opportunities for ex situ plant conservation and stormwater remediation. These green spaces are also essential to the well-being of citizens.
The RBG successfully connects people to both cultural and natural landscapes. These will be managed sustainably, with respect for cultural heritage, and recognition of the habitats (for plants, animals and other living organisms) and the ecosystem services they provide. The RBG will be responsive to environmental challenges, including climate change, and the changing needs of the community.
Issues relevant to RBG in conducting its business
The RBG uses water, energy and materials in meeting its core business. We are committed to using practices that minimise negative impacts and maximise beneficial effects upon the environment.
Potable water is a limited resource and there is increasing demand from a growing population. The RBG will implement an integrated approach to water management that maintains biodiversity, minimises consumption, evaluates and utilises alternative water sources and demonstrates leadership in efficient water use.
Energy and emissions
Energy produced from fossil fuels is non-renewable and produces greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and other pollutants that affect the environment. The RBG will seek to reduce its use of energy and aim to use sources that have lower or zero emissions.
The extraction, processing, production, delivery, use and disposal of materials has detrimental impacts on the natural environment. The RBG will seek to minimise the quantity of materials used; retain and re-use existing materials; source clean, local and sustainable materials; and minimise and dispose of waste appropriately.
The RBG will use the following principles to guide its activities.
Foster a long-term perspective
Effective stewardship requires a long-term perspective on how current and future activities may affect our environment and future generations.
An integrated approach to conserving the environment is essential to identify and evaluate the connections, interactions and synergies between and among issues, decisions and processes. Environmental, social and economic factors will be considered in all decisions.
Avoid, reduce, re-use and recycle
Continuous improvement in the sustainable use of energy, materials and water will be achieved by adopting the following in decreasing order of priority:
- Avoid – Can we make do without it?
- Reduce – Can we make do with less?
- Re-use – Can it be used again for the same or another purpose?
- Recycle – Can it be re-processed?
Design and selection
Innovative design and careful selection of materials, products and services is essential to minimise the impact of all activities on the environment. The full life-cycle cost of facilities, materials, products and services will be considered and used in decision making.
Source of supply
Materials and products will be sourced locally where practicable, unless procurement from elsewhere reduces environmental impact and/or maximises beneficial environmental effects.
The lack of scientific certainty will not be a sufficient reason to avoid adopting approaches and practices that will likely have less impact on the environment.
In accordance with Government policy, the RBG will have an environmental management system that is formally reviewed and reported on.
‘biosphere’ - the thin, fragile layer of ecologically interdependent life at the surface of the Earth.
‘community’ - our employees, volunteers, tenants, and all physical and virtual visitors.
‘ecosystem services’ – benefits derived from nature such as a regular supply of rainwater, clean air and nutrient cycling.
‘environmental stewardship’ - stewardship relates to the act of caring for or improving with time. Environmental stewardship embodies an ethic of assessment, informed choice and positive action that does not harm and is preferably beneficial to the environment.
‘sustainability’ - for the purposes of this document, sustainability is the use of resources that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
Last updated 29 Sep 2011