Australia’s First One Planet Council is...?

Alexi Lynch

The City of Yarra is the first local government in Australia, and only the third in the world, to be officially certified as a One Planet Council, recognition of which is reserved for councils who are leading the charge on sustainable living. It was a day of celebration with Ed Cotter, managing director of pioneering enterprise BioRegional Australia presenting certification to Mayor Jackie Fristacky and the Yarra team.

In order to review the status of actions, policies and targets to improve the sustainability of its internal operations and the broader municipality, the City of Yarra engaged Ironbark Sustainability to complete an independent gap analysis against the internationally renowned One Planet Councils framework.

The gap analysis addresses all major aspects of environmental, social and economic sustainability according to the One Planet Councils framework. It’s a dead easy process and Yarra have been generous enough to share their summary report, which you can download from here for free. 

Going through the report you can see how Yarra rated against each of the sustainability principles, their highlights, and where they need to improve. Yep, even an international leadership council has room for improvement.

At the announcement on 3rd September 2014, Yarra Mayor Jackie Fristacky said, "One Planet Councils provides a way to rate Council against other local authorities leading the world in terms of approaches to sustainability and to see how Yarra measured up. To be recognised as an international leader is a fantastic affirmation of Yarra’s visionary commitment to sustainability".

So how does Yarra rate?

Overall Yarra received a score of 82%, and a One Planet Council classification of "International Leadership". Given that Yarra was the second carbon neutral council in Australia, is Australia’s leading cycling municipality, has 6 Star Green Star targets for all new major buildings and an 80 per cent reuse and recycling target for construction waste they thoroughly deserve the International Leadership classification. 

The table shows Yarra’s ratings for each principle. You can check out the brief summary on each principle in the summary report. 

And how does your council compare with Yarra?

The only way to find out is to undertake a gap analysis. You can do it yourself by downloading free One Planet Councils resources and templates. 

Or give us a call and we can explain how best to undertake the process internally or how to work with us to develop an independent gap analysis.

What’s Next?

Throughout 2013 and 2014 Ironbark teamed up with ICLEI Oceania to survey councils from around Australia with questions around sustainability and their council. There were some interesting responses, and we’ve collated some of the highlights in a report you can download from here.

One clear learning from the survey was that there is a gap in the local government landscape regarding a comprehensive national sustainability program. There is no way for councils to benchmark performance against each other, no central Australia-wide network and no national program! 

We've been holding workshops with councils over the last 12 months to see if our findings from the survey are supported by individual council concerns and it’s clear there is a need for a national program. Most recently, we held a workshop with BioRegional Australia at the Government Sustainability Conference in August 2014 and fleshed out some of the opportunities with a group of council staff from around Australia. 

As Ed Cotter, managing director of BioRegional Australia said at the Yarra certification launch, councils want to be able to benchmark their sustainability performance but don’t have a consistent method to achieve this. The One Planet Council framework offers this consistency. It’s the most comprehensive sustainability framework going round and it’s easy to understand and easy to dip your foot in. It is specifically designed for councils and is simple, flexible, inclusive, proven to work and covers all aspects of sustainability. The framework is complementary to existing processes and is not designed to lock council into a single tool or provider.

We’ll be working on this further in the coming months but in the meantime if you want to benchmark your council against each of the 10 One Planet Councils principles and against councils like Yarra, give us a call

Who's Next?

So who's going to be the next One Planet Council?!