One Planet Councils: How Does Your Council Compare Against Best Practice Sustainability?

Alexi Lynch and Shane Melotte

At the Local Government Energy Efficiency Conference in Sydney last week, keynote speaker Michael Oke from the City of Yarra spoke about funding and financing energy efficiency, renewable energy and broader sustainability projects. It was a great presentation and those lucky enough to stay on for the evening workshop would have come out with a lot of valuable take-home lessons.

Michael spoke about leadership, the development of business cases, targets and the importance of playing the “long game”, using a marathon as an analogy. 

He also reflected on the value of Yarra becoming Australia's first One Planet Council almost 2 years ago. In 2014, Yarra became the first local government in Australia, and only the third in the world, to be officially certified as a One Planet Council by BioRegional Australia - recognition of which is reserved for councils who are genuinely leading the charge on sustainable living.

Michael stressed the importance of being a part of an internationally recognised program from a credibility, education and leadership point of view. The clear and holistic 10 Principles that underpin the One Planet approach assisted his team communicate and work with broader internal Council stakeholders.  His team had the CEO well and truly engaged and they were regularly asked by senior staff “how Council were tracking” towards being a One Planet Council. We had a lot of conversations after the presentation with councils wanting to know more about the One Planet Councils program and how it has been tailored to Australian local government.

First Step: One Planet Councils Gap Analysis

Yarra’s first step in becoming a One Planet Council was to complete an independent gap analysis against the internationally renowned One Planet Councils framework. In order to review the status of actions, policies and targets to improve the sustainability of its internal operations and the broader municipality, Yarra engaged Ironbark Sustainability to complete their gap analysis, which addresses all major aspects of environmental, social and economic sustainability according to the One Planet Councils framework. Yarra have been generous enough to share their summary report, which you can download from here

How Does Your Council Compare?

Since teaming up with Australian councils, One Planet Living, BioRegional and the Victorian Local Governance Association to introduce One Planet Councils within Australia in 2014, Ironbark have completed a One Planet Council gap analysis for councils throughout Australia. This includes Yarra, the City of Greater Geraldton, City of Moreland, City of Subiaco, City of Bayside, Surf Coast Shire and more using a gap analysis framework tailored for councils. As a dedicated local government organisation, this experience means we have valuable data and have developed tools that allow a council to find out how they measure up against other councils and international best-practice.

The One Planet Councils program offers consistency and is easy to understand and use as a communications tool. The open source nature of the broader One Planet principles also means that councils are not locked a single tool or provider. While some councils such as Yarra, Fremantle and Geelong have sought accreditation through BioRegional Australia, for others it’s simply a matter of having the freedom to utilise the 10 sustainability principles as they suit your councils, “dip your toe in” and see what you think. See for example how the City of Greater Bendigo, City of Charles Sturt and City of Wodonga have incorporated One Planet Councils into their broader environment strategies and plans.

If you want to benchmark your council’s performance against each of the 10 One Planet Councils principles and also against other Australian local governments click here to get in touch and we'll take you through the process and the ways that you can use the One Planet Councils program to see how your council is performing, engage stakeholders internally, and communicate sustainability externally throughout your community.