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Water tech company achieves Australian-first climate certification

Water and water treatment management business Hydroflux has become Australia’s first water technology company to achieve certification as a carbon-neutral organisation.

The certification is from Climate Active, a voluntary climate action scheme overseen by the Australian government.

“Sustainability has always been part of our agenda and part of our vision of contributing to a better planet in the future,” said Hydroflux Director John Koumoukelis. “It's not just about growth, sales and profit.”

Julia Seddon, CEO of Hydroflux’s sustainability consultancy Cress said Hydroflux began the process by undertaking a comprehensive sustainability analysis, the results of which highlighted the opportunity to seek carbon-neutral certification.

“Seeking Climate Active carbon-neutral certification was then the next decision,” she said.

“You can claim to be carbon neutral and do it yourself, [but] we were very keen to have an independent third-party verification and certification process to show that the business had achieved carbon-neutral status.”

Hydroflux’s analysis showed that the company’s emissions burden lay in two key areas.

“One is electricity use. In some cases, we've been able to do things like switch out all the lighting to LED lighting in the office areas. In other locations, we've been able to switch electricity providers to a renewable energy source. In others, we're in the process of renegotiating electricity contracts to be able to achieve that,” said Seddon.

“The other big area is in goods and services — goods and services that the business purchases or procures. We're in the process now, as a group of companies, of developing a sustainable procurement strategy with greenhouse-gas emissions a key part of the criteria.”

Concentrating on the supply chain

During its analysis, Hydroflux found that the main area in which it would have to reduce emissions was its supply chain.

“We are now asking our suppliers questions around carbon emissions and what they are doing to address those,” Seddon said. “Part of the whole idea of becoming a carbon-neutral business is to influence the entire supply chain. We get asked and we respond, but then we ask our suppliers and assess their response and then they do the same thing. It's a chain reaction.”

According to Koumoukelis, Hydroflux was able to help guide its suppliers to reduce emissions, particularly ones with whom the company had been working for many years.

“With probably three-quarters of the companies we deal with, we've got a very positive response,” he said.

“Some have asked for assistance and guidance on what they should do. While they may not go out and do their own certification, they may certainly have engaged with this in terms of what is it that [we’ve] done that they could apply to their business.”

“We are a service business,” added Seddon.

“We are here to assist our clients. If we can assist them on their own emissions reduction journey, then that's what we are here to do.

Some of this has involved a cost, Seddon has acknowledged, but she believes it has benefited Hydroflux in terms of maintaining its values and better serving its customers.

“Typically there's a 20% premium on purchasing renewable electricity. That's a commercial decision that the business has taken. In other areas, particularly around looking for the more sustainable alternative or option in purchasing, there's often an extra cost,” she said.

“But it's something that the business fundamentally believes in and it's not just a good thing to do. It makes good business sense. A lot of our clients are on the same pathway, so it makes sense for us to be there as well, so that we can then help them implement and reach their own sustainability goals through our services.

“If a client engages one of the Hydroflux entities and is concerned about its own carbon footprint, it doesn't need to account for Hydroflux, because we are … already carbon neutral.”

Ahead of the curve

Koumoukelis said that he has experienced some of the company’s clients requesting through procurement platforms that the company commit to becoming carbon neutral — even though Hydroflux has already achieved the goal.

“They're simply asking the question, ‘Are you willing to?’ or ‘What are your plans for sustainable procurement?’,” he said.

“They actually haven't allocated a box yet to say, ‘Please upload your certification.’”

Seddon said that Hydroflux benefited from being able to achieve the certification in record time.

“Normally carbon-neutral certification processes takes at least six months, but we did it in less than three,” she said.

“Because the organisation has got the kind of culture where everybody pulls together, we were able to get the information quickly and accurately, and got everything done that needed to be done in a very short period of time.”

Seddon also said the company benefited internally from seeking the accreditation.

“Hydroflux employs a hundred or more people … and I think the vast majority of our people are really happy to be working for a company that's carbon neutral and that has achieved it so quickly and comprehensively,” she said.

“I think that's one key tangible benefit for the business. It's something that people are really quite proud to tell their friends and family about. They want to be working for a business that's at the forefront and doing everything it can to address climate change.”