Mater Hospitals & Health Services

A not for profit health services provider

Pangolin Associates case study: Mater Hospital Brisbane, carbon footprints. (Logo.)Mater Health Services is a network of 7 hospitals located in and around the Brisbane area. Established by the Sisters of Mercy in 1906, the organisation has 7500 staff and volunteers, and provides care to approximately 500,000 people each year.

Core values

Pangolin Associates case study: Mater Hospital Brisbane, carbon footprints. (image: helipad)
Mater Hospital Brisbane, Helipad

The core values of the organisation reflect the spirit of the Sisters of Mercy:

  • Mercy: the spirit of responding to one another.
  • Dignity: the spirit of humanity, respecting the worth of each person.
  • Care: the spirit of compassion.
  • Commitment: the spirit of integrity.
  • Quality: the spirit of professionalism.

Mater is also a leader in education and research through the Mater Education Centre and Mater Medical Research Institute. Both have strong links to various universities and are committed to driving innovation for the benefit of all.

Sustainability: key drivers of change

  1. Legislation and organisational risk
  2. Community and staff expectations

Legislation and organisational risk: Legislation played a role in the organisation’s move towards sustainability, notably:

  • NGER (National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act)
  • Clean Energy Act and associated Smart Energy Savings Program plan

In late 2007 Mater’s board became aware of requirements under these regulations. In response, the health service’s strategic plan of 2009 – 2013 identified environmental issues and objectives. The plan states:

Mater will increase its activities to ensure we optimize our position as responsible corporate citizens. Initially we will work to reduce our water usage before increasing the scope of our activities to other areas such as energy, recycling and the effective use of products.

Additionally, to avoid legal risks, Mater Health Services must measure and report its greenhouse gas emissions.

Community and staff pressure

Organisational members recognised growing pressure from community and staff stakeholders. Acting on sustainability was important ethically. It aligned with Mater Health Services’ values. As of 2008, ‘be environmentally responsible‘ became a strategy map objective. At the same time, a reduced carbon footprint would save costs.

Sustainability solutions

Greenhouse gas assessments: Pangolin Associates’ team calculates Mater’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions annually. Pangolin’s auditors are registered with the Australian Government’s Clean Energy Regulator, as Registered Greenhouse and Energy Auditor (Category 1 and Category 2), under 75A of the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act 2007.

This ensures compliance with the act as well as a detailed report on the non – reportable Scope 3 emissions to provide a comprehensive carbon footprint. The overall report is then used to track progress such as emissions reductions.

WEMP and water conservation: Water conservation was the original focus for Mater Health Services. It was a requirement of the Water Efficiency Management Plan (WEMP) as set by the Brisbane City Council, and subsequently the Queensland Water Commission.

As WEMP required a reduction of 25% below 2005 consumption levels, Mater’s Engineering Department commenced a retro fit of fixtures throughout the hospital. Since implementation, the organisation has successfully completed 2 audits. It continues to report on a yearly basis as per the requirements of WEMP.

Sustainability Committee: In 2008 Mater Hospital formed a Sustainability Committee. In the same year committee members developed a set of Environmental Sustainability Principles, which was endorsed by the Board. As well as maintaining the committee into the future, and executive leadership support, actions include:

  • A focus on water, energy, waste, recycling, and product procurement efficiency
  • A range of strategies to communicate Mater’s environmental initiatives and progress, designed primarily for staff but also for visitors, external stakeholders, and the general public
  • A commitment to the broader community to meet legislative obligations and minimise environmental impacts.

Sustainability management

In early 2010 the hospital appointed a full‐time Sustainability Manager. Carbon measurement and staff engagement are priorities for this role, in addition to various initiatives promoting and encouraging workplace sustainability. To date there are 94 initiatives in 4 categories: waste, water, energy, and procurement and IT. Initiatives include:

  • “Turn it Off” campaign, encouraging staff to turn off electrical equipment when not in use
  • Upgrading bike cages and increasing bike lockers to encourage riding to work
  • Setting printers to duplex
  • Putting a new waste contract in place which includes waste segregation training to reduce the cost of non-clinical waste disposal
  • Supplying reusable coffee cups
  • Installing several new water tanks
  • Improving air conditioning efficiency (replacement chillers and review of scheduling and temperature policy)
  • Installing new Zip Hydroboil Units with power saving mode
  • Planning lighting upgrades for car parks and power factor optimisation.

Staff engagement

To date, the Sustainability Manager has delivered approximately 60 presentations to more than 1900 staff members. Presentations contain educational material about carbon (e.g. How “big” is a tonne of carbon?). They are designed to encourage thinking and discussion about sustainability at all levels within the organisation.


“Mater has been working with Pangolin Associates since 2010 to understand our carbon impacts and to produce relevant information for both Executive and Board reporting. They have also assisted with the preparation of our NGER requirements and highlighted areas of concern where we can introduce initiatives to minimise our energy and carbon.”

Chris Hill, Manager Sustainability Office, June 2012

See Asia Pacific Work in Progress Research Papers Series (APWIPPs)

Written by Mater Hospital’s Chris Hill, Alice Evans, Sally Russell, and Kelly Fielding: Turn It Off: Encouraging Environmentally-Friendly Behaviours in the Workplace, Issue 8, June 2012.

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