Sydney Opera House sets itself apart again, this time for its sustainability practices


When the Sydney Opera House announces that it has become Australia’s first major arts institution to commit to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, those of us of suspicious minds may wonder, does Australia have any other major arts institutions? But those of us of less trying sensibilities will acknowledge that Sydney Harbour’s great sails have always been at the forefront of sustainable development, and this grand commitment is typical. 

In the last year, the Sydney Opera House has gone carbon neutral and inked a significant power purchase agreement (PPA) with commercial electricity retailer Flow Power to source more than 85% of its energy from NSW wind and solar. 

Now the world-famous performing arts centre, and flame to touristic moths, has joined a growing collection of companies, governments and community organisations that have signed up to the Global Goals, a set of goals to address some of the most pressing issues of our time. 

The move comes in the release of the Opera House’s latest Environmental Action Plan (EAP), through which it intends to build on its already stellar sustainability rating. As it stands, and in all its glory, the Opera House already has a five-star Green Star Performance rating from the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA), in addition to the carbon neutrality and PPA agreement mentioned above. 

This latest EAP (2020-23) demonstrates the audacious nature of the building’s conception lives on:  

  • Achieve a 6 Star Green Star Performance Rating from the GBCA;
  • Eliminate single-use plastic packaging from all venues and restaurants;
  • Take steps to become climate positive; and
  • Achieve Sustainable Event Management Certification, in line with International Standard (ISO 20121).

 “The Opera House is committed to the ideals and values encapsulated in the Global Goals,” said Sydney Opera House CEO Louise Herron AM, “which can only be achieved through global action. The ambitious community plans released today outline how we will continue to support inclusion, diversity and equality, and help safeguard our natural environment.” 

To celebrate the announcement, the House’s eastern Bennelong sail – the canvas for the House’s nightly Badu Gili display, was lit up to show support to the Global Goals. 

Minister for the Arts Don Harwin spoke to the eminent presence the Opera House holds in Australia’s architectural landscape. “As the symbol of modern Australia, the Opera House has an important role to play in inspiring the community,” said Harwin, “it is wonderful that our most famous landmark is putting its support behind this global initiative to help achieve a more sustainable and fulfilling future for all.”  

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