An environmental management plan - why we all need one
Managing the impact of human interaction with the environment has never been more critical. With over seven billion inhabitants, the adverse impact humans are having on the world is pretty apparent, with so many of our actions having a negative influence on the environment; from the air pollution created through our over-reliance on fossil fuels, to the incredible volumes of packaging waste, the over-farming of non-sustainable natural resources and the devastation caused to marine life populations as a result of human neglect.
With advances in medicine and better understanding of sciences, life expectancies are at an all-time high and with it, the global population is only set to rise. With greater pressures from its occupants, the world is struggling to cope, and it is the responsibility of every single member of society to take measured steps to reducing the adverse impact our interaction with the environment has.
Accountability sits with every individual, it sits with every business and organisation, with every council, government and legislative body, with every state, every region and every nation. It has to become an issue to which each and every one of us is less ignorant, more aware and informed, and a commitment to minimising the environmental impact we have, made an absolute priority.
Making a plan
An environmental management plan is quite a specific term used to describe a fairly broad spectrum of intentions; it can be a philosophy or a goal, a process or the application of a set of tools. The commonality of environmental management plans being their focus on minimising environmental degradation or disaster.
For individuals it is likely shaped through a series of personal experiences, beliefs and actions, based largely on the changes they as a citizen of the world feel they can actively make to protect their immediate environment, underpinned by their moral and ethical code.
For businesses and organisations, environmental management plans are commissioning much more focus and emphasis than ever before, forming part of wider business strategy and planning, as so many more eyes are awakening to the green credentials of the organisations they deal with, both from a business and consumer perspective.
More environmental managers are being appointed in larger organisations, environmental consultants are being called upon for their expertise across industries once oblivious to their environmental responsibilities, and policy-makers are, more than ever, working with key business decision-makers to better shape environmental management across the board.
Some organisations will inevitably come into conflict when faced with environmental management planning as where to draw its limits. The economic vs. environmental costs must balance and finding a new equilibrium can be challenging, especially if implementation of greener operations hits the bottom line.
Undoubtedly, environmental management planning comes with a cost. The cost of setting new policies, establishing new processes and practices, and then of course policing it thereafter. But that cost in the short-term is surely worth the longer-term gain of better sustainability credentials, an enhanced corporate reputation and a minimised impact on the environment?
Some organisations have already recognised this and are fully embracing the need for change; others are slower on the uptake but starting to dip their toes in with a ‘trial and error’ approach; yet some will are completely resistant to acknowledging their own accountability and the role they play in damaging the environment now and for future generations. In time, as the impact is felt on an even broader scale, businesses will have little choice to adapt in order to survive; consumers will become less tolerant, legislators will levy higher penalties and the gap between ‘want to’ and ‘have to’ will start to close.
We are already seeing lots of economic initiatives being introduced to organisations as a way to incentivise them to clean up their act; exemptions, tax-reductions, funding and finance options, as well as the public relations exercises that highlight those leading the charge in being more environmentally sustainable – and this is only set to continue – but we will also see many greater penalties introduced from governments and legislative bodies across the globe, for those that fail to act.
Best foot forward
Developing and managing sustainable environmental management plans can deliver better environmental performance through driving down waste and associated costs, identifying new revenue strings or supplier opportunities, and enjoying more innovative service provision; it can be about recreating a brand’s ethical stance and tapping into new programmes in more efficient ways – and it can also increase a workforce’s motivation and loyalty as they see the organisation’s values better align to their own changing ideology of the world they want to live in.
An organisation that successfully implements an environmental management plan will be one that has incorporated all stakeholders through the process; from staff to shareholders, the CEO to the end consumer. It should involve every part of the organisation.
edie Live 2019
Taking place on 21-22 May at the NEC Birmingham, edie Live is the only UK event connecting energy, sustainability and resource professionals with the information, ideas and suppliers they need to make their business more sustainable.
edie Live attracts thousands of visitors to meet hundreds of innovative exhibitors and take part in hours of information-packed seminars, interactive products trials, one-to-one advice clinics and great networking. For more information, see here.