Getting Started in Environmental Management

Current Position

The information in this post provides insight into environmental protection and relevant legislative elements for businesses starting out in environmental management.

At the recent G7 summit in Cornwall, the importance of safeguarding our planet for the next generation was emphasized, particularly by cutting emissions and committing to reaching net zero emissions by 2050. The UK will also host the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow on 31st October 2021.

Key goals include combating climate change, improving air quality, reducing waste and pollution, and becoming more energy efficient.

The following factors should be considered by organisations:

  • Direct effect on the surrounding environment - essentially pollution control issues.

  • Activities that disturb neighbours are often referred to as 'nuisance'.

  • The wider effect that activities have on global resources, such as power, raw materials and types and levels of waste - 'green' issues.

  • Legal sanctions arising from breaches of environmental legislation.

  • Financial loss where the 'polluter pays' principle is applied, requiring reparations to be made when pollution is caused.

  • Loss of reputation following negative publicity with potential consequential loss of business.

  • Loss of business as companies increasingly review the environmental credentials of their supply chain in awarding contracts.

  • Increased insurance premiums or restricted insurance cover following general pollution caused by leaks, spills etc.

Two guiding principles should be at the heart of environmental management thinking:

Sustainability - the maintenance of the factors and practices that contribute to the quality of the environment on a long-term basis.

The circular economy - an economic system aimed at eliminating waste and the continual use of resources. Circular systems employ reuse, sharing, repair, refurbishment, remanufacturing and recycling to create a closed-loop system, minimising the use of resource inputs, the creation of waste, pollution and carbon emissions.

The aim of these principles is to keep products, equipment and infrastructure in use for longer, improving the productivity of resources. Energy and waste materials should be reused in other processes, either as components or recovered resources for another industrial process or as regenerative resources for nature (e.g., compost). As a result, the traditional linear model of production is avoided.

In order to effectively meet these challenges, environmental managers need to take a systematically planned and systematic approach.

Legal Requirements

Over the last 40 or so years, EU law has come to form a large part of the law which applies in the UK, covering a range of different issues. An Environment Bill is currently being debated by parliament in light of the UK's exit from the EU on 31 January 2020. In addition to improving the quality of the air in the country, the project also wants to restore natural habitats and increase biodiversity. The bill describes the government's plans for reducing waste, making better use of resources, and improving the management of water resources in a changing climate.

Plans and policies will be presented to improve the natural environment; statements and reports will be presented on environmental protection, waste reduction, resource efficiency and air quality; recalls of products that do not meet environmental standards; information about water and nature; forestry and biodiversity; and chemical regulation.