It was my first time visiting Sweden, and somehow I found myself hauling two baskets of milk containers to deliver to the local supermarket. Feeling like a recycling heroine, my ego was soon deflated when I realized my efforts were something of commonality in this country.
Recycling is part of the Swedish supermarket’s environmental management strategy and has contributed to the country’s 99% recycling rate. It is results such as these that make Sweden one of the most environmentally friendly countries in the world.
In fact, many Swedish corporations place the present and prevailing problems facing our environment on a pedestal. Why?
If you read my last post on business sustainability, you will understand how the environment impacts our economy. It is due to this deep-seated connection between economies and ecosystems that make environmental management so important.
Environmental management acts to safeguard nature from potentially damaging business operations, constructing a win-win situation benefitting the economy and the environment.
In this article, we at Process Street explain exactly what environmental management is, why it is needed, and how you can implement environmental management into your business today. We also have a bunch of free templates to help you apply environmental management strategies.
Let’s crack on and find out exactly what environmental management is.
What is environmental management?
‘… but what exactly is environmental management? Is it a single field or discipline? Is it a process? Is it an agreed approach? Is it efforts to identify and pursue goals? Or, is it environment and development problem-solving? – C.J Barrow, Environmental Management and Developing Countries
The term environmental management may seem self-explanatory. Is it not simply the process of managing our environment?
Well no, not exactly.
In a general sense, you could say that environmental management is the management of human impacts on the environment.
However, as C.J Barrow states above, it is difficult to package environmental management up with a simple definition, as the practice operates on many scales and is both multifaceted and multidisciplinary. Never-the-less I will give it my best shot to explain.
Humans have, for the first time, become the primary agents altering the conditions on our planet. We have done this by finding a way to tap into the energy supplies buried deep in our earth. Fossil fuels burn, providing energy for us to obtain resources and power for our modern-day businesses. To put it simply, environmental management comes down to how businesses use this energy, and how we make its use sustainable.
Environmental management is concerned with understanding the structure and the functioning of the earth, and how humans fit in. Being multifaceted, environmental management is about predicting future environmental changes, maximizing human benefit whilst minimizing environmental degradation. Decision making, and the political aspects of this, also play a huge role.
The process of environmental management involves:
- Identifying the environmental desired outcomes
- Identifying the physical, economic, social, cultural, political and technological constraints on obtaining these outcomes
- Considering the most feasible options for achieving the desired outcomes
- Anticipating, avoiding, and solving environmental and conservation issues
In regards to its multidisciplinary nature, environmental management includes a diverse set of groups. For example academics, policy-makers, non-governmental organization (NGO) workers, company employees, and civil servants. This multidisciplinary nature also means that its practice includes both you and me. Our actions, along with every other human on this planet, have some sort of environmental impact.
Implementing environmental management via an environmental management system
Now that we understand what environmental management is, we need a way to implement it. Implementation is done through the use of an environmental management system.
Implementing environmental management via an environmental management system
An environmental management system provides the means for you to continually plan, implement, review and improve your business processes and actions to better your environmental performance. Any effective environmental management system uses the ‘Plan, Do, Check, Act‘ (PDCA) model, which embodies the concept of continual development.
If you have never worked with environmental management systems before, at first glance, they may admittingly seem daunting. But fear not, Process Street has you covered. We have created an Environmental Management System (EMS) Implementation Checklist Template, that is free and ready to use right away.
However, in case you are still not convinced, we will first look into why environmental management, and thus environmental management systems, are important.
Why environmental management systems are important
The linkage between our economy and the environment means that ecological threats, such as pollution, overexploitation, habitat loss, and climate change, also impose economic risks.
Without considering the health of our environment, our businesses are operating on thin ice.
Consider the threat of climate change as an example, as stated by María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, and Ecuadorian politician and diplomat:
“We are the last generation that can prevent irreparable damage to our planet” – María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, General Assembly < Seventy-Third Session, High-Level Meeting On Climate And Sustainable Development
Garcés then stressed that we have only 11 years left to avert a catastrophe.
Now I have you in a cheery mood, let us consider what environmental management can do about this, and the benefits an environmental management system can bring.
I have summarized seven key benefits that incorporating an environmental management system can bring to your business and our surroundings:
- Benefit one: Enforces sustainable action and provides sustainable profits, for long-term business success
- Benefit two: Establishes a marketing advantage
- Benefit three: Reduces the frequency of environmental incidents
- Benefit four: Improves your businesses reputation
- Benefit five: Reduces costs
- Benefit six: Attracts shareholders and investors
- Benefit seven: Improves your regulative performance
Let us take the time to look at these seven key benefits into more detail.
Benefit one: environmental management enforces sustainable actions, providing sustainable profits
To understand why environmental management is needed, we are firstly going to travel to Saudi Arabia. Imagine you are flying over the country’s Wadi As-Sirhan Basin – obviously, you have offset your flight emissions. You look down to see a vast expanse of arid land, spotted with a patchwork of green and brown circles. These brown circles are abandoned agricultural plots.
You see, despite the fact we are looking down onto a dessert, humans have found a way to irrigate the land, making agriculture possible. These circled plots are lined with a skeleton of irrigation pipes quenching the thirst of the crops that grow. However, these irrigation pipes utilize water from aquifers, a non-renewable source that lies buried beneath the desert’s surface.
When these aquifers run dry, so do the agricultural businesses that profit from them.
So as you fly over the Wadi As-Sirhan Basin, gazing down on the abandoned agricultural plots, you are witnessing the over-exploitation of our natural resource, water. Experts estimate that four-fifths of Saudi’s fossil water is now gone.
By using an effective environmental management system, environmental resources, such as water, and the profits that these resources bring, can be maintained into the future, and not gauged upon for fast, unsustainable profits.
Benefit two: environmental management and marketing advantage
On the 29th of October 2017, an award-winning show titled ”The Blue Planet II” hit British TV screens. The final episode of the series is hailed as a key moment that sparked the current war on single-use plastic.
88% of individuals who saw this show changed their behavior. Which is not surprising. Witnessing a mother Pilot whale grieving her plastic poisoned calve would provoke emotion in most.
These oceanic species, with whom we share our planet, are being poisoned by the 8 million tons of plastic dumped into our sea every year – to reiterate, that ‘8 million tons’ does not include land dumped plastic. For me, this series struck a chord. Shortly after, I was packing up plastic scattered across the shores of the Scottish world heritage site, Rubha an Dùnain, in an attempt to do my bit.
2.5 tons of plastic was collected from this one area alone.
Riding the consumer wave, companies are beginning to evaluate their plastic usage to implement a more effective environmental management system.
Take the company Soda Stream for example. SodaStream has listened to consumer needs, grasping a marketing advantage by campaigning against the adoption of single-use plastic bottles.
Since taking an eco-friendly stance in its marketing campaigns, Soda Stream’s share price has doubled. Soda Stream exemplifies the marketing benefits adopting an effective environmental management system has.
Benefit three: environmental management systems reduce the frequency of environmental incidents
Since you began reading this post, 1350 football fields – an approximation depending on how fast you read – of the Amazon rainforest has been slashed, sawed and scorched. The green paper notes brought from the flat monoculture scars are not so green in an environmental sense.
Even at this very second, our Amazon rainforest burns. Immense towers of grey smoke plume towards the Amazonia skyline, signaling a very current environmental disaster. Paulo Artaxo, a professor of physics from the University of Sao Paulo, states:
”There is no doubt that this rise in fire activity is associated with a sharp rise in deforestation”
You have likely heard from ongoing news coverage that there has been a 50% increase in the rate of deforestation in the Amazon over the last 6 months. That is, 6800 square kilometers of the forest has been removed within a 6-month window from January to July. To put that into perspective, 6800 square kilometers is equal to 1,270,739.5 football fields of space.
Or 8 and a half New York cities.
The sharp increase in deforestation is matched with an 85% increase in the number of reported fires. These fires torch our important climatic regulator, and the precious natural resources that it holds.
For businesses involved, the fires impose major consequences in terms of trade deals, sustainability initiatives, and supply risk. It is indisputable that environmental disasters, such as today’s searing Amazon, are highly disruptive in the business world. For example, European Union trade deals, which would immensely benefit Brazilian companies and the countries economy, are now threatened.
Effective environmental management systems avoid such damaging environmental incidents and consequent economic disasters.
Benefit four: environmental management systems improve business reputation
Patagonia has popped up a few times in Process Street’s recent articles – yes, some of us here love Patagonia. For me, Patagonia supplies my outdoor closet whilst catering to my morals. So much so, I happily pay a little bit more to calm my conscious when out on a shopping spree. I am one in the 72% majority of consumers that actively buy more environmentally friendly products.
”Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crises”
From campaigns that tell you NOT to buy a Patagonia jacket, to pledging that at least 10% of pre-tax profits will go towards environmental grants and support, Patagonia successfully incorporates a strong environmental management system.
By taking a strong environmental stance, Patagonia has obtained a positive reputation. A reputation that no doubt appeals to the environmentally-conscious consumer – which makes up a majority. As Patagonia continues to strengthen its green mission, the companies revenue is quadrupled.
Benefit five: environmental management systems attract shareholders and investors
Let’s face it, most ingredients for a healthy, secure and fulfilling human existence come from nature. For example, clean water, food, medicine, and natural hazard protection all come from our natural world. These resources underpin our economy.
Our recognition of the importance to maintain environmental resources is driving a new era of sustainability and effective environmental management systems. 81% of global consumers feel strongly that companies should help improve the environment, with the millennials Gen Z and Gen X being strong drivers of this change.
When we turn to investors and shareholders, many shy away from green companies, concerned these eco-friendly approaches cuts share price.
It is true that investments strengthening a company’s environmental management system come at a cost, but these expenditures are cost-effective – as you shall see under benefit six. In addition, green investments safeguard businesses from inevitable shake-ups, such as the current changing consumer drives, and new regulations.
A company’s worth is dependent on investor perception of its future cash flow, which is dependent on the rules of the business game. These rules are changing, and just as nature does, our businesses have to adapt. This is a change that investors and shareholders are noticing. A third of investors plan to increase their exposure to sustainable alternatives over the next two years.
Benefit six: environmental management systems reduce business costs
As more and more businesses move from a culture of consumption to a culture of conservation, the cost benefits for doing so are being realized. We seem to be entering a new competitive era, one where companies are motivated to improve energy efficiencies and reduce resource use.
One company that has done this is the chemical company DuPont. As everyone talks about building a better future, DuPont works to invest in one now. Decreasing its consumption by 19%, DuPont increased production by 20%, documenting cost savings of $5 billion from 1990-2009.
It is true that to achieve such cost savings, DuPont had to make some initial investments. DuPont worked to upgrade its energy systems, technology, and employee behavior, and in doing so, the companies environmental management system was improved. How was this cost-effective?
The lucrative nature of environmental management systems is often exposed when you give it time. It is the long-term savings that eventually out-weigh the initial costs made.
Benefit seven: environmental management systems improve regulative performance
To explain the final benefit, benefit seven, we are going to travel back in time to the 20th of April, 2010. Do you know what is coming?
This notorious date marks one of the most colossal environmental disasters of the 20th century.
I’m talking about the Deepwater Horizon disaster. An exploding rig that belched out gooey, black oil, contaminating the Gulf of Mexico for 3 months. 11 workers were killed and many others were injured. Marine wildlife perished, trapped in the inky syrup, costing BP tens of billions in cleanup costs, fines, and legal settlements.
With our modern-day laws and regulations, how did this happen?
Deemed as a ‘regulatory blowout‘, BP bypassed laws and regulations that are in place to protect the environment. The result?
An expensive, environmental, tragedy.
Environmental management acts like your belt and braces so to speak. Any effective environmental management system will enforce lawful and regulative performance, which in turn, shields businesses and the environment from such ‘regulatory blowouts’. Failing to abide by these laws and regulations imposes inevitable financial and ecological costs.
How to build an effective environmental management system for your business today
It is clear that environmental management systems bring many economic benefits. With this knowledge, it is time for us to belt up and brace up, and see how we can implement an environmental management system today.
Building an effective environmental management system may seem like a daunting task, but it need not be. Taken in steps, this is a job that any organization can tackle, even yours.
Below, I have outlined the ten-step process to help you deliver an effective environmental management system. These steps are taken from Environmental Management System: An Implementation Guide for Small and Medium-Sized Organizations provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
- Step one: Define your organization’s goals for your environmental management system
- Step two: Secure top management commitment
- Step three: Select an environmental management system champion
- Step four: Build an implementation team
- Step five: Hold a kick-off meeting
- Step six: Conduct a preliminary review
- Step seven: Prepare, budget, and schedule
- Step eight: Secure resources and assistance
- Step nine: Involve employees
- Step ten: Monitor and communicate progress
To make things easier for you, we have outlined the details for each step in our Environmental Management System (EMS) Implementation Checklist Template.
Think of this guide as a hand-rail to keep you on track for the development and implementation of your environmental management system. The template has been designed to enhance efficiency, productivity and prevent mistakes and failures. In this template, you will find the following features:
- Stop tasks to ensure task order
- Dynamic due dates, so no deadline is missed
- Conditional logic, creating a dynamic template that caters to your needs
- Role assignment, to ease task delegation within your team
What are you waiting for?
Use Process Street to create a more environmentally friendly business today
With our superpowered checklists, Process Street is a leading Business Process Management tool. In this instance, Process Street will assist you in tracking, executing and automating key processes for the development and implementation of environmental management practices.
In this article, we have discovered what environmental management is and how, as a discipline, it is put into practice via an environmental management system. We understand why environmental management systems are important for business and the benefits that they bring.
To finish up, we have provided you with a free and easy to use template that will guide you through the development of your environmental management system, so that you can be a more environmentally friendly business today.
To get the best results, you can use our Environmental Management System (EMS) Implementation Checklist Template in conjunction with our ISO 14000 templates.
ISO 14000 standards for environmental management implementation
ISO 14000 is a family of standards, related to the design, implementation, and optimization of an environmental management system for business. To find out more about ISO 14000 read What is ISO 14000? EMS Basics and Implementation (Environmental Management).
You can easily implement ISO 14000 standards into your business using Process Street with our free ISO related templates. These templates are provided below:
- ISO 14001 EMS Structure Template
- ISO 14001 EMS Mini-Manual Procedures
- ISO 14001 Environmental Management Self-Audit Checklist
- ISO 14001:2004 to ISO 14001:2015 EMS Transition Checklist
- ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 Integrated Management System (IMS) Checklist
Becoming a more environmentally friendly business doesn’t end with the implementation of an environmental management system. Why not check out some of our other resources that will help you create your green business model, so that you can make a greener profit.
By working with nature, as opposed to against it, you can relieve the stresses that your business operations place on our environment, and eliminate the economic risks these stressors have on your business.
We’d love to hear about your experience in adopting an environmental management system and any issues you may have faced with this. Tell us about your tips and tricks that have helped your business become more environmentally friendly. Who knows, you may even get featured in an upcoming article!