Many pertinent environmental issues have quickly expanded into the sphere of social issues. Examples of these issues include single-use plastics, climate change, and waste production.
This trend of environmental issues becoming more widely talked about social issues indicates that stakeholders and consumers are paying more attention to the environmental attitude and performance of businesses across all sectors. This scrutiny can act as an encouragement for organisations to approach environmental management differently.
Reactive environmental management
Historically, organisations have taken a reactive approach to environmental management. Reactive environmental management can be defined as end-of-pipe solutions that do not require top management involvement or the involvement of external experts and/or large capital investment.
This approach to environmental management is, as a minimum, compliance with environmental legislation and the implementation of environmental activities to achieve short-term goals. These short-term goals may include improved waste management and improved energy efficiency.
Proactive environmental management
A more effective approach to environmental management is for organisations to be proactive. Proactive environmental management is the implementation of practices and initiatives that reach beyond the minimum level of legal compliance.
Organisations that pursue proactive environmental management intend to improve environmental performance as well as maintain legal compliance. A few examples of proactive environmental management are the implementation of an accredited environmental management system; the replacement of an unsustainable material with a sustainable alternative; and innovative manufacturing practices.
Importance of proactive environmental management
Various outcomes highlight the importance of proactive environmental management. These include the avoidance of legal prosecution and top management involvement.
Through the implementation of proactive environmental management, an organisation eliminates the possibility of prosecution by the Environment Agency or other regulatory bodies. By remaining aware of environmental practices and actively looking for opportunities to improve environmental performance, organisations should have knowledge and understanding of their legal compliance and awareness of potential legislative changes.
Proactive environmental management also guarantees the involvement of top management. This is important because it sets an example and working standard for all employees – a foundation for good practice. It highlights an organisation’s commitment to being an industry leader in environmental management, demonstrates that environmental management is not a marginal activity, and encourages all employees to consider the environmental impact of the organisation’s activities, products and services.
Benefits to your business
In addition to its importance, proactive environmental management is also incredibly beneficial to organisations. Proactive management means that organisations are always trying to identify ways to improve environmental performance. Often, this means staying ahead of changes to environmental legislation (emission limits and pollution charges), providing more eco-friendly products, positive public relations, and long-term capital gain.
Proactive environmental management can also translate into an increase in productivity and efficiency by identifying environmental problems early and addressing them before they can negatively impact the business.
Cultivating a culture of proactive environmental management – as opposed to reactive environmental management – within an organisation offers potential competitive advantages, long-term financial benefits and improved environmental performance.
Can you see the importance and the benefits of a proactive approach to environmental management?