What is a business environmental management plan?
A business environmental management plan is a list of actions or activities that a business intends to undertake to address the environmental impacts of its operations. In general, an environmental management plan is designed to achieve a business environmental objectives/goals for the purpose of improving its environmental performance.
The action-list of an environmental management plan can take the form of programmes, strategies, process or technology implementation and so on.
What does an environmental management plan contain?
Apart from being a list of actions or activities of how a business intends to address environmental issues (associated to its operations) to achieve its environmental goals, an environmental management plan highlights the resources that are to be used by the business to achieve the aforementioned goals. Also, the persons and/or team responsible for each environmental action or activity are stated explicitly in the environmental management plan. Furthermore, the timeframe, contingency and monitoring plans for each environmental action or activity are stated in an environmental management plan.
What are the drivers of business environmental plans?
The drivers of an environmental management plan will vary from one business location to another. However, the points listed and explained below are generic ones that apply to many businesses irrespective of their locations.
Environmental Regulations: Local, regional and national authorities are increasingly enacting laws for the preservation and protection of the environment due to increasing climate change concerns. As a result, businesses are required to comply with them or face the risks of being penalised or prosecuted. In a bid to avoid penalties or prosecution, businesses are increasingly developing environmental management plans to manage their environmental compliance obligations to ensure they are regulatory compliant with environmental regulations.
Stakeholders’ Sustainability Concerns: Stakeholders’ (such as customers) environmental concerns are rising due to climate change issues and these have led them to start to compel companies to operate in an eco-friendly way. Companies are aware that they risk losing their customers if they do not operate in an eco-friendly way. As a result, businesses are increasingly developing and implementing environmental management plans to ensure that all stakeholders’ sustainability concerns are addressed and managed within their operations.
Profitability: There is an increasing need for businesses to reduce operating costs and improve profitability due to the global economic downturn. Environmental management plans do help businesses to be resource efficient, thereby saving them operating costs and improving their profitability.
Why is an environmental management plan good for small businesses?
The benefits for a small business that develops and implements an environmental management plan are closely related to the drivers mentioned earlier in section 3. In general, the use of an environmental management plan can produce social, economic and environmental benefits for small businesses in many ways.
Socially, an environmental management plan helps small businesses to improve their reputation and public profile. This is because businesses with environmental management plans are able to easily comply with environmental regulations and achieve compliance obligations. Also, such businesses tend to have lower operating risks.
Economically, small businesses with environmental management plans operate in a resource efficient way and use less resources, thereby saving money. Also, the risk of them getting fined is lower compared to businesses without environmental management plans.
Environmentally, environmental management plans help small businesses to reduce their negative environmental impacts such as greenhouse gas emissions, air, and land and water pollution, leading to a cleaner environment for all.
Developing an environmental management plan
There are five major things that small businesses would need to do to develop an environmental management plan.
- Identify your significant environmental aspects and impacts
The first thing businesses need to do is to determine their environmental aspects and impacts. A business environmental aspects are its activities, products and services that have the potential of interfering with the environment. For example, the storage of oil in a business building is a business activity that can create oil spills and cause water pollution. The environmental aspect here is the storage of oil in the business building and the environmental impact of it would be water pollution. In general, businesses would identify the environmental aspects and impacts that are significant only.
- Identify the risks and opportunities of your significant environmental Impacts
Once the significant environmental impacts have been identified, the risks and opportunities associated with them have to be analysed. The risks and opportunities can be thought of as potential adverse deviations from the expected (threats) or potential beneficial deviations from the expected (opportunities).
- Identify your business internal and external environmental issues and/or conditions
Apart from identifying the risks and opportunities associated with a business significant environmental impact, both internal and external environmental issues and/or conditions that have the potential of affecting a business environmental performance should also be analysed. For example, a business location might be prone to flooding and this would constitute one of its external environmental conditions. Likewise, internal issues such as employees’ environmental awareness are business internal issues that can affect a business environmental performance. For example, the lack of environmental awareness on the part of employees could hinder a business environmental performance and such would constitute one of its internal environmental issues.
- Identify your environmental regulations
One important thing that a business should do when constituting an environmental management plan is to identify all environmental regulations that govern its entire operation. Businesses are mandated to comply with all environmental regulations as non-compliance with them could have serious negative consequences for them. For example, a non-compliant business could be fined or closed down. As a result, a business should implement measures can help it to fulfil its entire environmental obligation to become regulatory compliant.
- Identify your past and current complaints and incidents
Some businesses do receive complaints from customers, neighbours, suppliers and so on environmental issues. Also, environmental incidents such as accidental spills are recorded by some businesses. A list of past and current of complaints as well as incidents that are environmental in nature that a business has witnessed should be compiled and the business should endeavour to address them within the environmental management plan.
It is noteworthy that a simple way of undertaking steps 1-5 is through a business environmental audit. This is more of an investigative and analysis exercise where all issues pertaining to the aforementioned sub-sections are reviewed by the business.
The environmental management plan
Once a business has identified its significant environmental impacts, risks and opportunities associated with its significant environmental impacts, environmental regulations, internal and external environmental issues as well as past and current records of environmental complaints and incidents, the business would be required to implement an action plan to control them.
Requisites of an environmental action plan
To establish an environmental management action plan, the business concerned would need to develop the following items:
The business concerned would need to establish environmental objectives that seek to address all identified significant environmental impacts, risks and opportunities associated with its significant environmental impacts, environmental regulations, its internal and external environmental issues as well as past and current records of environmental complaints and incidents. The business would need to review these environmental issues and set environmental objectives to manage and improve them. Top management should set environmental objectives.
Each environmental objective would need to have well laid down procedures and/or activities in place for achieving it. These procedures are things that a business intend to do to manage its environmental issues (to achieve its environmental objective) and improve its environmental performance.
The action plan must identify and state the persons and/or team responsible for each environmental procedure and/or activity. The persons and/or team expertise should be considered and the business should ensure that experienced staff and/or team manage each task.
The action plan should clarify and state explicitly the timeframe for the completion of each activity. These are the start and end dates of each activity.
The action plan should have routines for monitoring the progress (of the action plan) towards the delivery of the business environmental objectives.
The only thing that is certain in business operations is uncertainty. We all know that risk is inevitable in businesses. As a result, there should be contingency plans in place in the event that a business activity fails or encounters difficulties. The contingency plan should state how each difficulty would be resolved.
How can a business achieve its environmental management plan?
A business can achieve its action plan by simply carrying the whole workforce along and by ensuring everyone is involved in it. Also, businesses need to train the persons responsible for the management of each activity to ensure they have the right skill set to deliver the objectives of the action plan.
How is an environmental management plan monitored?
An action plan is monitored by reviewing the performance of all environmental procedures and/or activities in relation to the environmental objectives from time-to-time. This is done to detect early faults or issues and to ensure that such issues are rectified as early as possible. For example, a business that manages harmful oily substances could choose to carry out site surveys every week to inspect the company’s site to ensure that there are no signs of oil spills in its operations.
Record keeping and environmental management plans?
When a business implements an environmental action plan, the business would need to keep records of all notable developments associated with its environmental action plan. Some common records are faults, incidents and compliant records. This will be used to review the performance of the action plan to make improvements to it.
How can the success of a business environmental management plan be known?
The simple way to gauge the success of a business environmental management plan is to develop key performance indicators from the onset. Industry or in-house standards can be used to develop indicators to gauge the performance of an action plan. For example, if a business activity is to reduce waste, the business could set an in-house target to produce no more than 20 tonnes of waste per annum and this data could be used to gauge the performance of the action plan in the area of waste.
How is an action plan improved?
As discussed earlier, an action plan should have a timeframe. At the end of the timeframe, top management should review the success of the business environmental objectives and activities. The business environmental performance indicators need to be analysed to ascertain whether or not the business was successful in meeting its environmental objectives. In the event that a business is successful in meeting its objectives, top management should look at how the business environmental performance can be maintained going forward. Likewise, in the event that a business is not able to deliver its environmental objectives, top management should look for the root cause of the problem and implement improvement measures going forward.
It is imperative to note that businesses are not compelled to wait until the end of the timeframe of an action plan before maintaining its progress or implementing improvement measure to any problem encountered, the action plan review can be done at any time by top management.
As you can see, an environmental management plan (EMP) is essential for any environmentally responsible business. Developing an EMP doesn’t need to be complicated, but it does need to cover all potential environmental issues associated with your business. Trade Wash can assist with helping you develop an effective EMP, for more information feel free to contact us.