NEBOSH is back with their regular guest column, helping us understand the management of environmental risk.
The company I work for is becoming increasingly aware of the impact our activity has on the environment. I have been asked to take responsibility for managing and minimising that impact – how can I find out more about the management of environmental risk?
Good environmental management is vital. Businesses, particularly those operating in manufacturing and process industries, can have a significant impact on the environment; it is essential that they do all they can to act consciously and minimise and mitigate any potentially harmful activities they undertake.
A secondary benefit of positive environmental management is that, through the efficient use of resources, businesses can also save significant amounts of money. A 2014 report by the Institute of Environmental Management & Assessment (IEMA) estimated that there could be a “£23billion a year reward available to UK organisations through low or no cost actions to manage resources more efficiently”1. It goes on to state that “80% of these potential benefits will be gained by using raw materials more efficiently and minimising waste”.
A final, compelling argument in favour of actively managing a business’s environmental impact is that the costs associated with negative environmental incidents are growing rapidly. It is becoming increasingly commonplace for companies to be prosecuted for causing preventable incidents and, if found guilty, the fines can run to millions of pounds. That’s on top of the damage to the business’s reputation and the conflict it can cause with the local community and environmental pressure groups.
So, there is clearly a need for someone within an organisation to take responsibility for developing and delivering the environmental policies and management systems needed. If you’re not familiar with the field of environmental management, this can seem like a daunting task. However, there are various qualifications out there that could provide you with the knowledge you need to make a positive contribution.
When Catherine Casey took on the role of UDG Healthcare’s Global Group Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) Lead, she was faced with a more extensive environmental regulatory framework compared to her roles in EHS in the UK. UDG Healthcare employs over 9,000 people, has 3 divisions Ashfield, Sharp and Aquilant that offer commercial, clinical, communications and packaging services to the healthcare industry, with operations in 24 countries and delivering services in over 50 countries. Given the breadth of the organisation it was vital that Catherine was fully up to speed with the latest environmental management best practice. Completion of the NEBOSH National Diploma in Environmental Management aided this role transition.
The diploma focuses on the management of environmental risk in relation to the damage caused by work activities and comes highly recommended – a recent survey of successful NEBOSH Environmental Diploma students showed that over 96% of them would recommend the qualification to others. It covers topics ranging from the principles of managing and controlling environmental risk, the implementation of environmental management systems, understanding relevant legislation and liabilities and how to deal with environmental hazards and resources.
Catherine explains: “At UDG Healthcare, environmental management is coupled with health and safety management. I feel very strongly that environmental, health and safety should be built into our culture; an area of focus for me is linking the environment management with our health and safety programme so that it’s engrained into our culture.”
To help achieve this, Catherine developed a company-wide environmental policy, which is linked to the best practice she learned about while studying for her Diploma in Environmental Management. The policy was launched on World Environment Day, followed by some training for all of UDG Healthcare’s EHS team. Catherine says: “I want our team to feel confident sharing best practice, policies and procedures. Because our EHS team is global, a lot of them work in isolation. It is important to me that they feel a sense of being part of a team and having a support network – which in turn helps strengthen our EHS culture.”
Furthermore, she is continually working with the team to identify areas of environmental improvement and to champion achievements and successes of staff from across the business.
For people with an EHS remit, there are many opportunities where environmental initiatives can go hand-in-hand with health and safety. For example, Catherine and her team have looked at driver safety – by improving people’s approach to driving, the company can both better protect its employees and improve its carbon reduction performance. She expands: “We have developed a committee to look at the policy and we have joined an external organisation to provide us with impartial, third-party input.”
Thanks to her Diploma in Environmental Management, Catherine feels confident that she has built on her existing knowledge and it has enabled her to develop new processes and procedures. She sums up: “If you are in an EHS career you have to accept the fact that you’re going to have to consistently and constantly learn”.