WHAT IS AN ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY?
An environmental policy is a short statement which lays out your company’s attitude towards the environment. It should recognise that your business impacts upon the environment both through local operations and, more broadly, in terms of raw materials usage, energy usage and discharges. It should set realistic and achievable targets for improvement that are relevant to your company’s activities and practices.
WHY DO I NEED AN ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY?
Regardless of a company's shape, size and business sector, all companies face an ever increasing number of challenges relating to their environmental performance.
There is no specific legal requirement for an environmental policy, although there is a vast range of environmental legislation which may affect your company (with differing legislation in differing parts of the UK) and an environmental policy is the best way of demonstrating that your company has a clear intent to comply with this legislation.
In order to achieve this, the policy should include:
1. A statement of commitment to reduce environmental impact.
2. A clear outline of all staff responsibilities.
3. How the policy should be communicated to all relevant stakeholders.
4. An identification of your company’s environmental aspects (e.g. the company’s activities, products and services which can interact with the environment).
5. Whether any legislation is relevant to your environmental aspects.
6. A framework for reducing environmental impact.
7. Clear achievable targets.
8. How progress will be monitored and audited.
Your environmental policy should be a live management resource and the lynchpin of your company environmental management system (EMS). The policy should be reviewed and audited annually with a target towards continuous improvement.
WHAT IS AN ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT SYSTEM (EMS)?
In addition to the environmental policy, an environmental management system should include:
1. ENVIRONMENTAL PROCEDURES
You need to create an Environmental Aspect Register which includes:
i) A list of environmental aspects.
ii) The environmental impacts of these aspects (each environmental aspect may have more than one environmental impact).
iii) An assessment of their significance.
Remember that some environmental aspects may be influenced by people and organisations outside your own company. For example, packaging sent by your suppliers may become part of your own waste stream.
Your EMS needs to include the procedures your company follows in order to address the environmental aspects both in normal and ‘abnormal’ conditions such as emergencies.
Such procedures include:
i) Waste management.
ii) Energy management.
iii) Fuel use management.
iv) Water use management.
v) Effluent disposal management.
vi) Use of natural resources.
vii) Emergency preparedness and response.
Please note: the above is not an exhaustive list.
The procedures should be supported with documents which ensure their implementation such as:
i) For normal operations: work instructions, planned preventative maintenance plans, training etc.
ii) For ‘Abnormal’ operations: inspection checklists for the integrity of bunds, spill kits which are available to trained staff etc.
A log of these documents should be contained within a Document Index in your company EMS.
2. A LEGAL REGISTER
i) Details of relevant environmental legislation.
ii) Details of what your company needs to do to comply with the legislation.
iii) Evidence of auditing and compliance.
3. OBJECTIVES AND TARGETS
Objectives and targets are established to monitor, control and reduce significant environmental aspects.
Each target may be split into a series of tasks within a management programme and progress should be tracked in a simple table.
4. MONITORING AND MEASUREMENT DATA
Monitoring and measurement data can be used to demonstrate progress and can be as simple as taking regular meter readings and comparing against the previous years’ benchmark or consumption prior to and after a specific environmental campaign (e.g. energy reductions following a ‘switch-off’ campaign).
5. EVIDENCE OF AUDIT AND REVIEW
This is essential to keep the EMS functioning and set on achieving its objectives, helps maintain commitment, and raise issues with progress.
It is essential that you involve staff with the EMS and communicate any changes to them.