Principles of environmental management

by CPD - Centre for Professional Development


The Council was formed in 1983 to bring together the chief executives of Australia's major companies to develop a collective chief executive view on important public policy issues including business law and regulation, human resources, and economic matters. The Council currently represents the 80 largest corporations in Australia. A major focus of the Council is Australia's competitiveness within the global market place. The Business Council of Australia has an Environmental Committee consisting of representatives of 14 BCA member companies who have a strong interest in environmental issues. The following information is reproduced with permission from the BCA publication Principles of Environmental Management released in 1992. It clearly states the position of the BCA regarding the environment and - provides a set of guidelines for Australian business to follow. In the Foreword to this publication, the Chairman of the BCA states:

'These Principles have been developed within the overall context of sustainable development which seeks to integrate environmental and economic goals. Implementation of the Principles will help ensure that environmental considerations are properly taken into account in business activities. They provide the Australian corporate sector with broad guidelines and have been developed in full co-operation with Business Council member companies. It is also important that the wider community is aware of the approach being endorsed by Council in regard to environmental issues. The principles, by reflecting the high priority given to the environment by Australian business, go well beyond timely and appropriate responses to the impact of accidents. They cover aspects such as risk and uncertainty and the role and expect-ations of employees, contractors and suppliers.

Principles of Environmental Management Introduction

Industry has proven a major force for change in society through technological improvement and it is also part of industry practice to adapt its operating policies to match the changing expectations and requirements of society. As part of this process, the concept of sustainable development is being incorporated into business operations. Australian business has become increasingly focused on its environ-mental responsibilities. The Business Council, the body which represents the Chief Executive Officers of Australia's major businesses, has taken a keen interest in the various issues which make up the environmental debate. It has now produced a set of guidelines which it believes are appropriate for Australian business to adopt in the pursuit of environmental improvement. The Business Council of Australia has undertaken a series of initiatives in order to assist in the formulation of national and international policy. These have included:

  • Publication of a policy statement in regard to Development and the Environment.
  • A major paper outlining how we might be able to achieve sustainable development, entitled Achieving Sustainable Develop-ment.
  • A detailed approach to the Assessment and Management of Con-taminated Sites.
  • Participation in the Federal Government's Ecologically Sustain-able Development Working Group process.
  • Participation in the development of a National Strategy for the Conservation of Biological Diversity in Australia.
  • Participation in the international negotiations in regard to global climate change and biodiversity in the lead-up to UNCED in Rio in June 1992.
  • Several studies pertinent to Australia's decision on the terms of participation in a global convention on climate change.
  • Submission to the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council in response to a discussion paper on Financial Liability for Contaminated Site Remediation.

These are all very public activities and have contributed to the national environmental debate. However, the most important initiatives undertaken by the Council are those which have occurred within the confines of the Council forum and its member com-panies. Underlying these moves has been the conviction that, as with other aspects of carrying on a business, environmental management is capable of continuous improvement. Closer co-oper-ation with government and the community is part of this process. The Business Council membership is made up of companies which recognise the importance of international competition ? the need to excel in the global market. While competitive advantage can be lost through ineffective and costly regulations, better environmental performance can, in some instances, provide a competitive edge or actually lead to new business opportunities.

On World Environment Day 1991 the Business Council hosted a conference for its member companies around the theme of CORPORATE ENVIRONMENTAL RESPONSIBILITY.  The conference, attended by over 80 senior executives identified the importance of broad cor-porate guidelines in the area of environmental management. That conference was followed by two workshops during 1991, one in Sydney and one in Melbourne. The workshops developed guidelines which have been refined into these


The principles result from intensive discussion with a broad spectrum of companies. They are intended to assist corporate Australia in the ongoing evolution of better environmental practice. The Broad Environmental Context.

The Major Issues

Concern for the environment has emerged as a major global issue during the 1980s and this concern will continue during the next decade and beyond. There may be a diminished public profile as more conventional issues unemployment, health, taxes, housing, education begin to preoccupy the community more, but that does not mean that the environmentally driven pressures on the community, government and companies will decrease. The environment is now on the political agenda throughout the world. Increasing concern shown by the electorate about the quality of their environment has encouraged governments and business to prepare for local and international action. The major issues include:

  • possible climate change;
  • land degradation and the impact of agriculture; (3) air and water quality;
  • loss of habitat, particularly wetlands and forests;
  • biological diversity;
  • waste and problems of its disposal; and
  • depletion of the ozone layer.

International Action

The last two decades have seen governments take action to come to grips with these issues culminating in the major United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in June 1992. Significant international events to date include:

  • The Toronto Conference on the Changing Atmosphere (1988).
  • The Montreal Protocol of Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (1987).
  • The Second World Climate Conference (1990).
  • The Second World Industry Conference on Environmental Management the launch of the International Chamber of Commerce Business Charter for Sustainable Development (WICEM II, 1991).
  • The Formation of the Business Council for Sustainable Development (BCSD) to provide high level business advice to the UNCED ? (1991).

Implications for Business

All companies, like all citizens, are part of the environmental equation. We are all affected by current problems and future challenges. Everyone consumes goods and services which use resources and generate waste. We all have an environmental impact. Many environmental problems seem so large as to be beyond the control of any one company or even an entire nation. But the problems are created by people and the solutions to our environmental problems will come not just from international agreements but from the concerted efforts of governments, businesses (both large and small) and individuals. Inevitably there are costs but there are opportunities as well. Better environmental performance may be achieved through the development of more environmentally sensitive products and technologies. Success in this may create a competitive edge for certain Australian industries.

For example, Australian companies are marketing relatively environmentally benign resources (e.g. low sulphur/high carbon coal). However, if environmental performance is sought through regulations which increase the cost of doing business in Australia, in the absence of such measures overseas, this will undermine the competitiveness of Australian industry. There is a need to concentrate on the further development of sound processing of raw materials to ensure that Australian products gain competitive advantage in an increasingly environmentally conscious market. The challenge for business is to understand the issues, anticipate the requirements, identify the opportunities and act accordingly. Successful companies will be those which manage this process well.

Environmental Management Principles

Australian business should be guided in their operations by an understanding of sustainable development which was defined by the World Commission on Environment and Development (The 'Brundtland Commission') in 1987 as: 'development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs'. Essentially, sustainable development provides a means of integrating environmental and economic goals to produce outcomes that are both environmentally acceptable and cost effective in an economic sense. Business and industry being the chief source of wealth creation in the community has a major role to play in achieving these integrated goals.

Within this context of sustainability Australian business recognises the need to protect the environment. The following principles provide a basis for Australian business to pursue environmentally responsible operations. They may help form-ulate an environmental policy appropriate to individual businesses.

1. Environmental Protection Protect the environment by seeking to reduce any adverse impact of the business's operations and products on air, water, land and living organisms to a level where the cost to society of further reductions are no longer offset by the benefits.

2. Environmental Management

Recognise environmental management as an integral and important corporate priority. The lead on environmental management should come from the top. As with other corporate priorities, Chief Executives need to set objectives and monitor progress. There should be a well-defined management structure. In particular, there should be a clear line of responsibility for the implementation of environmental management. Where necessary, specialist advisors should be employed to assist line management in discharging their responsibilities. The main tasks of senior management include:

  • developing future performance objectives
  • forecasting and assessing challenges and opportunities
  • developing a strategy and preparing contingency plans
  • developing policies
  • delegating responsibilities
  • allocating resources
  • motivating, controlling and co-ordinating.
  • Establish and maintain policies, programs and practices for conducting operations in an environmentally sound manner. In order to do this it may be necessary to conduct an initial environmental review of the company's operations to establish exactly where the company stands with respect to environmental risk. Policy statements vary from short statements of intent to voluminous policy manuals. Ultimately the success or failure of an environmental policy will depend on management's ability to spell out specific objectives for employees.
  • Set clear, measurable and realistic goals for minimising the impact on the environment. Environmental performance indicators should be developed to measure the company's record in terms of, for example, resource efficiency, safety, pollution and nuisance. Environmental Management Plans (EMPs) should be prepared. (The existence of a working EMP will facilitate audit and it should be the major document within which an emergency response plan is located.)
  • Integrate environmental decision making in all aspects of business planning and operations.

3. Performance Assessment

  • Meet or exceed all applicable standards and regulations. Where standards and regulations do not exist, companies should establish standards to restrict adverse environmental impact.
  • Improve environmental performance by taking into account technical developments, scientific understanding, consumer needs and changing legislation.
  • Measure and review environmental performance by conducting regular audits to evaluate progress against set targets and goals, compliance with laws and regulations and implement-ation of these principles.

4. Communication

  • Communicate with government, employees, shareholders, local communities, the general public, the media and environmental groups about the environmental performance of company operations and products. To discuss environ- mental matters with relevant groups.
  • Ensure that customers, distributors, suppliers and the public have information to enable them to transport, store, recycle and dispose of products to minimise environmental impact.
  • Co-operate with industry associations, government agencies, scientific and environmental groups to shape policies and legislation.
  • Participate in educational initiatives and programs to raise environmental awareness and to develop an understanding of the contribution which industry can make to minimise environmental impact.

5. Employee Commitment

  • Educate, train and motivate employees to conduct their activities consistent with these Environmental Management Principles and the company's own policies.
  • Formulate, discuss and agree objectives with various indiv-iduals and operations involved. If appropriate, to allocate environmental objectives and targets to individual employees and make them accountable for the achievement of those objectives.

6. Products and Processes

  • Evaluate relevant company activities scientifically, including the siting of the production facilities, for their impact on the environment, and implement reasonable countermeasures.
  • Give priority (in the research, design and development stages of making a product) to cost effective ways of lessening the possible impact on the environment at each stage of a prod-uct's production, distribution, appropriate use and disposal. To plan all aspects of the production process carefully with regard to the choice of raw materials, their durability, ease of repair and the recycling of parts.
  • Develop, design, build and operate facilities which seek to reduce resource inputs and waste output, consistent with sustainable development criteria.
  • Reduce pollution levels by measures such as good housekeeping, substitution of materials, modifications of product design and process, and resource recovery.

7. Emergency/Contingency Plans

  • Prepare and test emergency response plans for dealing with environmentally damaging incidents and to respond to such incidents by protecting the health of employees, the public and the environment.
  • Ensure that adequate information is given to all concerned parties.

8. Other Parties Encourage contractors, suppliers, business associates and joint venture partners to adopt environmental management policies and practices which are consistent with these principles.

9. Technology and Skills Co-operation Facilitate the transfer of environmentally sound and appropriate technology and management skills to suppliers and customers.

10. Assessment and Management of Environmental Risk

  • Assess, to the extent practicable using available methods and technology, the potential environmental impacts of business operations, products and services so that avoidable environmental problems can be prevented.
  • Take business decisions related to operations, products and services bearing in mind the balanced environmental and economic and social development needs of the community.
  • Establish a policy and strategy to reduce, and, where practic-able, eliminate the discharge of environmentally harmful substances.

The Environmental Audit Guidebook is an informative and practical guidebook which takes you through the many different types of audit, gives you comprehensive checklists to follow, details relevant legislation and helps you achieve your environmental aims. The following outline is an extract from the CPD - Centre for Professional Development looseleaf service.


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