A couple of decades ago, industry Environmental Managers (EM) reviewed and interpreted regulations, permit requirements, and reporting obligations and educated their operations personnel on requirements from the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. As usual, time flies, and those major pieces of environmental legislation are more than 50 years old now, and much of the framework remains unchanged. There have also been advances in the best control technologies and great strides in automated record keeping and reporting, enabling us as environmental compliance professionals to be more efficient and offering “clear skies” regarding a manageable workload. Sure, occasional exceedances, deviations, or releases require a four-alarm fire drill as an appropriate response or the integration of the most recent ISO 14001 version release. Still, for the most part, times were good.
Sustainability changes everything.
Environmental Managers read press releases from CEOs making bold claims that their company is adopting “zero” carbon or “net neutral” goals without a real baseline carbon inventory or a roadmap for accomplishing such aggressive measures. Not to say that setting stretch targets are a “bad thing.” On the contrary, they are good targets that improve environmental stewardship for companies that may not otherwise focus on such activities. John F. Kennedy’s famous “We choose to go to the Moon” speech set a bold target for landing on the moon, stretching our space program to new limits.
Meeting the New Challenge
The challenge for you, the EM, comes into play when the responsibility of this relatively new sustainability practice is now on your desk. Larger companies are hiring Sustainability Directors at a record pace which is vital to the planning and programming of new sustainability initiatives. But even then, there are situations where EMs are responsible for implementation and retrofitting plans or projects that are conceptual in nature. And if you don’t have the luxury of a Sustainability Director to lean on, you now have the additional responsibility of developing road maps and strategies.
Where can an Environmental Manager focus on impactfully?
After concluding your version of the Serenity Prayer, we suggest starting in these three areas:
These steps will go a long way toward planning, programming, and launching sustainability initiatives with measurable results. Environmental Managers are making a difference by collaborating with operations to convert sustainable ideas and goals into reality. SCS works with large and small public and private entities to support their actions.
About the Author: Steven D. Stewart, P.E. PMP, SCS Engineers. Project Director. LinkedIn. I look forward to hearing, ‘One small step for man, one giant leap for Environmental Managers.’ If you need help with your sustainability program, don’t hesitate to contact us at SCS Engineers. Look for Steve this week at the GreenBiz 2023.