An Environmental Policy is a statement outlining your business’s environmental strategy and the driving force behind your objectives. It should include time-related targets and a measurable management programme.
With the environment being a topic constantly in the news, it is no wonder that many supply chains and tenders require an environmental policy to be in place. For additional weight, many organisations formalise their policy with the environmental management standard ISO 14001 (where an environmental policy is mandatory). For a public facing company, having a policy in place demonstrates to customers and your organisation’s other stakeholders that you’re both responsible and committed with regards to your environmental impact.
Your organisation’s environmental policy should be formed by management, but it’s certainly worth including all staff at the ideas stage too. After all, your staff are stakeholders in the organisation, including them may prove motivational, turning your policy into positive action.
Benefits of an Environmental Policy
A well written environmental policy has many benefits. It helps your organisation to:
- Meet current environmentally related legislation.
- Save money in terms of consumption, waste and recycling.
- Reduce chances of incidents resulting in liability.
- Differentiate you from the competition.
- Improve reputation with stakeholders.
In order to work as well as it can, an environmental policy should be part of the overall business strategy. It is also important to assess your policy, ideally through external verification (ISO 14001). By being assessed independently, your policy is far more credible and reliable.
An in-house risk assessment should bring to light most issues. How does your organisation affect the environment and what risks face it? You can check industry related laws by checking the Government’s NetReg’s website.
No two policies are exactly the same, as there isn’t an agreed set layout on how you should write one. The key is to have a environmental policy that is both easy to understand and that clearly states the organisation’s aims and objectives, similar to a Mission Statement. It doesn’t need to be longer than a single page.
If your organisation is keen to become part of a supply chain, or is already part of one, it’s worthwhile trying to obtain policies from key customers so your statements can reflect their own requirements.
A good environmental policy allows management to communicate its aims and objectives to employees, shareholders, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders. All goals should be measurable, realistic and have accountable actions with deadlines.
Your environmental policy should outline:
- The organisation’s mission and information about its operations.
- A commitment to continually improve and monitor environmental performance.
- A commitment to managing your environmental impacts.
- Your compliance with relevant environmental legislation (as a minimum).
- Your expectations from suppliers and sub-contractors.
- A commitment to employee awareness and training.
Your policy could be categorised by different business activities, such as:
- Choosing like-minded suppliers.
- Energy usage (incl. water).
- Recycling and waste management.
- Use of stationary and other goods.
To help you get started writing your own environmental policy, you can see links to the policies of well known organisations below:
There are also numerous policy templates available on the internet, such as the one available from Sustainable Business Toolkit.
Once your environmental policy has been finished and signed off by senior management, you should distribute it to all employees as well as your customers.
Maintaining your environmental policy
KEEPING ON TOP
As already mentioned, the aim of continually seeking to improve environmental performance should be part of your policy. Regular walk-arounds (at least twice a year) of your premises should be carried out in order to see if you are using energy and water efficiently, detailing whether measures to reduce waste and pollution are so far effective. You can read our Eco Friendly Office Guide for more ideas.
Be sure to involve employees in the policy review process. If employees are expected to deliver on environmental policy commitments, they may be a good source of ideas for improvements.
Bear in mind that if your business activities or operations change significantly, the policy may need to be amended. The walk-around will provide an opportunity to set more specific targets. If your policy does change, make sure your staff can read the latest version by making it available on your intranet or website.
A justification for getting your environmental policy externally verified is that, if not kept up-to-date, it becomes meaningless. If your policy says that you are taking your environmental responsibilities seriously and you fail to back this up, you may face questions over the quality of operations in other parts of your organisation. This could tarnish your reputation both customers and suppliers. Getting your policy checked ensures that doesn’t happen.
All organisations have suppliers. Use your influence as a client to encourage suppliers and contractors to uphold similar environmental standards, you may even want to make it a requirement if you have significant weight.
You could integrate your green message into your marketing materials, encouraging customers to adopt a similar ethos. By communicating your aims and objectives, it may even bring your organisation more work.