Skip to main content.
Enviropaedia Sponsors and Supporters

Environmental Management

Author: NOSA

( Article Type: Overview )

Environmental management took on real impetus in the aftermath of the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, with further impetus specific to industry and business provided with the publication of the first edition of ISO 14001 in 1996.
The emphasis in the 1990s and early 2000s was predominantly on risk. This included the identification, proper assessment and control of environmental aspects and impacts, compliance to an increasing slew of environmental legislation and adherence to other components necessary to an environmental management system (EMS), such as environmental monitoring and incident reporting.
However, environmental management has come a long way since this breakthrough emergence in the 1990s. Certainly, there is continued importance in being able to properly identify, assess and control environmental impacts, i.e. risk, but this approach is no longer adequate. In short, environmental management has matured and become more sophisticated in recent years. The reasons for this are three-fold, namely climate change, corporate governance and sustainability. Anthropogenic climate change due to global warming has emerged as quite possibly the number one issue of our time. The technical and management systems-related expertise required for climate change management in the adaptation and mitigation thereto has elevated environmental management by sheer necessity. Climate change management is a pressing issue of the now, particularly for those entities that emit large quantities of greenhouse gases.

Corporate governance too has emerged since the early 1990s, and the importance of environmental management has grown exponentially in step with the growth of governance at the highest levels of a company. Environmental management, like that for occupational health and safety, are no longer the preserve of operational management. Today the very strategic decisions made by the Board and executive management of a company must include environmental issues; and good environmental performance is increasingly an important measure of good governance. However, it is sustainability that has taken environmental management to a whole different level within companies right across the private-public sector spectrum.
Triple bottom line considerations, unthinkable twenty years ago, are now normative business practice, especially as sustainability is central to the 2009 King III Code on Corporate Governance in South Africa. Sustainability, driven by international concerns about climate change and environmental degradation, has placed environmental issues at the very centre of any discerning boardroom table. The continued upward momentum of environmental management in any company is both necessary and inevitable.