The Environmental Policy: The First Step Towards a Green Business

The Environmental Policy - The first step toward a green businessToday, there is a growing demand for companies to demonstrate a responsible approach to business. In 2010, David Cameron announced that he wanted the Government to be the greenest ever. In fact, the Government have been making ambitious plans to become ‘greener’ for some years, with the London 2012 Olympics organisers for example declaring they planned to deliver the greenest Olympics ever back in 2007.

With Government spending over £200 billion on procurement a year, for them to deliver on their green goals, they must involve their supply chain. As a result, within Pre Qualification Questionnaires (PQQs) for tenders, an Environmental Policy is expected as the bare minimum. This affects SMEs directly, when they bid for central and local Government contracts themselves, and also when they are looking for sub-contracting work from a larger supplier that has had to enforce their own environmental requirements.

Creating an Environmental Policy provides the perfect opportunity to review if your day-to-day activities are both environmentally responsible and meet legal requirements. It also helps to keep employees informed of their environmental roles and responsibilities, lowers cost through reduced consumption and waste and helps save even more money by improving the efficiency of your processes.

Beyond internal operations, demonstrating a commitment to managing your environmental impact can help improve your reputation with existing clients and other stakeholders. You never know, in an ever more challenging financial climate, your environmental credentials could be the difference between winning work with a new client, or not.

The importance of buy-in

Many businesses can and do simply produce an Environmental Policy simply to satisfy a tender requirement. But as demonstrated by the potential benefits mentioned above, this would be wasting a great opportunity.

For an Environmental Policy to have full affect, integration into the business is essential, as is buy-in from the top down. A way of improving general staff engagement is by incorporating environmental responsibility into their inductions and job roles.

To help integrate the Environmental Policy into the day-to-day running of the organisation, include a review of the policy, where you review any progress and developments, within management meetings. Approaching your environmental performance just like any Key Performance Indicator (KPI) is the way to do things.

Bringing awareness and responsibility to your policy can be achieved by integrating any developments within any internal communications.

Creating your policy

Put simply, an Environmental Policy is a statement outlining your business’ environmental strategy and the driving force behind your objectives. It should include time-related targets and a measurable management programme, which should result in effective implementation.

An in-house risk assessment should bring to light most issues. Ask yourself how your organisation’s existence and output affects the environment and what risks face it? You can check industry related laws by checking the Government’s Environmental Agency website.

Although your organisation’s environmental policy should be formed by management, 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.

There isn’t an agreed set layout on how you should write an Environmental Policy. The key is to have a policy that is both easy to understand and that clearly states the organisation’s aims and objectives, similar to a Mission Statement. It needn’t be longer than a single page.

A tip for any organisation keen to become part of a supply chain is to try to obtain policies from key customers so your statements can reflect their requirements.

An effective 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 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.
  • 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.
  • Transportation.

To help you get started writing your own environmental policy, you can see links to the policies of well known organisations below.

Once your environmental policy has been finished and signed off by senior management, you should distribute it to all employees.
Influencing others

All organisations have suppliers. You can 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 to do business with you.

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.

Gaining credibility

With the environment being a topic constantly in the news, it’s no wonder that many supply chains and government contracts require an environmental policy to be in place. Some go further, asking for proof of third-party certification to a recognised environmental standard, like ISO 14001. Ultimately, by being assessed independently, your policy is far more credible and reliable. It also saves the buyer wasting resources investigating environmental credentials, whereas ISO 14001 is internationally recognised, so bypasses that need.

This article was written by our business expert Robert Fenn of The British Assessment Bureau, an ISO 14001 certification body.

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