Have you noticed how companies that make it into the news are almost always about something they've done wrong? Rarely do we see companies getting kudos for operating in an environmentally responsible way. Remember it takes one ‘oh no!’ incident to erase a thousand ‘atta boys!’ In other words, one slip in effective environmental management can cost a company dearly. This is why I’ve decided to write this blog.
Responsible environmental management is usually not an overwhelming task (depending on what you get up to) and to help you make sure the basics are covered, I’ve put together some essential considerations.
Let’s start by defining environmental responsibility – i.e. managing an operation in a way which is compliant with environmental legislation and in line with ‘best practice’. This is taking into account technological, financial and practical limitations to limit any negative impacts on the land, air or water.
The benefits of environmentally responsible management are legal compliance, risk reduction, improved reputation and saving you some ‘cold, hard cash’ in the long run.
Down the drain
If you haven’t done so already, take a walk around your company. Talk to the engineers (if you’re not one) and look for waste water which could be getting down the drain. This isn’t usually a massive pipe in the back of a factory pumping neon, green toxic waste into a babbling brook, but can be something as simple as the routine washing of vehicles.
It’ll be very important to make sure you have a site drainage map for your site which will show you where the drains go – this’ll usually be either fresh water or the local water treatment facility. Once you understand what you’re putting down the drain and where your drains lead, you can take appropriate measures to manage waste water responsibly.
Storage of chemicals
If you store oils and chemicals on your site, you have a few things to think about. A good starting point is to review the chemicals and quantities on site. You’ll need to understand how chemicals can impact the environment and make decisions based on this. Your safety data sheets should tell you everything you need to know.
Once you have your head around what’s on site and what could happen to the environment if there was a loss of containment, then go about checking that chemicals are suitably stored, e.g. properly labelled, safety data sheets are available, there’s dedicated storage areas, containers and bunds are inspected and maintained.
The waste hierarchy
This one is very straightforward. The trick here’s to make sure you manage things in a
way that minimises the quantities of waste produced, reuses items whenever possible, uses materials to make new ones, properly disposes of waste and tries to identify ways to recover energy from waste. To put it concisely, we all need to: reduce, reuse, recycle, recover energy and suitably dispose of our waste.
To boil down this blog to its key message - we all need to safeguard the environment in which we operate to remain legally compliant and environmentally responsible. Water and waste are the usual suspects, but not a comprehensive list.
So, as you work towards improving environmental management keep an eye out for any activity that can impact the air, land or water around you.