Many business owners recognise that environmental damage caused by their operations is a significant business risk. Damage to the local water supply and ecosystems from chemical spills or mishandling of hazardous waste can result in immediate costs and long term legal and compensation costs. An environmental incident could result in loss of finance from banks and investors, loss of customer loyalty and damage your community profile or even personal injury or death.
Managing the impact your business may have on the physical environment relies on a range of activities such as taking accurate samples and measurements, planning your risk management and mitigation approach and doing regular audits and checks.
Your environmental management initiatives will often dovetail with other activities including risk management.
You might need to set up water management procedures which will include the correct handling and storage of chemicals and fuels to prevent spills to wetlands and storm water systems. Minimising water use and finding ways to capture and re-use water may be part of your efficiency improvements.
If you want to target dust as a factor in air quality your environmental management activities might focus on using wind breaks, using watering systems or enclosures or even stopping work in high winds.
Or you may want to investigate water treatment options such as filters, settlers, skimmers, reverse osmosis and ultraviolet treatment. These can help to maximise your water re-use, prevent contamination to water supply and to reduce concentrations discharged to trade waste.
You might need to remediate or rehabilitate a site that has been affected by your operations. This might include reconstructing the landscape by filling in pits, remediating the soil quality and re-establishing vegetation. Treatment for contaminated groundwater might include chemical or biological remediation techniques and physical barriers to prevent further spread of the contamination.
If your operations generate contaminated water or if you burn waste materials, you might decide to take air, water or soil samples to test for any contamination and to identify the source of a problem. This may assist you to improve your waste disposal or water capture procedures. Or it might show that a problem is not related to your operations. You might take baseline data and regular readings so that you can identify an incident as soon as it occurs or to monitor the level and rate of a problem over time.
Managing your performance
There are many areas where you might apply environmental monitoring and control strategies to support your business sustainability. Things to think about include:
- Conducting risk assessments of your routine operational processes and special projects to help manage the business risks from possible environmental damage, legal costs and compensation
- Identifying and applying any regulations and reporting requirements for your business
- Using voluntary codes and schemes to help establish systems for measuring, managing and monitoring potential impact on air, soil and water quality and local ecosystems
- Making strategic decisions about avoiding, minimising or mitigating potential environmental damage from your operations
- Employing specialists or upskilling existing personnel to undertake sampling, measurement and calculations of environmental indicators for monitoring, remediation and mitigation activities.