About environmental policies

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By Michelle Groothedde, 6th June 2022

In this article, Travelife for Accommodation explains why policies are so important and how to get started with writing an environmental policy for your business.

Policies are written statements that describe organisational commitments, objectives and operational norms.  Whether they relate to labour, human rights, safety or the environment, a policy can say a lot about what an organisation stands for, what is important to them and where it sits on issues that may be important to staff, customers, their local community and any other stakeholders.   Policies can also provide documents that help demonstrate compliance with legislation, industry guidelines and best practices.  And because policies provide a common form of reference that the company agreed to, they can be useful with making decisions, solving problems and handling complaints.

It therefore follows that any organisation wanting to improve their environmental impacts should have a robust environmental policy describing their environmental commitments, goals and objectives.  This important document will form the foundation of their environmental work so should be carefully considered, agreed by senior manager and easily available to all stakeholders so they can see how the organisation is addressing environmental issues, as well as how they can support the organisation’s efforts. 

The policy serves as the foundation of your environmental work, so needs careful consideration and board level buy-in.

Assessing impacts and opportunities

A good environmental policy outlines how the business reduces, minimises, and manages its impact on the environment.  So before writing a policy, an organisation needs to properly assess how it impacts the following areas:

Climate change

How it contributes and how it can eliminate greenhouse gas emissions

Resource use

How it consumes natural resources such as water, and how it can minimise the impacts of this consumption

Protecting biodiversity

How it impacts ecosystems through things like pollution, habitat encroachment and procurement.  How it can do to better to protect and support biodiversity

All businesses should be working on reducing greenhouse gas emissions so the actions that will be taken to achieve this should be outlined.  Where other negative impacts have been established, the environmental policy should state how you will work to mitigate those impacts.  A truly responsible business will be proactive and look for ways to contribute something positive to society and the environment.  For example, donating profits or time to support a local conservation initiative or investing in research and development for renewable energies.

Core policy components

Now that the focus has been established, a policy should be written that includes at least the following components:

A general statement of commitment, which shows the business understands the impact its operations have on the environment, and expresses its commitment in reducing, managing, and minimising this impact.

Specific, measurable, and achievable environmental objectives and goals that the organisation is publicly committing to.

Steps the business is taking to meet the commitment and to achieve each goal and objective. These should explain how the organisation, and therefore it’s staff, controls impacts and this is often done by writing them as ‘do’s’ and ‘don’t’ s’.

A process for senior management to approve the policy, ensuring a statement is included within the policy confirming this, and providing a signature.  It is also important to regularly review the environmental policy to ensure it is still relevant to all aspects of the business and make changes accordingly if necessary. Every time the policy is tweaked or updated, it should be reviewed, signed, and dated by senior management again.

Making the policy available to your stakeholders

After it has been reviewed, signed, and dated, the environmental policy should be translated in any relevant languages so that all staff, your community and the majority of customers can understand it.  It should be made easily available to the general public and any stakeholders that would benefit from reading the policy. For example, the policy could be published on the website, the staff intranet and perhaps posted in the reception area.

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