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What is an Environmental Manager?

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  • Written By: Brendan McGuigan
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 01 November 2016
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An environmental manager is a person who looks after a region of the world in regards to how humans can interact with it sustainably. An environmental manager may work for a private enterprise, a non-profit organization, or a governmental body to help ensure long-term survival of a natural environment and its resources. An environmental manager has many responsibilities, including generating and disbursing funds, creating project goals and implementing them, recruiting personnel, and dealing with interactions between various groups and organizations.

There are a number of different environmental management standards (EMS) used by an environmental manager to do his or her job. The most common is the ISO 14001 standard, which is a comprehensive standard to assess risk management in environmental areas. Other standards tend to be geared towards simplifying the ISO 14001, while retaining its most vital elements. Some popular alternatives include the Natural Step standard, the Natural Capital standard used by the World Bank, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) standards, and the Green Dragon EMS.

One can look at environmental management as addressing two main concerns, which have a fair amount of overlap. The first is the large body of legal environmental requirements necessary to do business in most developed nations. The second is the group of extra-legal environmental concerns that may be pursued for a number of practical or ideological reasons.

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The body of environmental protections, which have been put into place in most developed nations since at least the 1960s are quite massive, and navigating them can be difficult for many businesses. An environmental manager has a comprehensive understanding of the law as it relates to his or her industry, and helps the company maintain its integrity in the eyes of the law as it undertakes new endeavors. This person also tracks laws as they are passed, to ensure that the company continues to remain in compliance.

Some companies pursue environmental sustainability that exceeds the legal obligations placed upon them. They may do this in order to generate a positive public image, to receive funds available to those who meet certain environmental criteria, and for ideological reasons. An environmental manager, in this case, can help the company minimize its costs, while maximizing the degree to which it can help protect the natural world.

Different managers may work in many different capacities and biomes. Some may be charged with protecting timber resources, others with protecting mineral resources. Some may look after air quality in a region, while others may look at fisheries, and strive to ensure populations never decline below a certain level. They may work with corporations that extract resources, or they may work for non-profits helping to keep those same corporations in check.

Ultimately, however, the job of an environmental manager is not to protect the natural world for its own sake, as might be the case with some environmentalists. Rather, this person is charged with creating a sustainable system in which humans can continue to enjoy the resources made available by the natural world in perpetuity, without destroying the resource base through unsustainable practices. In this sense, an environmental manager can be seen as a resource manager, undertaking his or her mission first and foremost for the good of humanity, with benefits to the natural world coming as a positive side effect.

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