Environmental management is a broad career and the term can be used to refer to a range of different jobs in different organisations. We refer here in particular to the technicians and professionals responsible for implementing environmental management plans in a production landscape or at development sites such as mines, construction sites for power stations or wind turbines, or at forestry plantations.
The environmental manager must ensure that environmental laws or regulations are not contravened, and that companies do not cause unnecessary soil erosion, damage to wetlands or pollution of water sources, and when they do damage the environment, that they take action to restore ecosystems and their functions effectively, e.g. replace plants that have been removed. Environmental managers are also appointed to lead sustainability reporting for companies listed on the stock exchange, to demonstrate that they comply with the country’s environmental laws.
Typical responsibilities include overseeing the use of all resources within organisations, implementing environmental policies and practices, developing schemes for recycling, pollution reduction and pollution prevention and ensuring compliance with environmental legislation. They audit, analyse and collate environmental performance data, reporting information to internal staff, clients and regulatory bodies. Also important is managing environmental strategy budgets, liaising with internal staff including senior managers and directors and providing environmental training to staff at all levels. They have to manage a team of technical, scientific and engineering staff, write plans and reports while keeping up to date with changes in environmental legislation and initiatives, producing educational resources and liaising with regulatory bodies.
Environmental managers work outdoors for some of the time, but also spend time at meetings in offices and boardrooms.
They need to have a genuine interest in and understanding of environmental issues, relevant legislation and renewable energy sources. They should possess confidence, initiative, commercial awareness and excellent IT, organisational, teamworking, project management and communication skills.
• national and provincial environmental agencies
• big mining and forestry companies
• Eskom and other industries
• self-employment - most environmental managers run their own businesses and work in the private sector