Barrow (2005) defines environmental management as a goal, vision, or attempts to steer a process, to the application of a set of tools, to a philosophical exercise seeking to establish new perspectives towards the environment and human societies, and to much more besides. Environmental managers are a diverse group of individuals including academics, policy-makers, non-governmental organisation (NGO) workers, company employees, civil servants and a wide range of individuals or groups who make decisions about the use of natural resources (such as fishers, farmers and pastoralists).it involves everyone to some extent because all human activities eventually have some sort of environmental impact. However, some individuals are more directly involved with resource use, and some special interest groups are particularly concerned with resource exploitation and with issues related to pollution. Environmental management thus involves many stakeholders and requires a multidisciplinary perspective.
It encompasses a lot of spatial scales, ranging from the local to the global. It also involves many, diverse goals, including the desires to control the direction and pace of development, to optimise resource use, to minimise environmental degradation and to avoid environmental disaster, moving towards conservation and sustainability. Furthermore, environmental management is concerned with the understanding of the structure and function of the earth system, as well as of the ways in which humans relate to their environment. Environmental managers attempt deliberately to steer the process of development in order to take advantage of opportunities; they attempt to ensure that critical environmental limits are not exceeded; they work to reduce and mitigate environmental issues; and they are concerned with increasing the adaptability and resilience of human societies in the face of environmental change, variability, unpredictability and hazards. Zahran, S et. al (2006)
Environmental management may be defined as a process concerned with human-environment interactions which seeks to identify the following:
• what are environmentally desirable outcomes
• what are the physical, economic, social, cultural, political and technological constraints to achieving those outcomes
• what are the most feasible options for achieving those outcomes
A further definition might suggest that environmental management is concerned with meeting and improving provision for human needs and demands on a sustainable basis with minimal damage to natural habitats and ecosystems. Thus the concept of environmental management is closely related to another important concept: that of sustainable development. Environmental management is a broad career and the term can be used to refer to a range of different jobs in different organisations. 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 environment laws.
Environmental risks have a substantial impact on organizations as it affects investment decisions, stakeholder interactions and government regulations. These risks have become more apparent particularly in the last decade as droughts, heat stress and floods affect the world’s industries, populations and ecosystems. Due to this, major corporations worldwide have been raising the bar higher in terms of meeting stakeholder expectations on sustainability. Good management of an organization’s energy, natural resources and waste has a substantial effect on its environmental performance. Thus sustainability has now become an essential ingredient to ensure an organization’s long-term success.
As long as organizations continue to meet their stakeholder’s expectations on responsible environmental and social practices, their credibility and reputation will also continue to increase. Sustainable organizations also help preserve the natural resources that they depend on as they contribute to the conservation of the Earth’s land, water and energy through their environmental advocacies and sustainability programs. Some of the major corporations around the world have either directly or indirectly impacted the environment over the past decades. For these organizations, they have an even more crucial role to play in environmental preservation, since oftentimes their organization depends on the natural resources they use. As sustainable companies take action to protect the environment and preserve natural resources, it also increases their chances of thriving in the globally competitive market.
Another finding from the study conducted by The Guardian showed that in a span of 18 years, highly sustainable companies have dramatically outperformed the ones with low sustainability in terms of stock market and financial measures. The annual above-market average return for the highly sustainable organizations was 4.8% higher than their competitors. The high-sustainability companies also performed much better as measured by their return on equity and return on assets therefor showing that sustainable companies have better chances of improving and increasing their profit margins.Organizations that effectively measure and manage their environmental practices inherently have more staying power in the business industry. Such companies are more resilient and more adaptable to change as they understand how to frequently improve their processes, reduce costs, comply with regulatory requirements and stakeholder expectations, as well as explore new market opportunities. In summary “Improved environmental performance adds value to an organization”
The increased awareness of environmental impacts brought about by climate change has led to greater political and social demands on organizations to shrink their environmental footprints and adopt the belief that good environmental performance makes good business sense. As organizations are confronted with environmental issues, instilling sustainability values to firms have a direct impact on securing sustainable economic success.
In science everything is linked with something starting with the linkage within the evolution theory to the link within food pyramids to life cycles. This means that a small input in sustainability may go a long way, from as small as planting a tree to organic farming and going green of industries. Environmentalists play a role in creating awareness and magnitude of our activity effects and help harmonise the relationship between sustainability with environmental, social and economic factors.