Environmental management training isn’t just a matter of being a good corporate citizen, it can save your business hundreds of thousands of dollars. Time then to stop talking a good story on the environment, and act.
Let’s face it, most businesses have learned to talk a good story when it comes to meeting their environmental management obligations, but talk is often where it stops. But what if it could save your business real money, not just in punitive damages, but in ongoing running costs as well?
That’s the message Phil Abernethy, Founder and Chairman of Absorb Environmental Solutions, is on a mission to demonstrate to Australian workplaces, and it seems the message is slowly sinking in.
According to Mr Abernethy, the reason many businesses haven’t got on board earlier with sound environmental management practices is not so much down to apathy or a lack of interest, but because of a lack of suitable training for both managers, and their staff.
"The current levels of environmental knowledge and education in Australian business are inadequate," Mr Abernethy told IndustrySearch.
"This results in a lack of awareness of environmental legislation and the penalties that apply. Subsequently, simple and inexpensive techniques are not being consistently applied to reduce the risk of environmental incidents occurring and possible prosecution.
"Concern for the environment is widespread among all levels of employees, but the application of practical and relevant environmental training is the most effective measure to improve the environmental performance of any organisation."
According to Mr Abernethy, quite aside from good corporate governance, undertaking environmental management training also has very real, and tangible, business benefits.
"The benefits are twofold. Firstly, the level of environmental risk decreases due to a higher level of performance. Secondly, there is an increase in profitability due to the reduction in environmental incidents and improved workforce behaviour, for example, better housekeeping," Mr Abernethy said.
"When you have visited as many industrial sites as we have, you know that there is a strong correlation between housekeeping and other important business objectives such as safety, environment and profit.
"Our Cert IV and Advanced Diploma training courses focus on the need to do the simple things right the first time."
Mr Abernethy said there were many areas of high environmental risk that he had encountered, but some of the same problems cropped up time and again. In particular, the need to ensure stormwater drains are adequately protected from accidental spills; poorly managed waste handling and segregation increasing the risk of leaching or soil contamination; as well as a failure to document the fact site inspections are being conducted.
"The failure to create an adequate Due Diligence Register recording the proof that the site is taking reasonable environmental precautions is a very common failure," Mr Abernethy said.
If safety and profit aren’t good enough reasons for you to sit up and pay attention to environmental management training, perhaps the financial penalties are.
"Companies who breach environmental legislation face high financial penalties up to $1,000,000 for a major offence," Mr Abernethy said.
"In addition, there are criminal penalties for individuals who are wilfully negligent and cause serious environmental harm. Gaol terms of up to five years are possible in addition to personal fines."
Mr Abernethy cites a recent case in Queensland where the employee who caused the environmental incident; his manager and the company for which he worked all received significant financial penalties for hosing insecticide down the drain and causing a fish kill at a local creek.
Lack of training was cited by the Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) as a major contributing factor to the incident.
Absorb Environmental Solutions has created a Certificate IV in On-Site Environmental Management and an Advanced Diploma of Environmental Management. These unique qualifications are intended for Site Environmental Officers and Environmental Managers respectively.
The Advanced Diploma is aimed to teach Environmental Managers how to manage upwards. Candidates are usually experienced in the role and know the environmental basics already.
The Cert IV course targets Site Environmental Officers. In this role, they need to know how to manage downwards. The course assumes no prior knowledge and builds up to a standard of both theoretical and practical knowledge. This ensures the successful participant can deal with the day-to-day site issues.
"We developed these courses ourselves and deliver them Australia-wide. They have the necessary theoretical content, yet are very practical in delivery," Mr Abernethy said.
"We have used participation from DERM to test the quality of the course content. More than 25 per cent of participants already have university degrees, half of these possess degrees in environmental science. The reason they tell us they undertake our courses is to gain the practical information not usually taught at universities."