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Sustainability in Business – Challenges and Advantages of Environmental Management in Organisations

Sustainability in Business – Challenges and Advantages of Environmental Management in Organisations

  • Joana Cuambe • Environmental Management Systems Consultant at Insite

Sustainability is on the agenda and is increasingly a major concern for people and companies. Climate change is gradually affecting our way of life and endangering millions of people, especially in developing countries. We need only recall cyclones Idai and Kenneth in Mozambique in 2019 and, more recently, the floods in Pakistan. But do we know what the word ‘sustainability’ means? How important is it to the business of companies?

Making businesses more sustainable involves not only the financial area, but also the social and environmental areas. In the latter case, the implementation of good Environmental Management practices is crucial for companies to have the least possible impact on the Environment and on the Community.

The inclusion of environmental issues in the scope of socio-economic planning became part of the national agenda in 1992, when Mozambique participated for the first time in a United Nations Environment Conference held in Rio de Janeiro. Since then, several legal diplomas have been published in the environmental area, including the Environment Law (Law no. 20/97 of 7 October), which establishes the fundamental principles of environmental protection, promoting the rational use and management of resources and a global and integrated vision of the environment.

In addition to national legislation, there are other environmental requirements by which organisations can and should be guided. This is the case of the ISO 14001:2015 Standard, which is a fundamental tool for the implementation of an environmental management system in an Organisation, being easily integrated with other normative references, such as, for example, ISO 9001:2015 – Quality Management Systems.

The implementation of this type of system allows optimising the resources used in an Organisation and, consequently, brings savings and financial gains for companies. Furthermore, it constitutes a competitive advantage, since it drives the continuous improvement of the environmental performance of processes and services, contributing to improve the company’s image among stakeholders and increasing customer satisfaction. In summary, an environmental management system enables the Organisation to understand, manage and minimise the environmental impacts of its activities, products and services, as well as to prevent pollution, meet compliance obligations, address risks and opportunities and continuously improve environmental performance.

However, notwithstanding the evident advantages from an environmental and financial point of view, there are some factors that constitute challenges for the full implementation of environmental management measures/systems by Organisations in the national context, namely:

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“For environmental management to be a reality… it is necessary that all parties involved make the commitment to ‘do their part'”

  • The need for legal support for Organisations to determine the emission limit values (ELVs) of pollution. In some cases these standards are not found in national legislation, forcing companies to resort to international standards. As an example, there is still no national regulation concerning noise pollution.
  • In order to minimise the environmental impacts caused, at some point it is necessary to have technological solutions at the level of, for example, production systems or management of the waste produced. However, in the national market sometimes there are no alternatives available for waste treatment, especially in the case of hazardous waste.
  • The commitment of all levels and functions of the Organisation is essential for the success of environmental management, which involves changing attitudes and sometimes the culture of the Organisation. Employees tend to resist change when they do not identify with the values or do not understand the importance of a certain issue. Therefore, a correct change management is recommended, making an effort to involve not only the employees but also the remaining interested parties in environmental decisions.

For environmental management to become a reality and for national companies to improve their sustainability, it is therefore necessary that all parties involved assume the commitment to “do their part”.

Meanwhile, it is, in fact, necessary that all Organisations, regardless of their size and public or private status, adopt environmental management tools that guarantee the control of environmental aspects and impacts arising from their activities and contribute towards a more sustainable development.

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