The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have released its findings in its long-awaited report. The stark conclusion was that every corner of our planet is warming at an unprecedented rate and that this was being brought about largely by human activity.
Our activities on this earth are unequivocally polluting the land, air and sea and as a consequence, the rising temperature associated with this pollution is creating havoc with our climate. The report, researched and collated by some of the worlds most prestigious scientists, finds that the earth's ice caps are melting faster than ever and the volume of water that this thaw is creating is causing sea levels to rise at an almost inexorable rate. Temperatures are also rising faster than our most pessimistic projections had envisaged.
Even if we were to reverse the damage we have caused through our polluting behaviours today and dramatically reduce the carbon we are releasing into the atmosphere, it would take almost 100 years to stop the global temperature from rising further. As a consequence, crops will fail, forests will burn, species of animals, insects and plants will disappear and the air we breathe will cause more respiratory ailments and deaths than we can imagine. Now, more than ever, our communal responsibility to protect the planet and restore it to good health is critical. Reducing the environmental impact of human activities is an imperative we can no longer ignore. Progressive and responsible chief Executives and leaders of industry are beginning to analyse and restructure their business processes and priorities to develop both environmentally sustainable and responsible business operations. It is no longer possible to focus exclusively on the profit motive without assessing the impact individual businesses are having on our survival.
Today the advancing standards attached to ISO 14001 certification demand that each organisation manages the environmental impact that individual companies are having. This has to be a conscious process that focuses on quantifying how manufacturing and service activities are negatively affecting the climate of the planet, affecting the health of all forms of life and depleting resources that are essential for the survival of future generations.
The way that these elements are categorised using ISO 14001 are as follows:
- Use of raw materials and natural resources
- Use of energy
- Emissions to air
- Releases to water
- Releases to land
- Energy emitted
- Generation of waste and/or by-products
Alongside this, environmental impacts are categorised as follows
- Air pollution
- Land pollution
- Global warming and climate change
- Habitat destruction
- Depletion of soil structure and quality
The creation of an impacts register can have many benefits. The environmental aspects and impacts outlined in the register can be critical in helping your company to secure a formal Environmental Management System (EMS). The register helps detail how generalised environmental aspects are inferred and how any site-specific risks or actual impacts are identified and prevented or mitigated. The register can also help you to realise environmentally beneficial opportunities associated with operations, helping to establish where control measures need to be applied.
In order to create an environmental aspects and impacts register, you can begin by listing all activities related to the everyday management of your EMS, including those related to emergency measures. Once these activities can be defined using the following three-step process:
Once you have a definitive list of activities, environmental aspects and impacts associated with the activity/process to develop, you have the basic substance of your register. Having completed this stage, a ‘significance score’ is derived from the relative importance of the activities identified therein for elements of environmental benefit. This is assessed by gauging the environmental impact of the activity; It can be worked out using the following method:
Rate the possibility of specific impacts occurring using a scale from one to five, one being unlikely and five being very likely. Repeat this again for severity using a similar numerical scale. Finally, use this formula to work out the significance score: Severity Score x Likelihood Score = Significance Score. You will need this to give a rating to elements of your register.
Controls state what will be done to mitigate all aspects of the environmental impact, such as the use of electric vehicles, recycling waste and minimising air travel. Ensuring environmental aspects and impacts register are kept up to date forms the final column on the register. The more up to date the records, the more accurate the predicted environmental risks will all contribute to a well oiled environmental management system.