Environmental management has progressed from a green option to a strategic asset for companies, largely driven by consumers voicing their preference for sustainable products.
These results emerged from a survey of more than 1,700 professionals worldwide conducted by the certification body DNV GL, with the support of international research institute GFK Eurisko, to detect companies’ approach to environmental management.
The results of the 2017 survey were compared to the findings from a similar survey conducted in 2014 to detect changes in trends.
The survey shows that the customer’s voice matters. Requests from customers (50%) were the driving force that increased the most in the 2017 survey, up 15% from 2014 and the second most important driver, only surpassed by compliance with laws and regulations (77%).
The push from other stakeholders is felt, as reported by 25% of the respondents – up 10% from the previous survey.
Companies are still facing more or less the same challenges as they did three years ago, and the top risks are related to waste management and more particularly the disposal of waste (55%), handling of hazardous materials (44%) and discharge of waste water (36%).
Growing investments, but less focus on the supply chain
Of the companies surveyed, 74% state that environmental management is relevant for their overarching business strategy, and 45% say their company will increase investments in environmental management going forward, up almost 10% compared to the former survey.
Worldwide, 96% of companies carried out at least one action to evaluate or mitigate environmental risks in 2017. Monitoring the process for checking compliance with legal requirements (73%), carrying out regular maintenance to minimize environmental impacts (70%) and conducting ongoing assessments of impacts (65%) were the main initiatives undertaken.
While there is a growing focus on own operations, only one in three businesses has a supplier environmental management programme, a lower number than expected since the focus on suppliers is a crucial aspect for external stakeholders.
Luca Crisciotti, CEO of DNV GL – Business Assurance, comments: “It is encouraging to see that companies are on a positive trend when it comes to environmental management. But there is still an upside when it comes to the wider supplier network. And, like consumer power, companies should acknowledge the influence they have on their suppliers to improve sustainability in the wider supply chain.”
Standards provide value
A decrease in the number of environmental accidents was listed as the primary benefit achieved by environmental management efforts, stated by 52% of the respondents. Improved relations with authorities (48%), financial savings (40%) and competitive advantages (36%) followed next.
About 80% of the companies surveyed believe that an environmental management system based on the international ISO 14001 standard and third-party certification adds value. It is particularly considered an aid for meeting legal requirements (77%) and improving performance (72%).