How to write an environmental policy

Even the smallest companies and charities will do harm to the environment in some way. By writing an environmental policy you can acknowledge your impact and show your commitment to being greener.

Operating in a more sustainable way puts you ahead of your competitors and is increasingly important as we see the effects of pollution and plastic waste. Every major player has set out a clear environmental policy, and it’s never too early to join them.

Your environmental policy should lay out goals that are achievable and that everybody agrees with, so it’s best to tackle this as a team. Once you have written your policy, make it visible to all staff and treat it the same way as any other company targets.

1. Identify your impact

This will depend entirely upon your business. Think about your entire business model and how you reach consumers. Do you have a physical product that is manufactured and shipped, or do you provide services over the internet?  Is your facility noisy, or does it displace wildlife in some way?

Your harmful actions might include energy usage, sending rubbish to landfill, pollution from vehicles or growing crops that are tough on local soil. You could also think about factors such as staff driving to work.

2. Work out ways to improve

Now that you’ve identified your pitfalls, think of ways that you could improve them. Could you recycle more, and choose products that are more sustainable? Could you save energy, for example by changing lightbulbs and turning machines off at night?

There are many ways that you can make a difference. For example, you could use compostable packaging like Vegware in your café and donate spare food to charity at the end of the day. You could reward staff for taking public transport and source coffee and lunch from local businesses.

Even online-only companies can make a difference by choosing a sustainable web host or switching to a green energy supplier.

3. Create positive goals

Your policy should be short and simple; one side of A4 is plenty. Avoid jargon so that anybody can understand it.

Focus on what you will do, and think about whether you will deliver regular progress reports. If you have specific targets, outline them.

Here’s my example for a fashion company.

We are committed to the environment and to ending the cycle of fast fashion.
Where possible, we will:

Prioritise the use of natural or recycled materials;
Reuse or recycle all studio waste;
Deliver our products in the most sustainable way;
Offset our carbon production via tree-planting programmes;
Regularly review our environmental impact;
Work with suppliers and stockists to develop environmental best practice.

We will deliver public reports on our environmental progress at regular intervals.

If you have many points of action, you may want to divide your policy into sections such as energy, paper and water. It’s up to you; there isn’t one single way that you have to format it. Fashion label Stella McCartney presents its policies in a totally different layout that fits the brand perfectly.

Once your policy is complete, sign it with your position in the company.

Now you have an actionable environmental policy, so implement it – and don’t be afraid to publicise it.

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