Viewpoint >> Our changing role

3rd February 2011

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Nick Coad, Environment director at National Express says the role of the corporate environmental manager has changed dramatically over the past decade.

In most companies, the initial focus was on the management of risk and liabilities and involved the development of processes and standards to meet compliance with the growing amount of environmental legislation.

The skills required were knowledge of management systems, environmental legislation and auditing.

Environmental managers also took on responsibility for collating data as fi rms came under increasing pressure to report publicly on their environmental performance.

As the requirement quickly moved from producing standalone environment reports to broader sustainability reports, some companies created dedicated corporate responsibility teams to work on this.

National Express linked non-financial reporting to the environment role, which was lucky – there is only so long you can spend looking at ISO 14001 before it damages your health!

My early experience of sustainability reports was that they were fairly formulaic: boring to write and even more boring to read. Now, we only publish one-off type reports covering a particular issue with a strategic focus.

So, from the initial focus on risk management, preparing business cases for effi ciency measures and external reporting, the role of the corporate environmental manager has become more strategic.

My role now includes activities that were previously well outside the remit of environmental managers, and includes marketing, product innovation and engaging policymakers. Eff ectively exercising this new role requires skills not traditionally associated with the corporate environment and sustainability function.

That’s why we need more MBAs, not more MScs, in our environment teams.

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