IEMA’s CEO calls for an end to “short termist” attitudes

It is more essential than ever to protect environmental management, as a practice and as a profession, from distortion.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and not just because of the changes we’ve been making here at IEMA HQ. A few things that the news has picked up on from our previous and current environment secretaries have set off alarm bells with me. Those bells seem to toll that the strategic side of the environment, the planned, the managed, the visionary, is at risk of being viewed as being in the “green camp”, which I fear is fast becoming a derogatory term.

Take the recent comment from Liz Truss for example, that solar farms are a blight; taking up too much space, room which could be used to grow food and reduce the volume of imported produce, yet planning and consent for building has been given over to land previously used for farming without such concerns. True, that land could offer alternative purposes but if the UK is to achieve goals around renewable energy and really decarbonise the energy industry then this kind of short-termist view can’t be tolerated by our profession. This is something that the Governor of the Bank of England is currently arguing against.

The revised environmental management standard ISO 14001 is due to kick in next year and with its new high-level structure, reinforces that environmental management isn’t a compliance issue, it’s a strategic one. It’s a fundamental part of modern business that needs universal buy-in and understanding from Board-level down, which is why hearing of short-sighted views on the environment really doesn’t sit well with me.

Speaking of the short and long term, you will have noticed that we’ve been talking about future ambitions for the profession and our Institute over the past year and a key element of that has been around moving into sustainability issues. This doesn’t mean we are abandoning environmental management and assessment from our focus. In fact, we are guarding it, ensuring that we – and I mean the collective we of the membership - continue to bolster the environmental pillar with professional knowledge it will be safeguarded from being swept into a pile simply named “compliance”. In fact our Board has categorically stated that IEMA’s approach to this move into the sustainability arena is one that is based on an “environment first” ideology. We’re ensuring that central pillar is stronger than ever, giving it roots and a horizon.

We’re in this for the long-term, I just hope that that thinking is reflected elsewhere.

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