Environmental managers' standard launched

UK claims a European first with national competence-based standards for company managers

Environmental managers in British companies will be able to benchmark their skills against national standards for environmental management and obtain a recognised qualification, under a scheme launched in London today. Claimed as a European if not a world first, the initiative aims to help managers with environmental responsibilities to assess and improve their performance.

Existing environmental management standards, such as ISO 14001 and the EU's EMAS scheme, apply only to organisations, Tony Sampson of insurance firm CGU and chairman of the group behind the initiative, said today. The new standards will "develop the individual" and therefore improve the environmental performance of his or her firm, Mr Sampson said, "facilitating and complementing progress" towards achievement of ISO 14001 or EMAS.

The key innovation with competence-based standards is that working environmental managers can apply them, according to the Management Charter Initiative (MCI), the independent, non-profit making body that has coordinated their development. Some 75% of people currently working as environment managers will still hold these responsibilities in 2000 and must be targeted to ensure that the environment is "placed at the heart of the [business] agenda," said MCI director Tom Cannon.

Under the scheme, managers will be able to benchmark their performance against UK best practice standards. The standards include performance criteria, and also specify required areas of "knowledge and understanding" and the "personal competencies" - skills, behaviours and attitudes - "which managers need to develop and demonstrate if they are to be effective."

The scheme has also involved the development of a nationally recognised vocational qualification in environmental management, which, the MCI says, most working managers could obtain over nine to 18 months. Specialist environmental managers, general managers with environmental responsibilities and consultants could all benefit from the qualification, the organisation claims.

The standards are appropriate for companies of all sizes, according to David Bower of the Business Environment Association (BEA), which specialises in supporting improved environmental management in British SMEs. Mr Bower said that the BEA was working with partner organisations in France, Finland, Germany and Italy. "It is hoped that they will consider adapting the...standard for use in their own countries," he said.

Thousands of British managers will use the standards, the MCI hopes. It claims that environmental management is now a "core skill for a large proportion of the workforce" and estimates that "over half a million" managers and professionals in the UK have environmental management as the whole or part of their work role.

Follow Up:
MCI, tel: +44 171 872 9000; BEA, tel: +44 1332 206 644.

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