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Environmental Management Problems and Challenges

Environmental issues have been a subject of public concern for many years. Many managers and organizations are aware of the environmental problems and challenges, hence an increase in the pressure to alter the way people live and perceive things. A lot of this pressure targets large companies which are normally seen as sources of environmental degradation through pollution. Individuals are also shifting their way of behavior and thus managers have to respond to the seemingly endless needs of modern consumers who are aware of the environment. Consecutively, the environmental debate in companies has been largely based on rhetoric debate rather than action. In light of this, this paper focuses on why managers should effectively react to change rather than spending time and resources on developing planned change processes, considering the increasing complexity of the environment and the speed of change.

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Whereas it is difficult for managers to disprove the general need for environmental protection and reaction to change, to date there has been little practical guidance as to how real progress might be made. The need now is for managers to develop practical solutions to meet the environmental challenge. Companies and business institutions are at the center of the environmental debate and are central both to the protection and to solution. According to Gill (2009), several factors which work together encourage organizations to respond to the environmental challenge or rather complexity. These are: 1. Environmental efficiency – companies always strive to minimize the costs of their operations. More efficient raw material utilization and a decrease in the amount of waste generated are key factors that encourage firms to minimize their environmental impact, 2. The influence of the government – the main impact of government on the environmental performance of industry has been through the development of environmental legislation, and 3. The development of stakeholder influence – individual businesses interact with some stakeholders, all of whom have an interest in the performance of that company. Apart from financial performance of a company, stakeholders are also concerned with the environmental performance of the company.

The investments and innovations of industry drive economic growth and satisfy the demands of the consumer. Though, in doing so, business activities still remain the main contributor to environmental degradation. To protect the environment, managers must opt for ways that fulfill the needs of both current and future generations. In essence, managers ought to find efficient technologies and develop more efficient methods of production, instead of wasting resources in developing uncertain planned processes to counter the environmental complexity. Nevertheless, a technological solution is insufficient in itself. There is a need for change in attitudes towards both consumption and production. Many companies have taken over the opportunities that come along with new technologies and innovations, thus improving environmental performance. Other companies have done little, yet, and unless change occurs quickly environmental degradation may become irreversible (Welford and Gouldson 1994).

If harnessed correctly, the market mechanism can be utilized to develop solutions that are so vital if the environment is to be protected. This depends on the cooperation between government, which must provide fiscal incentives for environmental improvement, industry and consumers. Most companies are profit-driven and while such strategies may be seen as vital to economic growth, managers should put other objectives, such as environmental improvement, into their strategic plan. Much of this implies a change in corporate culture based on a commitment to see environmental improvements (Gibbs 1994). There is no doubt that there is change in societies’ attitudes to the environment and thus managers are urged to respond to these needs with quick sustainable solutions.

Furthermore, firms have always been faced with a range of competitive market conditions which threaten their survival. In many cases, requirements for improved environmental performance are perceived to add to these threats; this makes the environment complex for such firms. Companies that respond to this challenge will see themselves at the forefront of the industry, developing new products in new markets and gaining the competitive edge over their competitor (Gill 2009). It is not only an ethical obligation for a company to enhance its environmental performance, but it is also an appropriate business practice. In essence, if managers focus on effectively reacting to the environmental complexity or rather challenges, the following are the benefits to be realized: improved material efficiency, improved product quality, increased staff commitment, cheaper finance, reduced risk exposure, improved community relations, and improved media coverage.

Therefore, to realize a competitive advantage based on environmental management, companies must seek to develop strategies that translate actions into benefits, improving their environmental performance and addressing the environmental demands placed by the government and stakeholders. By incorporating the increasingly important environmental dimension into the decision-making processes and strategies of the firm, managers can seek to reduce costs and exploit the opportunities offered by increased public environmental concerns within a dynamic marketplace. Such a strategy must be proactive and honest since the environment is too important not to be misused because of short-term advantage.

References

Gibbs, B., 1994. Journal of Management. The effects of environment and technology on managerial roles. Web.

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Gill A., 2009. Journal of Environmental Management, 91 (1), 5-20. Web.

Welford, R. & Gouldson, A., 1994. Environmental Management & Business Strategy. London: Pitman Publishing.

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