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Skills needed when implementing an environmental management system

Implementing an environmental management system (EMS) can be a tough mission, even for a consultant with experience in about 20 EMSs at mines and processing plants, and who has reviewed environmental management at several mines worldwide.

Environmental management is usually not the highest priority at a mine, and, achieving ISO14001 certification is an additional requirement to mine personnel’s day to day responsibilities. Consequently, getting personnel committed can be a challenge for those trying to implement new management systems and enable a change in behavior. This is exacerbated as mine staff are under pressure to achieve production and meet health and safety targets.

The challenge for the environmental consultant is to bring mine personnel on board in achieving the mine’s EMS goals. A successful EMS project mainly depends on: 1) the level of commitment from mine management; 2) continuity and the presence of the consultant on site; 3) capacity of environmental personnel; 4) involvement of all mine personnel; 5) appreciation by the consultant of the challenges facing the mine; and 6) the consultant’s social skills. EMS work is thus as much about building relationships as it is about implementing a program.

Environmental management work is tricky because it emphasises technical and social skills in challenging environments, where environmental issues may not be at the top of a mine’s agenda. Consultants are, first and foremost, interacting with people and will require empathy and patience as well as assertiveness and persistence to achieve results.

Richard Evans:

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