Modern environmental management is a very different field than it was just a few short years ago.
The 'E' in EHS (and ESG!) is a much more urgent priority, and technology plays a much bigger role in many aspects of the day-to-day job. This means that while skills like compliance and project management are still important, there are also some new skills that you now need in order to be successful.
These skills vary depending on the type of position you have in the field. An environmental engineer will need different skills than an EHS manager, for example. For most positions, however, these 7 environmental management skills will help you to build a solid foundation:
7 essential skills for environmental management
- Data literacy
- ESG reporting
- Carbon management
- ISO 14001
- Marketing skills
- Change management
- Remote work skills
1. Data literacy
Maybe you took statistics in college, but it's been a while and your skills are a bit rusty. Or maybe you’re just “not a math person”. In any case, only 21% of employees say they feel confident in their data literacy skills, according to a survey by Accenture and Qlik.
That’s a big problem, because the field of environmental management is becoming increasingly data-driven. Many organizations are investing in business intelligence (BI) tools to get more value from their data. And while these tools can help, environmental professionals still need to be able to analyze and interpret what the data is telling them.
To succeed with data, environmental managers need to be able to understand basic charts, tables, and graphs. They must know how to ask questions like “what’s happening?”, “why is it happening?”, and “what might happen next?”, and locate relevant data to answer those questions. And, critically, they must be able to communicate the data to others, including business leaders and executives, in meaningful ways. Fortunately, all of these are skills that can be developed with a little time and effort.
2. ESG reporting
Today, environment, social, and governance (ESG) disclosure is becoming more mainstream. Some companies are choosing to report on their ESG performance because of the growing demand from investors and consumers. Others are doing so because they are required to by law. In the European Union (EU), for example, the Non-Financial Reporting Directive will require large companies that operate in the EU to report on their ESG performance. This means that most environmental professionals are going to work on an ESG report at some point in their career.
For starters, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the various ESG reporting frameworks, such as CDP and GRI. While there are some similarities between these frameworks, reporting can be quite different so it helps to know what each one entails.
Another big part of ESG reporting is being able to communicate complex data to a non-technical audience, so naturally you’ll want to sharpen your communication skills. You can learn a lot by studying examples of ESG reports from other companies. Likewise, many of the ESG standard-setting bodies offer online courses where you can learn about the sustainability reporting process and how to create an engaging ESG report.
3. Carbon management
As the job title implies, being an environmental professional requires you to be knowledgeable on a broad range of environmental issues such as air, water, waste, and resource management. However, carbon management is quickly becoming one of the most critical areas of expertise.
Organizations need employees that are able to understand how specific activities contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, and then identify strategies to reduce or offset these emissions. And with emerging technologies constantly changing the way companies manage their carbon footprint, a willingness to learn and embrace the latest digital tools is going to be crucial.
4. ISO 14001
In the past, environmental managers had to possess a strong knowledge of local, state, and federal regulations in order to ensure their organization stayed in compliance. That's still true today; however, now environmental professionals also need to be knowledgeable in a wide range of voluntary environmental programs.
The most widely used environmental management program, and the one you’re most likely to encounter as an environmental professional, is ISO 14001. Over 360,000 organizations are certified to this standard — and that number is growing every day. Having a strong understanding of what ISO 14001 is and how to develop an ISO 14001 EMS is going to put you a step ahead of others in your field.
If you're new to ISO 14001, you might want to check out our free ISO 14001 guide and webinar. There are also many places that offer online courses about ISO 14001. You might even consider pursuing a certification as an ISO EMS auditor if that's something you're interested in.
5. Change management
Thanks to digitization, the pace of change is accelerating in many industries. Technological innovations are transforming well-established industries such as manufacturing, utilities, and construction.
In order to keep up, environmental professionals will need to develop strong change management skills. Not only will you have to adapt to changing processes, tools, and team members, you’ll need to be able to lead your staff through these changes as well.
Part of what makes change management so challenging is that it’s actually a collection of many different skills. This includes communication, flexibility, strategic planning, and problem-solving — among other things.
Marketing skills aren’t traditionally associated with environmental management. But today, much of an EHS professional’s success depends on their ability to sell their environmental and sustainability initiatives to staff, executives, regulators, and customers — and that means exploiting marketing tactics.
Those tactics include branding to shape perceptions of your environmental programs, content marketing to produce educational resources, and even social media marketing to raise awareness and stimulate interest in your company’s sustainability efforts.
7. Remote work
Many companies plan to allow employees to work remotely all or part of the time even after the pandemic. With WFH becoming the new normal, remote work skills are going to be key.
Environmental professionals need to be comfortable accessing the digital tools that the company uses. This includes project management, instant messaging, video conferencing, document sharing, and cloud-based EHS software — to name a few. You’ll also need to be able to manage remote teams effectively in order to ensure that compliance deadlines are met and important tasks get done on time.
Strengthen your environmental management skills
The field of environmental management is changing, and you'll need to be learning constantly in order to keep up. These 7 environmental management skills will prepare you with a solid foundation whether you're looking for a new position, climbing the ladder, or hoping to make a bigger difference in your current role.
Of course, even the most skilled environmental expert is going to struggle if they don't have the right tools for the job. On the flip side, the proper tools will make a qualified professional even more efficient and effective.
Perillon offers an environmental management software system with features to help you save time, streamline analysis and reporting, and free up valuable resources. Request a free demo for more information.