Environmental management is a rapidly expanding sector and is increasingly recognised as not merely driven by regulation. The bottom line benefits of focused environmental management have been acknowledged by multi-nationals for a number of years and increasingly by small and medium sized enterprises as well. For example, minimising waste means more efficient methods of production as well as reduced disposal costs.
ERM (Environmental Resources Management) helps companies to understand the practicalities of how environmental regulations affect them and develops environmental management systems to achieve compliance and tangible financial benefit. ERM also undertakes environmental impact assessments for the siting of major new facilities (such as power stations and airports), site investigations and contaminated site remediation.
The company has a large team conducting due diligence audits for mergers and acquisitions.
Public sector policy work is another area in which we are active. This includes environmental economic appraisals and the development of regulation for emerging industrial nations.
So what role can civil engineers play in the context of such broad activities? One strength is their ability to work within and organise multi-disciplinary teams, and if there was ever a multi-disciplinary company, we are it. We employ high flying graduates from diverse backgrounds, including chemists, geologists, toxicologists, economists and microbiologists.
Teams are established for each project, coming together to become greater than the sum of individual expertise.
The role civil engineers can play is illustrated on a current project where ERM has undertaken site investigation work.
We delineated the contamination on a redundant oil refinery.
As well as calculating and negotiating soil and groundwater clean up levels with the Environment Agency and local authority, ERM implemented a remedial solution to meet the needs of a future multi-million pound container port development. There are major infrastructure, ground condition, redevelopment, contractual and warranty challenges which civil engineering training and experience are invaluable in helping us address.
Environmental management is an international business. Projects can range from large scale privatisation assessments in eastern Europe, where costs of past environmental damage caused by industrial processes at state run industries need to be quantified, through to social impact studies in Indonesia and Angola.
ERM and other environmental management firms carry out a great deal of environmental due diligence in response to consolidation in the chemical, oil and manufacturing industries worldwide.
As they buy smaller companies, US and European multinationals tend to judge them by best practice or their own national legislation.
Here in the UK, the pressure to maximise brownfield redevelopment for new housing, and the inclusion in the recent budget of a new tax credit for contaminated site remediation, are also likely to be significant drivers for continued expansion of the environmental management sector.
Owners, construction companies and developers are realising that the latent values of brownfield sites can be significant and are using risk assessment and specialist brownfield site funding supported by insurance products to help effectively manage the clean up and redevelopment risk.
John Waters is a chartered civil engineer. He is a director of ERM and chairs the Environment Industries Commission Contaminated Land Working Group.