Environmental management is a broad career and the term can be used to refer to a range of different jobs in different organisations. We refer here in particular to the technicians and professionals responsible for implementing environmental management plans in a production landscape or at development sites such as mines, construction sites for power stations or wind turbines, or at forestry plantations.
The environmental manager must ensure that environmental laws or regulations are not contravened, and that companies do not cause unnecessary soil erosion, damage to wetlands or pollution of water sources, and when they do damage the environment, that they take action to restore ecosystems and their functions effectively, e.g. replace plants that have been removed. Environmental managers are also appointed to lead sustainability reporting for companies listed on the stock exchange, to demonstrate that they comply with the country’s environmental laws.
Typical responsibilities include overseeing the use of all resources within organisations, implementing environmental policies and practices, developing schemes for recycling, pollution reduction and pollution prevention and ensuring compliance with environmental legislation. They audit, analyse and collate environmental performance data, reporting information to internal staff, clients and regulatory bodies. Also important is managing environmental strategy budgets, liaising with internal staff including senior managers and directors and providing environmental training to staff at all levels. They have to manage a team of technical, scientific and engineering staff, write plans and reports while keeping up to date with changes in environmental legislation and initiatives, producing educational resources and liaising with regulatory bodies.
Environmental managers work outdoors for some of the time, but also spend time at meetings in offices and boardrooms.
They need to have a genuine interest in and understanding of environmental issues, relevant legislation and renewable energy sources. They should possess confidence, initiative, commercial awareness and excellent IT, organisational, teamworking, project management and communication skills.
Schooling & School Subjects
National Senior Certificate meeting degree requirements for a degree course
Compulsory Higher Education
Degree: a general degree in the environmental sciences is a good starting point (BSc or BSocSc). Most universities offer these courses. This can be followed by specialising in a particular area such as wetlands, estuaries, or restoration science, etc. Alternatively, one could specialise in one’s first degree (e.g. a BSc. in Zoology followed by an MSc. in freshwater ecology) and thereafter do a short course in environmental law or sustainability reporting.
Courses to study would vary depending on the field one is interested in. A course in marine studies and oceanography could prepare one for working with the fishing industry, for example, while a general diploma or degree in environmental sciences may be appropriate for other areas.
Possible Career Paths
The necessary skills can be acquired if one joins a company and learns the ropes while on the job. With enough experience, environmental managers can run their own consultancies, perhaps specialising in a particular field.
• national and provincial environmental agencies
• big mining and forestry companies
• Eskom and other industries
• self-employment - most environmental managers run their own businesses and work in the private sector
South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON)
Building C, Ground Floor
41 De Havilland Crescent
Tel: (012) 349-7722 Fax: (012) 349-7719
Environmental Management Unit
University of Pretoria
Department of Environmental Affairs
Private Bag X447
Fedsure Forum Building
315 Pretorius Street
Cnr Pretorius & van der Walt Streets
2nd Floor (Departmental reception) OR
1st Floor (Departmental information center)
Tel: (012) 310-3911