Sustainability within the agricultural industry, and most other industries in the world, has become the flavour of the day. Ever mounting pressure on the environment has forced us to rethink our methods and methodologies when it comes to our business practices.

Pressure from markets, international and national legislation, and overall environmental well-being requires producers to approach the management of their businesses in a new and modern way, with sustainability as the main goal. Environmental management as a whole plays a big role in achieving these goals of sustainability, but just as any business model requires structure and attention to detail, environmental management also requires a structured approach.

Structure in environmental management requires one to take a step back and break down the aspects of the environment piece by piece. Rather than taking the proverbial bull by the horns one can sustainably manage the environment by having small goals and achieving each goal step by step.

The first step to environmental management is by setting out policy goals for your agri-business. An environmental management policy should typically outline goals for the future, which should outline what it is that you want to achieve within your business in terms of sustainability. Your policy should be a broad set of principles and beliefs that can be implemented in all aspects of your business, ranging between soil; water; energy, materials, and waste; and biodiversity management. In short, your policy should describe the dreams that you have for the future in order to have a sustainable business that can last a lifetime and that can serve generations to come.

Your environmental management plan should go hand in hand with your management policy. Where your policy outlines goals for the future, your plan should contain the steps and actions that you take day-to-day to make these dreams of sustainability become a reality. The environmental management plan should be the solutions that you have to the problems standing in the way of sustainability within your business. These actions should make specific reference to all aspects of your business and should be applied throughout.

To summarise, your environmental management policy should be about the future whereas your environmental management plan is about the day-to-day immediate actions that are implemented to reach your goals. An in-depth template of an environmental management policy and plan is available on the SIZA website for all members to use. Please follow the link and feel free to make use of the template to provide clarity in terms of compiling these documents for your business.