Environmental manager: job description

Environmental managers are responsible for overseeing the environmental performance of private and public sector organisations and for developing, implementing and monitoring environmental strategies that promote sustainable development.

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What does an environmental manager do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Environmental managers advise organisations on how to minimise their impact on the environment and, in some cases, oversee the delivery of impact reduction strategies. They typically develop and then measure the success of the schemes for waste management, renewable energy, recycling, pollution reduction and pollution prevention.

Alternative and closely related job titles include ‘environmental adviser’, ‘energy manager’, ‘sustainability manager’ and 'energy consultant'. In some organisations, the role will also be combined with health and safety or corporate social responsibility (CSR) duties.

Depending on the role, responsibilities could include:

  • implementing environmental policies and practices
  • devising strategies to meet targets and to encourage best practice
  • devising the best tools and systems to monitor performance and to implement strategies
  • ensuring compliance with environmental legislation
  • assessing, analysing and collating environmental performance data and reporting information to internal staff, clients and regulatory bodies
  • confirming that materials, ingredients and so on are ethically or environmentally sourced
  • managing environmental strategy budgets
  • liaising with internal staff including senior managers and directors
  • acting as a champion or cheerleader for environmental issues within your organisation
  • providing environmental training to staff at all levels
  • writing plans and reports
  • keeping up to date with relevant changes in environmental legislation and initiatives including international legislation where applicable
  • producing educational or information resources for internal staff, clients or the general public
  • liaising with regulatory bodies such as the Environment Agency.

However, the focus of the role will differ according to the type of organisation worked for and remit set. For example: 

  • Environmental managers working for construction companies typically work on construction sites, ensuring that environmental legislation and best practices are complied with and that targets are achieved. (Find out more about working as a graduate environmental adviser or manager in construction.)
  • If you are at a local authority, you might be applying for funding or grants, rolling out initiatives and engaging with charities and community groups.
  • Claire Grainger, an environment manager in the steel industry, explained her job to us as: 'I'm the main liaison point between the business and the regulator to ensure we remain compliant. If we do have issues, my team works on improvement plans to ensure we return to compliance, and work with project teams on the schemes being implemented. We also look at the future legislation and complete a lot of risk analysis. My role also includes an element of pushing environmental concerns up the agenda when there are a lot of competing priorities.'

Typical employers of environmental managers

Most environmental managers are employed by:

  • higher education institutions
  • utilities companies
  • construction companies
  • government agencies
  • local government departments
  • processing/manufacturing companies.

Vacancies are advertised on TARGETjobs, by careers services, by newspapers in print and online, via specialist science publications such as New Scientist, via relevant professional bodies such as the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA) and the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM), as well as on the websites of local authorities.

Qualifications and training required

To become an environmental manager it is usually necessary to possess a degree or higher national diploma (HND) in an environment-related subject – which could include engineering, environmental health, environmental sciences/management, biosciences, applied science, physics or geography. A relevant postgraduate qualification can be advantageous, as can experience of initiating and managing projects.

Most environmental management graduate roles are advertised as individual vacancies rather than as part of a graduate scheme, although a small number of organisations will run a formal graduate scheme. Most companies will support you towards gaining a professional qualification with the IEMA or a similar professional body.

Gaining relevant voluntary or paid experience is beneficial to making a graduate application. You might be able to find paid work experience with local authorities or large employers. There may be volunteering opportunities within non-governmental organisations and environment charities. Membership of the IEMA can also be useful in finding work experience opportunities.

Key skills for environmental managers

  • A genuine interest in and understanding of environmental issues, relevant legislation and renewable energy sources
  • Excellent communication and influencing skills
  • The ability to take the lead on projects
  • The ability to inspire others
  • Attention to detail and a methodical approach to work
  • Good organisation and time management
  • Commercial awareness: the ability to work within commercial constraints
  • Confidence.

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