What does an environmental manager do?
An environmental manager is responsible for overseeing the environmental performance of private, public and voluntary sector organisations. They lead environment-focused corporate social responsibility projects, track the progress of existing initiatives, build environmental awareness, and provide relevant training to employees across all levels of the organisation.
They also develop, implement and monitor environmental strategies, policies and programmes that promote sustainable development.
An environmental manager’s workload usually entails a range of strategic tasks, such as:
- sustainable procurement for all goods and services
- developing schemes for recycling, pollution control, waste management, conservation and renewable energy
- ensuring compliance with environmental legislation
- auditing, analysing and reporting environmental performance to internal and external clients and regulatory bodies
- carrying out impact assessments
- coordinating public hearings and consultations
- liaising with internal staff, including senior managers and directors
- managing a team of technical, scientific and engineering staff
- participating in education and research
- negotiating service agreements and managing associated costs and revenues
I have always been interested in nature and wanted to conserve the limited natural resources that we have. I find the way in which human beings interact with, impact on and are affected by the natural world very dynamic and interesting.
What training did you undergo in order to do the job?
I completed a Bachelor of Science in Environmental and Geographical Science, followed by an Honours in Science (Environmental Management stream) at UCT.
What kind of personality is suited to this career?
Environmental management is multidisciplinary in nature, so it suits lateral thinkers able to pay attention to detail. A large component includes meeting with consultants from different fields and engaging with members of the public, so you have to enjoy working with people. You should also be sensitised to the intrinsic value of the environment. Good report writing skills are important.
Describe a typical day as an environmental consultant
I would be doing research, writing environmental impact assessment reports, attending meetings, liaising with the public and project team members.
What do you enjoy the most about your work?
I enjoy identifying environmental problems and impacts that may arise as a result of a new development being constructed, and finding solutions to those problems.
What’s been the highlight of your career?
Working on projects that assist people to empower themselves, such as housing projects for low-income groups; making contributions that ensure that new developments are environmentally sound.
Share some of your goals for the future
To focus more on renewable energy (solar, wind, hydro) projects, particularly in light of the climate change issues facing the world.
What advice would you give to someone starting out?
Try to start out with a small company; this way you work on a number of different projects and learn a lot in a short space of time. Gaining experience is invaluable in this profession.
Summarise your job in just three words
It’s the future.
WHAT QUALIFICATIONS DO I NEED?
To become an environmental manager, it is usually necessary to obtain a degree in a subject such as ecology, conservation studies, environmental sciences/management or environmental engineering.
A relevant postgraduate qualification can be advantageous, as can experience of initiating and managing projects and/or supervising others. Relevant voluntary or paid experience is beneficial, particularly when starting out within the profession, as most employers look for candidates with work experience. The necessary skills can also be learnt on the job, and with enough experience, environmental managers can specialise in a particular field.
WHERE CAN I STUDY?
University of Stellenbosch
Bachelor of Science: Biodiversity and Ecology; Bachelor of Science: Conservation Ecology
University of the Witwatersrand
Bachelor of Science: Environmental Sciences (Environment, Animals and Plants); Bachelor of Science: Biological and Life Sciences (Science, Mathematics and Statistics)
University of Cape Town
Bachelor of Science: Biology, Earth and Environmental Sciences (Environment, Animals and Plants)
University of Pretoria
Bachelor of Science: Botany (Science, Mathematics and Statistics); Bachelor of Science: Ecology
Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
Bachelor of Science: Environmental Management (Environment, Animals and Plants); Bachelor of Science: Conservation Biology
University of KwaZulu-Natal
Bachelor of Science: Environmental Science (Environment, Animals and Plants); Bachelor of Science: Ecological Science
Bachelor of Science: Environmental Management (Environment, Animals and Plants)
WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFO?
South African Environmental Observation Network – www.saeon.ac.za
Department of Environmental Affairs – www.environment.gov.za
Southern African Institute of Ecologists and Environmental Scientists – www.saiees.org
Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa – www.wessa.org.za