Environmental policy and action plan
The environmental policy of an establishment and its action plan are closely linked, and are a integral party of any environmental action, whether it is linked to obtaining a label or certification, or simply internal to the organisation.
The environmental policy sets forth the major objectives of the environmental action, and the action plan translate these objectives into a list of specific measures.
The environmental policy is the foundation for the environmental improvements undertaken by the establishment, as defined by executive management. The policy defines the key principles and objectives. A programme of action must be implemented to attain these objectives.
Before drawing up an environmental policy, it is necessary to take the time to evaluate all the departments and services of the establishment and their eventual environmental impacts. If the establishment has not instituted an environmental management system (EMS) with analysis of the establishment's impacts, a simple self-audit under the European Ecolabel scheme will provide a vision of the establishment's strengths and weaknesses, and highlight pertinent objectives. The policy content should be based on the findings of the assessment, which will identify the main issues for your enterprise.
The following tips will help you write up an environmental policy:
- The summary statement must be short (1/2 to 1 page)
- The statement is intended for all to read – customers, employees, suppliers – and must be easy to read and understand.
- The statement must announce realistic and attainable goals that are relevant to activities and practices at the establishment.
- The statement should be dated and signed by the chief executive or director-general.
- Communication of the policy: the policy statement can be displayed at the reception desk and/or in rooms, included in welcome brochures for guests, and in orientation documents given to employees. It can also be published on the establishment's website, and posted in staff quarters.
- Update the content of the environmental policy.
- There are no regulatory requirements for environmental policy content, but policy documents generally address the same themes. Keep in mind that the policy must be tailored to the enterprise, and reflect the activities, priorities and concerns that are most important for the establishment.
Example of environmental policy contents:
Paragraph 1: Set forth the basis for the establishment's environmental commitment and action.
"The establishment _____ initiated its environmental action in _____, and the establishment obtained ______ certification in ____.
Paragraph 2: Express the commitment to continuous improvement of environmental performance, by tracking resource consumption. Pledge to effectively manage impacts.
Paragraph 3: Outline objectives for the coming year.
Mention one or two of the main objectives for the current year, those that will be most meaningful for customers. It is not necessary to describe these objectives in great detail.
Include a pledge to pursue measures already in place, and to inform customers, employees and other partners.
You may want to include a sentence to encourage readers to support the environmental action undertaken by the establishment.
It is important to customise the environmental policy to reflect the character and culture of the establishment. A good place to start the process of writing your environmental policy is to collect and study examples of policies drawn up by other establishments, to choose the format and style that are best suited to your enterprise. Do not simply copy another policy, however.
It is a good idea to have staff members participate in revising and updating the environmental policy and action plan. As the employees have to respect the commitments set forth in the environmental policy, they are a good source of ideas for improvements. The environmental policy must be made available for all new employees to read, and communicated to existing staff in the event of substantial changes.
The action plan designates and describes the tasks and measures pertaining to each policy objective.
- List the objectives to be attained
-List the steps that will enable to you to attain each objective. These steps will emerge from the audit that determined the weak points and successes of the establishment.
For each task specify:
> objectives and anticipated results,
> name(s) of person(s) in charge. It is recommended that responsibility for a task be shared between several people, and not rest on just on person.
> working group constituted to focus on the task,
> financial, technical and human resources allotted to the task. The tasks of the action plan must be pragmatic and realistic, in technical, human and financial terms, i.e. they must take the financial and human resources of the establishment into account.
> start and completion dates for the task. A given task may extend over a few months to several years, depending on priorities.
> performance indicators to track tasks.
- Task sheets can be drawn up for the most complex tasks, that require several work stages and a large team.
The project leader prepares and organises work, and draws up an action plan with the team and working group, if any. Management is responsible for validating the plan and overseeing its implementation.
To be sure that the activities of the establishment are in line with the policy, a periodic review should be conducted, generally once a year, or after six months in the first year. Reviews are fundamental to ensuring that environmental performance is continuously improved, and that specific environmental targets are fixed each year. Keep in mind that if activities or operations at the establishment change significantly, the environmental policy may have to be amended.
- assess the tourist accommodation (European Ecolabel self-audit, environmental impact assessment, environmental information display, etc.)
- identify the strengths and weakness of the establishment
- establish major objectives and quantitative targets
- draw up the environmental policy document
- list tasks for each objective
- designate the task leader and timetable for each task
- review the policy and objectives annually, and update the action plan regularly
- inform and implicate staff
- communicate the environmental policy to customers, suppliers, employees and other stakeholders
No cost for drawing up an environmental policy and elaborating an action plan, other than staff time.
- better information given to employees regarding their roles and responsibilities in relation to the environment
- more effective internal processes
- enhanced image for the enterprise
- the action plan may be constrained by financial considerations. If tasks and the related expenditure are anticipated it will be easier to make progress.