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Environmental management and organisations
Environmental management and organisations

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1 Defining environment

Environmental management is a widely used term covering a very broad topic area. Making sense of it is not always easy. To help you get started, let us begin by looking at the terms themselves. The terms ‘environment’ and ‘management’ are to be found in many contexts, but their meaning and interpretation can vary considerably. Understanding this variation is important to make sense of environmental management policies and actions.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, ‘environment’ derives from the mediaeval French environnement used to describe the action of surrounding something and also to refer to surroundings and periphery. Today, ‘environment’ is often used to mean:

The physical surroundings or conditions in which a person or other organism lives, develops, etc., or in which a thing exists; the external conditions in general affecting the life, existence, or properties of an organism or object.

OED (2013)

‘Environment’ is also often used specifically to mean:

The natural world or physical surroundings in general, either as a whole or within a particular geographical area.

OED (2013)

It is also possible to use the term to refer to the social, political or cultural circumstances in which a person lives, particularly with respect to their effect on behaviour and attitude.

This flexibility means it is a very convenient term that can be used in many situations. But this flexibility can create problems. Principal amongst them is reference to ‘the environment’.