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Environmental management and organisations
Environmental management and organisations

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15 Voluntary and compulsory approaches

So far, you have seen that industrial incidents and accidents at local, national and international scales often have some origin in organisational practices and organisational failings. As part of the attempts to avoid these, environmental management in organisations has become shaped, on the one hand, by voluntary codes of practice and self-regulation, and, on the other hand, by compulsory approaches.

Voluntary approaches – or self-regulation – are when an individual organisation or a sector voluntarily subscribes to a specification or code of practice that they or their representatives have developed and drawn up.

Compulsory approaches centre on legislation, such as Acts of Parliament, and their supporting regulations. These are usually written by a recognised legislature (e.g. elected government) or those working under their authority (e.g. government appointed regulatory bodies).

Before we look at each in turn, it is worth noting that as certain voluntary schemes have grown in popularity among organisations, national legislation has moved to incorporate (or at least recognise) aspects of self-regulation. This results in a distinct blurring of the lines between voluntary and compulsory approaches to environmental management.

One such example is the voluntary International Standard ISO 14001, which has become compulsory for organisations wishing to achieve compliance with other environmental management initiatives.