Adopting high standards of environmental performance and management

April 20, 2023

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There has never been a more critical time for us to understand the nuances of environmental sustainability, a circular economy and waste management. Whether you’re a private company, in the public sector, represent a local community or an individual — we all play a role in protecting our environment. The impact of climate change can be felt around the world.

Today, climate change — specifically, the impact of extreme weather events — is seen as real and undeniable. Although some changes in temperature and weather patterns occur naturally over time, one of the main drivers comes as a result of human activities, such as burning fossil fuels (oil, coal and natural gas). When fossil fuels are burned to produce electricity, they release large amounts of carbon dioxide (a greenhouses gas) into the air. The increase in greenhouse gas emissions into the environment cause damage to the ozone layer around the world, which in turn leads to changes to the Earth’s atmosphere and climate.

Climate change and waste management

How we manage, reuse, store and dispose of waste can contribute to climate change by adding particles — also known as emissions — filled with greenhouse gases (GHGs) into the air. When it comes to the disposal and/or treatment of waste, such as composting, anaerobic digestion, incineration, landfill or recycling, there are ways in which each practice can be done to reduce the level of GHG’s released. Improper handling of waste can have detrimental impacts on various elements connected to the environment, such as:

  • Potential health implications on humans.
  • Damages to property.
  • Existence of our unique biodiversity and the variety of ecosystems (natural capital), species and habitats in the world.
  • Contamination of rivers, lakes and other bodies of water.
  • Contamination of land – pollutants impacting ecosystems causing harm to plants and animals.

Navigating challenges

In looking at ways to mitigate and minimise the risk of further damage to the environment, we need to first understand some of today’s challenges, which include:

  • Time to recover and remedy the damages already caused.
  • The impact of human activities on the environment.
  • Lack of responsible waste management protocols and legislation.
  • Natural environmental disasters and natural catastrophes.
  • Global warming, carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Lack of knowledge and availability of information around the implications of poor waste management and environmental practices.
  • Non-compliance, illegal operations and lack of governance.
  • Lack of training and control measures in place to mitigate incident.
  • Ignorance around the importance of environmental preservation and the reality of global warming.
  • Reliance on fossil fuels and the impact derived from the use of fossil fuels.
  • High energy consumption.

Companies must embrace climate-related risk management principles, and more broadly environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategies — looking at the greater impact across all operations, not just the evident changes in front of them. By reviewing the entire supply chain — from manufacturers and suppliers through to end customers and consumers — companies can get a broader view of the risks and put mitigation strategies in place. This process can be defined as a circular economy, which is the reduction of raw materials use, redesigns materials and/or products, and services to be less resource intensive, and recaptures “waste” as a resource to manufacture new materials and products.

Looking ahead

Sedgwick cares greatly for the environment and has a multi-year ESG strategy that looks for ways to decrease our impact on the environment. In Australia, we have a team focused on not only minimising our output, but partnering with our clients to help them do the same. Recognising the impact that our activities, operations and those of our service providers have on the environment in terms of the use of raw materials, emissions to air and water and responsible waste management of waste generated from insurance claims is critical.

To work towards carbon neutrality and reduce their carbon footprint, some organizations have explored reducing staff travel, using service providers that apply environmentally friendly principles, using green building materials to reinstate properties, internal waste and energy consumption, along with waste resource management at restoration/repair/remediation sites or claims. Another way to increase responsible waste management and limit pollution, contamination and damage to the environment as a result of third-party contractors is to review your contractor selection process. Meeting legal obligations and duty of care requirements, improving environmental performance, protecting the environment and preventing pollution are other factors to consider.

When Sedgwick is appointed as the claim’s assessor in Australia, we conduct environmental assessments where required, perform environmental consultations, remediation and rehabilitation project management, implement a responsible waste management plan and ensure environmental compliance and support. To learn more about how our specialists can support your organisation, please reach out to me [email protected].

Tags: climate, climate change, environment, environmental, Environmental impact, ESG, sustainability