Environmental Manager, Mpumalanga area
BSc in Biological Science
Honours degree in Botany
Forest Management Certification and FSC Generic Training
Forestry career: 27 years
An environmental manager could be described as a ‘Jack of all trades and a master of none’ with all things environmental falling into the scope of the classically-trained ecologist/botanist or legal expert. This means that much of what we know and do is self-taught and learnt through years of experience.
The job is multi-faceted and essentially revolves around three core aspects: maintaining and managing the company’s procedures to reduce the impacts of forestry; checking conformance with procedures and certification requirements through audits, surveys and monitoring and, thirdly, relationship management and communication. The latter includes promoting environmental awareness to internal and external stakeholders through consultation and environmental reporting.
WHY I LOVE WORKING IN THE FORESTRY SECTOR
Forestry was not an obvious option when I was looking for a job. The emergence of forest certification with its strong environmental component provided an opportunity to apply some of what I had learnt and to keep `in touch’ with the natural environment. Furthermore, our forestry plantations cover extensive areas and fortuitously, a myriad of different habitats have been left unplanted. It has been a privilege to visit these areas and learn about their importance for conservation.
There is never a dull moment; in an ever-changing world, forestry is no different and has evolved into a more demanding and complicated occupation than it was 30 years ago. Now, more than ever, forestry needs people with environmental know-how to help it remain competitive.
Likewise, conservation needs the resources and management implementation of forestry. Almost every facet of forestry needs environmental input, ranging from legal advice and assessing compliance with procedures and certification requirements, to monitoring the impacts of forestry on the natural environment.
MY ADVICE TO THOSE EXPLORING A CAREER IN FORESTRY
Forestry is a long-term endeavour – do not expect changes overnight. Be prepared to listen to other people’s points of view but stay firm to what you believe and know to be right. Try and understand what makes people `tick’ – it helps build relationships of trust and respect. Remain committed and persevere – although you may not always get the results you want, you will, bit by bit, change perceptions and work towards the common goal of responsible management.
Can we (environmentalists) make a difference to the overall wellbeing of an organisation? I believe we can. It is, however, very much dependent on personalities and the vision and mission of corporates to do the `right thing’.