Environmental action by industry is largely driven by legislation on pollution and the requirement for environmental/ecological impact assessments in the planning stage of developments.
Many of the potentially or actually harmful activities of manufacturing industries are monitored by environmental regulators such as the Environment Agency, Natural Resources Wales and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency.
Opportunities for direct employment by manufacturing firms and businesses are limited, as much of the environmental work is done by consultants under contract. However, some companies do employ in-house ecologists and environmental managers. There may be opportunities for work abroad, for instance on large civil engineering projects.
The following are examples of the areas of work available:
Planning – Ecologists and environmental managers are employed during the preparation of specifications for civil engineering projects. Impact assessments for large industrial, road building or housing developments are required prior to the submission of planning applications and the expertise of ecologists and environmental managers should be called upon. Their advice may be needed, for instance, in route planning for new road schemes, to prevent important wildlife areas being threatened.
Land and water restoration and utilisation – Environmental managers are involved in designing and supervising restoration projects for disturbed, degraded or contaminated land, in order to maximise nature conservation value. Ecological expertise is needed in the development of opportunities for recreation in reservoirs or sites used for mineral extraction or forestry. Environmental managers may also be asked to advise on such varied activities as mitigating site managing effects in large industrial complexes, designing marine protection schemes around fish farms and oil terminals, or ensuring habitat and species protection on golf courses, for example.
Maintaining and monitoring standards – The introduction and implementation of accredited environmental standards, including energy use and waste minimisation, is a requirement for industries, and this may involve ecological input. Agrochemical companies may employ ecologists or environmental managers to test and monitor the effects on wildlife and the environment of products such as toxic chemicals and, increasingly, genetically modified crops and other organisms. At the supply end, another form of monitoring which may require ecological knowledge is the sourcing and certification of sustainable raw materials for manufacturing and distribution industries.
Horticulture – The gardening industry is becoming very conscious of its potential for promoting wildlife conservation. Advice is needed on such things as water and wetland gardens, wildflower gardening, attracting birds and enhancing butterfly populations.
Ecotourism – The rapid growth of the ecotourism industry offers opportunities for ecologists. Their expertise is needed in planning for tourism, to ensure that the activity is sustainable and does not damage the environment. Organising, marketing and guiding wildlife tours throughout the world are a rapidly developing area.
Industries and businesses that provide the greatest scope for employing ecologists deal with:
- Mineral extraction
- Growing and processing food or timber
- Production and supply of energy
- Abstraction and supply of water
- Collection, processing and disposal of waste
- Pest control
- Civil engineering
- Landscaping and gardening
- Providers of outdoor leisure facilities and pursuits
- Holidays and tourism