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Green Jobs: what does an Environmental Compliance Officer do?

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5 min read
AUTHOR: Molly Long
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When people think of a job in compliance, their first thought – if they have one at all – is usually in relation to banks and other financial institutions.

It is true that many Compliance Officers are tasked with ensuring banks follow the rules set forth by governments. However, compliance itself is a huge area, and can relate to any industry which is regulated, from charity and property, to healthcare and technology.

Increasingly, there is a need for Environmental Compliance Officers. The UK Government, and others like it around the world, are gradually introducing more regulations and laws which aim to fix the problems caused by the climate crisis. But these laws mean nothing if large companies, often with huge amounts of international power and influence, ignore them.

Your job as an Environmental Compliance Officer – sometimes also known as an Environmental Compliance Specialist – is to ensure the rules are followed properly. In the food industry, environmental compliance might look like waste and water management, anti-deforestation policies and adherence to air pollution minimisation targets.

Yours will be a hugely important job, and will help play a part in ensuring the food sector is one that leads the way in effective and responsible climate action.

What are the responsibilities?

  • Keep up to date with new laws, regulations and current events which will affect the environmental impact of your company
  • Monitor your company’s compliance with these rules through a variety of ways
  • Liaise with external contractors to provide work in keeping with environmental regulations – for example, waste and water management companies
  • Perform risk assessments to understand what your company’s impact on the environment is
  • Educate employees on rules and regulations in a way that is accessible and informative – potentially through face-to-face presentations, webinars and printed materials
  • Investigate and report incidences where regulations are not being complied with
  • Compile and write regular reports which summarise compliance measures and how they might be improved or otherwise changed
  • Perform relevant administration duties

Who might your employers be?

If you’re interested in becoming an Environmental Compliance Officer within the food industry, it’s very likely you’ll be working for a larger company. Such businesses, by their nature, have greater impacts on the environment and as a result, can benefit from having a dedicated person or team that ensure compliance with important environmental regulations. Multinational companies often have compliance teams in all the countries in which they work, because regulations and laws can differ between geographic locations.

You may also find yourself working in the public sector as an Environmental Compliance Officer. Organisations like charities and the NHS also have compliance teams, which are tasked with ensuring their operations do not fall foul of the law.

What qualifications do you need?

There is no specific degree which you need to study to become an Environmental Compliance Officer – however there are several which can stand you in good stead for your career. Because you’ll be frequently dealing with tasks relating to law, business and economics, these are good first steps.

Why not explore these courses as a first step:

You may also wish to specialise in something food related further into your education career:

University degrees can act as a launch pad for your career in compliance. However they are not the only way into the role. A lot of people who work in compliance have previously worked in other areas and made the move horizontally. Gaining experience in a job like an Administration Executive, Financial Analyst or Customer Services position can also act as an excellent foundation.

Employers also respect qualifications earned from the International Compliance Association (ICA). The ICA offers a wide range of courses which run the gamut from legal compliance to environmental and social compliance. The organisation’s website is an excellent place to find certificate courses, short courses and apprenticeship courses.

What is the salary like?

According to Glassdoor, an Environmental Compliance Officer in the UK receives an average salary of £34,848. Depending on experience level and the size of your company, this is likely to be higher. Prospects reports that the most senior workers within compliance generally can earn upwards of £100,000.

Where will you be working?

Most jobs within compliance take place within an office. It is very unlikely you’ll be asked to work elsewhere with this role. However, depending on your company, there is a chance you’ll be able to split your time between office working and working from home.

What is career progression like?

The rate of progression within the role of Compliance Officer is usually quite fast paced. Many companies take on new employees as junior members of staff, and promotions can usually be expected within two to four years. Those working in managerial roles usually have between five and 10 years’ experience.

Working within compliance often means working with senior members of staff at any given company, and thus some Compliance Officers can end up in high-ranking or even C-Suite positions either still within compliance, or related fields like risk assessment or consulting.

Is there demand for the role?

With the climate crisis becoming more severe every year, and organisations and governments working to stop this, regulations regarding food and the environment are only likely to increase in number and strictness. Therefore big food companies will need larger teams working to ensure their actions are in line with environmental law – moreover, it is likely smaller companies will also require experts to ensure they navigate their business in a way that is above board too.

For more jobs in the food industry, visit Food Matters Live’s Preparing for a career in food

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