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Putting the good into environmental practice
Table 1: Comparing environmental practitioner certification schemes.

The certified environmental practitioner scheme has taken some key steps, including approval from the ACCC, reports Nigel Murphy.

Many forces are shaping the environment profession, particularly the increasing focus on climate change and energy efficiency. This dynamic of rapid change in the profession creates a strong need for ongoing training and skill development among existing and new professionals to ensure sound environmental practice and good environmental outcomes are achieved.

It is important to realise we can have good environmental policy but fail to achieve good environmental outcomes. The vital third ingredient for successful environmental outcomes is excellence in environmental practice.

Government obviously plays the pivotal role in setting policy and an influencing one on practice, but the pace of change often sees government playing catch up. It is important for the profession to recognize that it needs to take an active role in setting the standards for delivering good environmental practice.

This is not new. In other professions, such as the medical and engineering professions, the profession itself often sets the standard of professional practice.
At the moment the environment profession is only just starting to drive standards. Many of us regularly witness significant conflicts of interest and work being undertaken by under-qualified professionals. What is most frightening is that many associated and on the periphery of the sector consider this as just business as usual.

The community would be staggered to know virtually anybody can sign off on an environmental impact assessment and that in some circumstances the company doing the assessment will often also be doing the engineering if the project is approved.

In this vacuum, certification is starting to play an increasing role. A recent evaluation of the Certified Environmental Practitioner Program for Australia and New Zealand by RMIT University compared it with existing and emerging environmental certification programs around the world. It indicated strong similarities and only minor differences (Table 1), suggesting professionals in different parts of the world are identifying similar issues.

Public and professional benefit
The Australasian CEnvP program was conceived by EIANZ in 2002 and has been operational since 2004. A recent milestone was the registering of the CEnvP trademark with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), whose initial assessment basically indicates the scheme has rigour and public benefit.

This is an important, independent vote of confidence. As the program evolves I am sure it will develop specialist certification initiatives around aspects of the environment profession, such as environmental impact assessment, ecology and contaminated site assessment.

Another vital initiative that will drive good environmental outcomes and improve the profession is the STEnvP initiative to assist environmental professionals who graduate from a tertiary institute attain the skills and experience to operate at the CEnvP level.

It will provide learning through mentoring and more formal training in key areas that are not usually covered by university courses, including environmental ethics, environmental auditing, professional report writing, project management and environmental management systems. The STEnvP program will have the potential to accelerate the career development of the environmental professional.

Our profession is enjoying unprecedented attention and need from the broader community and is attracting many of the brightest and best students. We have a key role in providing a framework so those aspiring professionals get the solid foundations for a career in the environmental sector that contributes to good environmental outcomes.

Nigel Murphy is chair of the CEnvP Board (www.cenvp.org) and head of Earth Systems Pty Ltd.

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