7 Principles of Environmental Management

Because of the need for the protection of our environment, the Principles of Environmental Management was created by the United Nations.

The principles of environmental management was just created to protect the environment but also to achieve sustained economic growth and development.

Before we go into the subject matter “Seven (7) of Principles of Environmental Management” let’s defined the term “Principles of Environmental Management”


What are Principles of Environmental Management?

Principles of Environmental Management is defined as the guideline of procedures every citizen including companies, organization, industries and the government have to follow with the primary aim of protecting the environment.

The principles of environmental management have been the major actor in the push for sustainable development.

These principles permeate into the different facets of life including agriculture, mining, construction and civil works, oil and gas, etc affecting every citizen including big organisations and the government.

Advantages of environmental principles

  • The Environmental principles help in the protection of our environment.
  • Environmental principles help in the interpretation of policies providing a basis to scrutinize and challenge government actions and guide local authority decision-making.
  • Environmental Principle provides valuable information to meet community needs and for the setting of environmental goals.
  • Principles of environmental management lay a suitable platform for sustainable development.
  • Principles of environmental management are a set of rules and guidelines that are helpful in the making of environmentally sustainable decisions. They provide guidelines for decision-makers to give laws that protect the environment.
  • Principles of environmental management help in the achievement of sustained economic growth and development.
  • Application of the principles of environmental management would ensure a significant reduction in environmental accidents and an improved company reputation.
  • The principles of environmental management increase the knowledge of the citizens as they are involved in decision-making as regards the environment.

Seven (7) Principles of Environmental Management

The following are the seven (7) principles of environmental management.

  • Polluter Pay Principle
  • User Pay Principle
  • The Precautionary Principle
  • The Principle of Responsibility
  • The Principle of Proportionality
  • The Principle of Participation
  • The Principle of Effectiveness and Efficiency

1. Polluter Pays Principle (PPP)

This is the principle that tries to reduce or mitigate the pollution of the environment by putting a cost on pollution. In this principle, the polluter pays some fine to bear the cost of polluting the environment through the different ways possible.

This fine is not just compensation but an amount that can be used to remedy the damage caused by the polluter to some extent.

The cost includes a fine on environmental damages and their impact on the people. This has been a contributor to sustainable development as organisations and companies take precautions not to be fined for being a polluter.

Its processes and procedures for compensation are easy even in an event where their victims are affected.

As one of the principles of environmental management, this differs in application and implementation as a result of the difference in interpretation, region, and the kind of environmental damages caused.

This principle of polluter pays was brought to notice after rising concerns of economists for many years suggesting that industries and firms producing hazardous chemicals and pollutants must pay a fine for the damage caused to the environment through pollution.

An alignment of many economists of the world suggests that a clean and safe environment can only be attained through this principle of environmental management.

This made many countries measure the damage done to their environment through Environmental Inspect Assessment (EIA). They found out that Environmental damage is somehow linked to the pollution caused.

The principle of polluter pays was created as Principle 16 in the United Nations Rio Declaration on the Environment and Development (UNCED 1992):

“National authorities should endeavour to promote the internalization of environmental costs and the use of economic instruments, taking into account the approach that the polluter should, in principle, bear the cost of pollution, with due regard to the public interest and without distorting international trade and investment.”

Major organizations like the OECD have called this principle a key base for environmental policies.

Most countries have adopted this principle to ensure industries, firms, and companies take up the responsibility of achieving a clean and safe environment.

2. User Pays Principle (UPP)

This principle was drafted from the Polluter Pays Principle. The principle states that “All resource users should pay for the full long-run marginal cost of the use of a resource and related services, including any associated treatment costs.”

As one of the principles of environmental management, this principle sets a cost for users of natural resources to pay for marginal environmental damages or pollution which comes as a result of harvesting, using, or utilizing certain natural resources, services, and treatment services.

This principle guides and helps reduce the use of natural resources by putting a cost on the use of natural resources. This cost can help in the revitalising or regulating of these resources.

It is applied when resources are being used and consumed.

For instance, each household is to pay a certain fee for their consumption of water which comes from rivers. This is incorporated as a to other utility fees.

Farmers and people involved or interested in developing land for housing purposes are required to pay land fees which partly goes to the development of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) system to help predict, protect and bring out measures to protect the environment from the adverse effects of agriculture and economic activities.

Though this is a wonderful principle, its expansion taking note of our natural resources should greatly reduce the depletion of some of our natural resources like our forest.

One overlooked issue of this principle is that not all countries are committed to it. Countries in Subsaharan Africa have not implemented this principle holistically. But when this principle is implemented, more caution would be given to the destructive use of or resources.

3. The Precautionary Principle (PP)

This principle places precautionary measures for uncertainties involving a substance or an activity that could pose a threat to the environment to prevent that substance or activity from adversely impacting the environment.

The best precautionary measure is to eliminate the hazard of substance which could happen to the environment by destroying it or so the activity. Other ways could include substituting that substance for an environmentally friendly substance.

Or adopting environmentally friendly procedures which have been satisfied as harmless or having a known lesser impact on the environment

(we are much safer with substances and activities of known less impact to the environment than the ones we don’t know how adversely they impact the environment).

As one of the principles of environmental management, the Precautionary principle has a paramount objective and that is to make sure that a substance or activity which could pose a threat to the environment is prevented from adversely affecting the environment.

Special attention is given to heavy activities that have the capacity of causing adverse effects on the environment.

The Precautionary principle involves measuring primary and secondary activities which could pose a threat to the environment. It also involves passing potential pollutant substances through series of tests to ascertain their potential impact on the environment.

Even after no conclusive scientific proof to link a specific substance or activity to environmental damages, that substance or activity is red-flagged until its safety is fully proven scientifically.

This principle is valuable in managing risk where there is uncertainty about the environmental impact of an issue.

The Rio Declaration in Principle 15 emphasized this principle and states that not having a conclusive scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.

Through this principle, complaints and industries are have their environmental impacts measured through the Precautionary principle and are advised on the best and safest measures and procedures to follow so as not to adversely affect the environment.

The precautionary principle being one of the principles of environmental management is necessary for the protection of people, environment, company asset, and reputation, implementation of policies that help reduce environmental degradation.

4. The Principle of Responsibility

One of the principles of environmental management, the principle of responsibility takes to concern with the responsibility of every person, business, company, industry, state, and even country to maintain the ecological processes that occur in the environment.

Having access to environmental resources brings a responsibility to use these resources for sustainable ecological development, economic efficiency, socially fair manner.

In this principle, every person, firm, company, etc are held accountable for ensuring and maintaining a safe, clean, and sustainable development.

People must move about in their daily life with a sense of responsibility of keeping the environment safer, cleaner, and more sustainable, the same is applicable for companies and organisations who Pollute the environment.

5. The Principle of Proportionality

One of the principles of environmental management, the principle of proportionality refers to the concept of balance. It involves striking a balance between economic development on one hand and the protection of the environment on the other hand.

As we strive for economic growth and development a balance between development and environmental protection must be a stroke. When we protect our environment, it sustains economic development.

It cannot be argued that economic development is accompanied by some adverse effects on the environment. The construction of some needed infrastructure as a result of economic development has been considered a major part of human development

And without a suitable environment that provides land for the construction of these structures greater and better developments can not be integrated hence, the need for the protection of the environment.

It is necessary that people are interested in maintaining a balance in the environment whilst on the quest to develop economically. The benefits of anything is done in the environment and the balance with economic development should be to a larger part of the people.

Development should not hinder environmental protection and environmental protection should not so economic development.

6. The Principle of Participation

One of the principles of environmental manner, the principle of Participation takes to account that every person is to participate in making decisions that improve the environment and activities the protect the environment. Every person, firm, and government is to participate in creating policies that improve the environment.

Through this connective collaboration by the government, firms, and companies, and every citizen from different works of life in the affairs of the environment, it is easy to bring up decisions through brainstorming on the need to protect the environment.

Some participation areas are related to the use of trees and other plants, minerals, soils, fish, and wildlife for purposes such as materials and food as well as for consumptive and non-consumptive recreation.

The second issue concerns solid waste disposal i.e. garbage, construction and demolition materials and chemically hazardous waste, etc. The third issue of participation is related to pollution-generating activities.

Seeing the need for a sustainable, clean, and safe environment, individuals, firms, government, and companies must participate in environmental decision making and activities like involvement in solid wastes management,

control of gaseous emissions, chemical disposal to improve the environment and reduce the adverse effects to the environment.

7. The Principle Of Effectiveness and Efficiency

The principle of Effectiveness and Efficiency takes to account that the government of every country, city, or state has a responsibility to ensure well-structured policies and procedures in putting in place sustainable water management.

As one of the principles of environmental management, the Principle of Effectiveness and Efficiency takes to account that resources be used efficiently by the user of policy instruments that create an incentive to minimise wasteful use of these resources.

It also seeks to minimise environmental costs by creating and implementing laws, processes, and procedures to tackle issues in environmental governance.

This principle encourages various firms, company and organisation bodies, and agencies to decentralise and implement better ways of managing resources to ensure Sustainability.

This sustainability is proposed through new public management NPM to enable them to attain desired results when protecting the environment at a reduced cost.

Failure to adopt proper waste management has led to disease outbreaks, soil degradation, water pollution leading to water-borne diseases hence the need for effectiveness in the management of waste.

It is also necessary that major agencies and councils make the principle of Effectiveness and Efficiency a top priority to reduce waste build up and control dump sites for garbage


How many principles of environmental management are there?

There are seven principles of environmental management and they are, The Polluter Pay Principle, User Pay principle, The Principle of Effectiveness and Efficiency, The Principle of Participation, The Principle of Responsibility, The Precautionary Principle, and The Principle of Proportionality.


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A passion-driven environmentalist by heart. Lead content writer at EnvironmentGo.
I strive to educate the public about the environment and its problems.
It has always been about nature, we ought to protect not destroy.

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