Chapter 1. Policy

The cornerstone of your ESMS is your set of policies. Your policies summarize the commitment that your company has made to managing environmental and social risks and impacts. They establish the expectations for conduct in all related aspects of your business.


Simply put, the policies are the rules. They tell everyone what is allowed and what is not allowed when it comes to social and environmental issues such as labor and working conditions, resource efficiency and pollution prevention, and community health, safety and security.

A good practice for writing the policies and making them understood is a Policy Statement. The Policy Statement communicates your company’s policies to your management, staff, board, suppliers, contractors, customers and all other stakeholders. It is important for everyone to have a common understanding of the core values of the company, how you expect people to behave and how external stakeholders can expect you to operate.


The Policy Statement should be clear and simple – it does not need to be long and technical like a legal document. Many companies already have a corporate code of conduct that serves as a Policy Statement and includes issues such as ethics. You can expand your existing code to align with internationally recognized environmental and social standards for issues relevant to your business, such as the IFC Performance Standards for Environmental and Social Sustainability.

It is important to think through the creation of the Policy Statement and tailor it to your company operations. In developing your Policy Statement, be aware of the specific risks you face in the food and beverage industry.

suitcasesmall.jpg Use the Toolkit item Checklist for Developing a Company Policy Statement to get ideas of what you could include in your policy.



Modifying or adopting your Policy Statement will require senior management support. In some companies, it may require approval from the Board of Directors. A high level of senior management support is critical for integrating environmental and social commitment throughout all levels of your company.

Committing to environmental and social policies probably requires some change in the behavior of your company, workers, contractors and suppliers. This can be challenging. There are different strategies and different techniques for changing organizational behavior, but experts agree that to create lasting change, senior management must be committed to the effort.

The first step is building awareness. There are many issues that occupy your employees’ attention day-to-day. As just a written document, your Policy Statement may not get their attention or seem relevant to their daily activities. Senior management needs to make this Policy Statement come alive.

For any change initiative, think of three critical stages:

  1. Awareness;
  2. Commitment; and
  3. Implementation.

Your senior man­agement can help you to accelerate.

To do so, they need to communicate the importance of environmen­tal and social issues, by making them an ongoing part of high-level Board and management discussions, public speeches, and messages to employees.

Once people are aware of the Policy Statement, the next step is building commitment – also known as “buy-in.” You will prob­ably meet resistance: “Why do we need to do this?” “It is too much work. “I’ve already got enough to do.” “How does this help our bottom-line?” Senior management needs to effectively shape and communicate the message internally and externally. They need to send a clear message that this is a long-term commitment by the company. The key message is that this will contribute to the com­pany’s success and that each person will benefit - but that they will also be held accountable.

Once you have convinced people that they need to do something, senior management needs to drive implementation. They do not need to lead the effort on a day-to-day operational level, but they do need to adopt the policy and oversee the implementation plan. Re­sources will be necessary in order to communicate the policy inter­nally and externally, integrate new procedures and train all relevant staff and suppliers.

Crafting the initial messages can be a good time to talk through the above stages with your senior management. Consider accompany­ing the Policy Statements with a message from the CEO.

suitcasesmall.jpg Use the Toolkit item CEO Letter Announcing the ESMS - Internal to get started.


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