Last edited 19 Mar 2018

Environmental management system

An Environmental Management System is a set of processes or practices that enable an organisation to reduce its overall environmental impacts whilst increasing its operating efficiency. It is a framework that enables a company to achieve its environmental goals through a consistent approach. Each organisation should have a system that is tailored to the its specific goals and business.

Whilst Environmental Management Systems are voluntary they demonstrate an explicit commitment to continual environmental improvement. They can also be used to:

  • Assist employees understand their responsibility in relation to the environment.
  • Ensure that all operations and actions have minimal impacts.
  • Monitor environmental performance against a series of targets.
  • Assist in identifying opportunities for waste reduction and other measures to reduce operating costs.

The benefits of implementing an Environmental Management System are not limited to a reduction in overall environmental impacts. They also include:

  • Financial: Reduction in waste which in turn reduces costs, increased profits.
  • Productivity: Improved process control, less waste, reduction in raw materials and consumables.
  • Sales and marketing: Enhanced products, improved sales through promotion of greener credentials.
  • Public relations: Enhanced public image.
  • Legal: Management of environmental risk and ensuring legal compliance.

The content of an Environmental Management System varies depending on the nature of the business in question. However some key components include:

  • Detailed assessment of the business activities, products, systems, processes and services and how they may affect the environment.
  • Development of an environmental policy.
  • Development of a programme for reducing environmental impacts.
  • Clear roles and responsibilities for employees.
  • Training and awareness programme for employees.
  • Written and documented procedures to control activities with environmental impacts.
  • A system for controlling documentation.
  • Regular auditing to ensure conformance.
  • Formal review by management.

For any organisation wishing to implement an Environmental Management System, there are three options available:

  • Development of own in-house system.
  • Use the guidelines within the international standard ISO 14001, the EU Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) or the British Standard BS8555.
  • Follow the guidelines and pursue formal certification to ISO 14001 or EMAS registration.

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