Last edited 05 Jul 2018

Environmental management system

An Environmental Management System (EMS) 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 its specific goals and business.

Whilst EMSs 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 EMS 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 EMS 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.

Organisations can produce a manual to provide a clear and cohesive guide for all employees regarding their EMS. For more information, see Environmental management procedures manual.

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