Environmental Management Systems, What Is An Environmental Management System and How An EMS Can Benefit Your Business

Background
What Are Environmental Management Systems
Environmental Management Systems Defined
Plan, Do, Check, Act Model
Plan
Do
Check
Act
Key Elements of an EMS
What Are The Benefits of an EMS
Financial Benefits of an EMS
Costs of EMS Implementation
Standards For Environmental Management Systems

Background

Corporations and organizations are being encouraged to use environmental management systems (EMSs) that improve compliance, pollution prevention, and other measures of environmental performance but what exactly are EMSs?

What Are Environmental Management Systems

Environmental Management Systems are a set of processes and practices that enable a company or organization to systematically assess and manage its environmental "footprint". An environmental footprint is the environmental impact associated with the activities, products and services of a company or organization.

An EMS can assist in improving environmental performance by providing the tools required by a company or organization to successfully manage their environmental activities in a cost effective manner.

Environmental Management Systems Defined

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) defines environmental management systems as "that part of the overall management system which includes organizational structure, planning activities, responsibilities, practices, procedures, processes, and resources for developing, implementing, achieving, reviewing, and maintaining the environmental policy."

EMSs come in many forms, and can be used in a variety of sectors, including factories, small businesses, service industries, and government agencies. EMSs are customised to the business needs of individual companies and organizations and most EMSs are built on the "Plan, Do, Check, Act" model.

Plan, Do, Check, Act Model

This Plan, Do, Check, Act EMS model leads to continual improvement based on the four stages:

  • Plan
  • Do
  • Check
  • Act

Plan

The EMS planning stage includes identifying environmental aspects and establishing goals

Do

Doing includes implementing, including training and operational controls

Check

Checking stage of an EMS model includes monitoring and corrective action

Act

Acting on an EMS involves reviewing the EMS, including progress reviews and acting to make needed changes to the EMS.

Key Elements of an EMS

The key elements of any environmental management system are:

  • Environmental policy - Develop a statement of your organization’s commitment to the environment. Use this policy as a framework for planning and action.
  • Environmental aspects - Identify environmental attributes of your products, activities, and services. Determine those that could have significant impacts on the environment.
  • Legal and other requirements - Identify and ensure access to relevant laws and regulations, as well as other requirements to which your organization adheres.
  • Objectives and targets - Establish environmental goals for your organization, in line with your policy, environmental impacts, the views of interested parties, and other factors.
  • Environmental management program - Plan actions necessary to achieve your objectives and targets.
  • Structure and responsibility - Establish roles and responsibilities for environmental management and provide appropriate resources.
  • Training, awareness, and competence - Ensure that your employees are trained and capable of carrying out their environmental responsibilities.
  • Communication - Establish processes for internal and external communications on environmental management issues.
  • EMS documentation - Maintain information on your EMS and related documents.
  • Document control - Ensure effective management of procedures and other system documents.
  • Operational control - Identify, plan, and manage your operations and activities in line with your policy, objectives, and targets.
  • Emergency preparedness and response - Identify potential emergencies and develop procedures for preventing and responding to them.
  • Monitoring and measurement - Monitor key activities and track performance. Conduct periodic assessments of compliance with legal requirements.
  • Nonconformance and corrective and preventive action - Identify and correct problems and prevent their recurrence.
  • Records - Maintain and manage records of EMS performance.
  • EMS audit - Periodically verify that your EMS is operating as intended.
  • Management review - Periodically review your EMS with an eye to continual improvement.

What Are The Benefits of an EMS

Environmental Management Systems (EMSs) are designed to identify, assess, and reduce facilities' environmental impacts. An EMS enables a facility to improve the environmental, health and safety conditions throughout its business operations. Implementation of an EMS can help facilities to:

  • Comply with regulatory responsibilities, and provides a means for addressing non-regulated environmental aspects such as energy efficiency and resource conservation;
  • Assess risks and liabilities;
  • Increase operating efficiency, create standard operating procedures and capture institutional knowledge of experienced employees;
  • Increase employees' environmental awareness and involvement throughout the organization;
  • Provide a competitive edge and improve public relations;

Financial Benefits of an EMS

The benefits for the environment often cannot be accurately calculated in monetary terms but an EMS can have substantial financial benefits for companies and organizations as they reduce waste and implement better business practices that have the additional benefit of saving money. The bottom line benefits of implementing an EMS can include all of the benefits associated with the other performance categories (e.g., energy management, water management), as well as:

  • reduced risk and liability for accidents, wastes, and non-compliance,
  • reduced legal and insurance costs,
  • product and process innovation,
  • enhanced revenues due to product improvements,
  • improved community relations, and
  • increased employee satisfaction and retention.

EPA and many non-governmental organizations, trade groups, and companies collect and share information on techniques and tools for improving a facility's environmental management system.

Costs of EMS Implementation

Developing and implementing an EMS may also have some associated costs, including:

  • An investment of internal resources, including employee time
  • Costs for training of personnel
  • Costs associated with hiring consulting assistance, if needed
  • Costs for technical resources to analyze environmental impacts and improvement options, if needed.

Standards For Environmental Management Systems

ISO 14000 refers to a series of voluntary standards in the environmental field under development by ISO. Included in the ISO 14000 series are the ISO 14001 EMS Standard and other standards in fields such as environmental auditing, environmental performance evaluation, environmental labeling, and life-cycle assessment.

Source: AZoCleantech and US EPA

Date Added: Mar 10, 2009
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