Just as organisations have systems to manage finance, personnel and health and safety, it is equally important that they have an Environmental Management System (EMS) for managing environmental issues.
What is the purpose of an environmental management system?
All businesses should have an EMS that reflects the regulations and legislations applicable to their specific organisation. The EMS manages environmental concerns by implementing policies with clear environmental objectives and targets, and planning strategies to ensure that the business conforms to the legislations. In order for the EMS to successfully identify the necessary measures to take, the organisation must be clear about all the different aspects of its environmental impact. Effective planning should include both reference to the objectives outlined in the company policy, and a detailed understanding of the legal requirements.
What are the key features of an environmental management system?
An important feature of an EMS is the production of an environmental policy. This policy should set out the organisation's approach to managing environmental issues and provide an indication of how to set environmental objectives and targets.
Planning: After a policy has been written, the first stage of an EMS is undertaking effective planning. In this stage, the organisation must be clear about all the different aspects of its environmental impact such as:
- Emissions to land, air and water
- Energy consumption
- Effects on the local community
Planning should also take account of legal requirements and objectives and targets set out in the environmental policy.
Implementation and Operation: In order to implement the EMS, there must be responsibilities assigned to individuals or groups. Training should be provided and good communications put in place with documentation. It is also important that a business considers the procedure for environmental emergencies and plan their response accordingly.
Checking and Corrective Action: A company must monitor and measure the implementation of the EMS and identify where practical arrangements don't comply with the objectives and targets. Following an audit of the EMS, actions should be taken to address any problems.
Management and Review: Senior managers should review the EMS and take action if changes to the environmental policy, objectives and/or targets are required. This will result in continual improvement in environmental performance.
Why do we need environmental management systems?
Having an effective EMS helps businesses reduce their impact on the environment, as well as improving health and safety for both employees and the community. An EMS also ensures that a company's activities do not defy any environmental legislation or regulations. With an increased focus on energy efficiency and waste management, an EMS also helps companies improve their operating efficiency, which reduces costs. Employees are also given access to all the environmental concerns related to their profession, which helps them to understand the importance of environmental awareness and individual actions.
An EMS is also an excellent resource for monitoring objectives and tracking progress. This results in continual improvement and faster achievement of sustainability goals, which contributes to a positive brand image.