Newsletter and Technical Publications
<Technical Workbook on Environmental Management Tools for
Environmental Management Systems (EMS)
Many organizations and entities like local governments and corporations
are realizing the importance of having on Environmental Management System (EMS)
to help them meet growing public expectations for environmental responsibility
and increasingly stringent regulatory requirements. An EMS within an
organization is one that follows the well-known Quality Management Approach of
"Plan, Do, Check, Improve." It is a problem identification and problem solving
tool which can be implemented in many different ways depending on the precise
sector or activity, and the needs perceived by management. There is no single
best approach to the development and implementation of an EMS, but several
common core elements should be present, namely, Environmental Policy,
Environmental Program or Action Plan, Organizational Structure, Integration into
Operations, Monitoring/ Measurement and Record-Keeping, Corrective & Preventive
Action, EMS Audits, Management Review, Training and External Communications.
These are discussed in this paper.
One of the outcomes of the 1992 Earth Summit conference was Agenda 21, a
"global consensus and political commitment at the highest level" on how
governments, organizations, non-governmental organizations, and all sectors of
society can cooperate to solve the crucial environmental problems of our time.
Because the Secretary General of the United Nations Conference on Environment
and Development (UNCED) wanted to ensure that business would participate in the
process of discussion and decision making, he sought the help of a leading Swiss
industrialist in establishing the Business Council on Sustainable Development
(BCSD). The BCSD published an important report entitled, "Changing Course,"
and it also approached the International Organization for Standardization (ISO)
to discuss the development of environmental standards.
Parallel with these developments, the International Chamber of Commerce
(ICC) developed the Business Charter for Sustainable Development in 1990
which was launched the following year at the Second World Industry Conference on
Environmental Management (WICEM).
One of the most important activities of the last few years is perhaps the
development of standards in the environmental field, especially those being
undertaken by the International Organization for Standardization
(ISO). These are essential if EMS is to be applied within the context of a
"level playing field" as required by international trade agreements both within
the European Union and the rest of the world (GATT/WTO). Standard developments
at the national and European level are also affecting industry worldwide, the
main developments being the recognition of the British Standard for EMS (BS
7750) in many countries and the implementation of the Eco Management and
Audit Scheme (EMAS) in the European Union.
Because of these and many other factors, organizations and entities like
local governments are realizing the importance of having an Environment
Management System (EMS). This will enable them to meet growing public
expectations for environmental responsibility and to ensure compliance with
regulatory and industry requirements.
An Environmental Management System within an organization is one that follows
the well-known Quality Management approach of "Plan, Do, Check,
Improve." It is a problem identification and problem solving tool which can
be implemented in many different ways depending on the precise sector or
activity and the needs perceived by management.
ISO defines on EMS as "the part of the overall management system that
includes organizational structure, planning activities, responsibilities,
practices, procedures, processes and resources for developing, implementing,
achieving, reviewing and maintaining the environmental policy."
Effective environmental management strives to achieve goals for optimizing
resource use and minimizing environmental impact while at the same time
maintaining economic/businesses growth and viability. It should ideally be
integrated in an organization's overall management system, rather than be
treated as a separate effort.
In addition, organizations have an important role to play in promoting
sustainable development. An organization may be a company, corporation, firm,
organization or institution, or part or combination thereof, whether
incorporated or not, public or private, that has its own functions and
administration. For organizations with more than one operating unit, a single
operating unit may be defined as an organization.
In its 1987 Report entitled Our Common Future, the "Brundtland Commission"
(World Commission on Environment and Development) defined sustainable
development as "development that meets the needs of the present without
compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."
Core elements of EMS
There is no single best approach to the development and implementation of an
EMS since it depends on the nature, size and complexity of the activities,
products and services within the organization. Yet all Environmental Management
Systems have a number of core elements in common. These are as follows:
- An Environmental Policy is usually published as a written
Environmental Policy Statement, expressing the commitment of senior
management to improving appropriate environmental performance. It is most often
understood as a public statement of the intentions and principles of action for
the organization regarding the environment. The policy statement should define
the broad environmental goals the organization has decided to achieve. These are
most clear if they are quantified. For example, a chemical company issued a
policy statement: "to reduce emissions of pollutants by 95% within five years."
A municipality might adopt the policy: "to provide sewerage and biological
treatment of sludge for 60% of the population within three years."
- An Environmental Program or Action Plan describes the measures the
organization will take over the coming year(s). The Environmental Program or
Action Plan translates the environmental policies of the organization into
objectives and targets and identifies the activities to achieve them, defines
responsibilities and commits the necessary human and financial resources for
implementation. Whether in companies or local government, the action plan
commits the necessary funds and staff to meet each goal, and provides for
monitoring and coordination of progress towards these separate goals and the
overall policy goal. The program also uses the assembled overview of the
environmental aspects of the organization and the overview of legal and other
requirements that have to be fulfilled. This information is collected for the
first time by performing an Environmental Review.
- Organizational structures establish assignments, delegate authority
and assign responsibility for actions. In the case of organizations with
multiple sites or different activities, this includes organizational structures
for the organization as a whole as well as for the separate operating units. The
senior staff member responsible for the environment typically has a direct
reporting relationship to the head of the organization. Individuals holding
strategic or line environmental responsibilities should be adequately supported
with human and financial resources.
- The integration of environmental management into regular operations,
which includes procedures for incorporating environmental measures into other
aspects of the organization's operations such as the protection of workers,
purchasing, R & D, product development, mergers and acquisitions, marketing,
finance, etc. in the case of companies, or the safety, health, and welfare of
the community in the case of a local government. This encompasses the
development of specific environmental procedures, usually detailed in operating
manuals and other operating instructions describing measures and actions to take
in the implementation of the Environmental Programme or Action Plan.
Environmental procedures can include:
- Awareness raising on relevant environmental issues, environ-mental policy,
objectives, targets, and role of every employee or of the community in the
environmental management system.
- Internal communication, receiving and responding to communication from
external interested parties.
- EMS documentation and document control.
- Operational control: procedures and criteria for the operations and
activities, as well as goods and services and the suppliers and contractors of
- Risk assessment and emergency response plans to identify potential accidents
and prevent them from becoming catastrophes.