Environmental Management

An Environmental Management System (EMS) enables your organization to reduce its environmental impact while operating efficiently.

In this article, we’ll answer questions like, what is an Environmental Management System, how does it fit into your GRC plan, what are its benefits, and what does an example of a standard EMS framework look like.

What is environmental management?


Environmental management can be defined as the management of how humans and companies impact the environment. Environmental management in a business context means taking care of the way an organization impacts the environment. 

An Environmental Management System (EMS) is usually implemented by top-level management to help define a company’s environmental policy, practices and objectives. Results are measured and evaluated regularly to ensure the company is achieving its environmental objectives and enhancing performance. 

What is an Environmental Management System (EMS)?
 

An Environmental Management System (EMS) is a framework that allows your company to reduce environmental impact while maintaining operational efficiency. An EMS can be a powerful tool for managing the environmental aspects of an organization, and particularly the negative impacts on the environment.

Think of an EMS like a framework that helps your company achieve its environmental goals and address government regulations. Practices like consistent review, evaluation, and improvement of environmental performance are some of the key factors.

With regular evaluation and review of a company’s processes, you can identify opportunities to improve and implement environmental performance, bringing your organization in line with a more sustainable future.

Each company’s EMS is tailored to their objectives and goals. For example, a publishing company might implement an EMS framework to:

  • manage and reduce its paper use by switching to email-only internal communication
  • review and evaluate waste management processes
  • create a policy for responsible disposal of used toner cartridges

What does an Environmental Management System do?


An EMS helps your organization achieve environmental goals and systematically address regulatory requirements in a cost-effective manner. It provides a proactive approach to working towards environmental targets, reducing risk and improving health and safety practices. Better yet, an Environmental Management System can help your company address and work towards non-regulated issues that are more important globally, like energy conservation.

 

Basic elements of an EMS


There are three primary processes within an Environmental Management System:

  1. Core processes – identifying significant environmental aspects and impacts of your company
  2. Supporting processes – like awareness of legal requirements, infrastructure, communicating EMS information for employee competency, and monitoring and evaluating environmental performance
  3. Management system supporting processes – including document control, record keeping and internal auditing.

The key elements of an EMS include:

  • Analyzing the environmental impact of your company
  • Reviewing your company’s environmental goals
  • Assessing compliance and/or legal obligations
  • Setting environmental objectives and targets
  • Establishing practices and protocols to achieve those targets
  • Ensuring employees are aware of environmental goals and compliance
  • Reviewing, evaluating and improving the EMS.
     

What are the benefits of Environmental Management Systems?


With a strong EMS framework for managing and evaluating environmental practices, your company can see significant improvement in environmental performance, enhanced compliance and a more globally conscious public image. An Environmental Management System ensures a holistic approach to addressing your company’s impact on the environment, establishing a positive relationship with regulators and a strong, future-focused corporate reputation and image.

With environmental concerns more pressing than ever before, it’s crucial for companies to remain compliant, while also demonstrating awareness of environmental issues and responsibilities. On top of the environmental benefits like reduced pollution and resource conservation, implementing an EMS can: 

  • increase efficiency
  • reduce costs
  • improve employee morale, and 
  • make your organization more attractive to investors.

Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG)
 

Your EMS framework is just one aspect of your wider Environment, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) practices and policies. The ESG criteria provides a set of standards for your company’s operations, particularly for socially conscious investors. An ESG approach will cover:

  • Environmental criteria, related to how your company is performing from an environmental perspective;
  • Social criteria, which examines how the organization manages relationships with employees, stakeholders, and the wider community; and
  • Governance criteria, which deals with leadership, executive and shareholder matters.

What is an example of an Environmental Management System?


The most commonly used framework for an EMS is known as IS0 14001, which specifies certain requirements for Environmental Management Systems. Developed and established in 1996 by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the framework includes five main stages, together creating a cycle of continuous improvement:


1. Commitment and policy

The first step in the framework is for the top management of the organization, like the board of directors and shareholders, to make a commitment to environmental improvement and create an environmental policy. This policy then becomes the foundation of the company’s EMS.
 

2. Planning

Identifying the environmental aspects of your company’s operations and activities is crucial to creating a strong EMS. Being aware of the negative impacts on people and the environment means the organization can then determine which aspects are most significant to address in working towards enhancing environmental performance. These most significant criteria become the foundation for setting objectives and targets in the planning stages. The final part of the planning phase is devising an action plan, clearly defining steps and designating responsibilities for meeting these targets.
 

3. Implementation

Following through with the action plan requires implementing the necessary resources, such as human, legal and financial. This could include employee training and awareness, creating documentation, policies, communication procedures and operating procedures.


4. Evaluation

The fourth step in the framework involves your company monitoring its operations and evaluating whether the objectives and targets are being reached. If not, the company takes action, and the cycle continues.


5. Review

Using the results of the evaluation, top management will review and determine whether the company’s environmental policy is consistent with its values and primary goals. If not, the plan is revised, creating a loop of continuous improvement.

Run Environmental Management with a comprehensive ESG solution

​​With TriLine GRC’s ESG solution, you can be proactive in identifying potential issues and staying within environmental, social and governance compliance standards. Maintain your ESG framework in an always-on, forward-facing dashboard so you are always ready to eliminate risk.
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