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.
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.
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:
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.
There are three primary processes within an Environmental Management System:
The key elements of an EMS include:
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:
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.