Environmental Management System (EMS)

 

An Environmental Management System, or EMS, is a framework for managing the environmental performance of an organization so that it can monitor and control the impact of its activities, services, and products not only on the environment, but on human health and general well-being as well.  It embodies a comprehensive set of management tools, principles, and procedures for developing, implementing, and sustaining its environmental protection endeavors in a systematic and documented manner.

   

Proper implementation of an EMS requires a strong commitment from the organization's management.  It would require the allocation of sufficient internal and external resources not only in logistics but also in manpower.

  

An EMS serves the organization in a variety of ways:  as a tool for improving its environmental performance; as a system for effective management of its environmental activities; as a means of assessing and addressing the environmental effects of its products, services, and activities; as a structure for the allocation of correct and sufficient resources for handling their environmental concerns; and as a way to ensure continuous improvement of the EMS itself.

   

The process of implementing an EMS may be broken down into the following steps:  1)  securing of total commitment from the organization's top management;  2)  conduct of an initial environmental audit, including the release of an audit report; 3)  formation of management and implementation committees and selection of an environmental management representative; 4)  formulation and documentation of the organization's environmental policy, or coming up with an environmental policy statement; 5) drawing up and documentation of an Environmental Management Program, including targets, monitors and controls; 6)  progressive implementation of the program, including regular audits and implementation of corrective/preventive actions; and 7) certification and registration.

   

One way to affirm the success of an organization's EMS is through ISO-14000 certification. The ISO-14000 is a set of standards developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) that provides all industries with a structure and corresponding guidelines for ensuring consistent and effective EMS implementation.

  

One important activity undertaken under an EMS is the identification of so-called 'significant environmental impacts'.  There are attributes of the organization's products, services and activities that affect the environment. The ability to identify these attributes facilitates the generation of corresponding corrective and preventive actions to mitigate their environmental effects.

   

Other key points of a good EMS is the proper and continuous training of employees to inform them of their responsibilities to the environment and teach them how to carry out these responsibilities effectively.  Also, regular management review of the progress of the EMS is a 'must'.

   

Successful implementation of an EMS will reap many rewards, including the following: reduction of wastes, compliance with existing and future environmental regulations, productivity improvements, higher profitability, enhanced company image, and of course, a more positive environmental impact.

   

See Also:    The ISO-14000 Standard;   The ISO 9000 Standard Quality Systems

    

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