Environmental Management Systems- The Basics

An Environmental Management System (EMS) is similar to other management systems, such as those that manage quality or safety. It assesses your business's strengths and weaknesses, helps you identify and manage significant environmental impacts, can save you money through increase efficiency, ensures you comply with environmental legislation and provides benchmarks for improvements. You can prove to customers that you are committed to meeting your environmental responsibilities by getting your EMS certified through standards such as ISO 14001, Green Dragon and BS 8555.

Approaches you can use to plan and set up your EMS will vary depending on the standard. A step approach system such as Green Dragon offers newbies to environmental management the opportunity to gain a fully certificated system that complements your business needs.

The Basics

1)     Commitment from the top: Gaining the buy in of senior management is essential to ensure the EMS has the best chance of being efficient and successful.


2)     Establish the baseline: Gaining an understanding of where you stand is essential.

Key areas to examine include:

·        the environmental impact of your business's products and services - both good and bad;

·        an environmental history of the business;

·        environmental legislation relevant to your business and whether your operations comply;

·        current and future risks.


3)     Environmental compliance: Once you have identified applicable legal requirements, you will need to assess how your business is preforming against the requirements and if necessary, address non- conformances.  


4)     Creating a policy and establish targets: Once you have established your baseline and checked your legal obligations, the next stage is setting up key EMS documents. The policy should be the guiding document in your EMS. It should clearly set out how you will manage the environmental impact of your business and should show what commitments you are prepared to make. To ensure that your policy is followed by all employees, you will need to set and monitor targets.


5)     Operating your EMS: Once you have the key documents, you can start to put in place the EMS. It is important that accountability and responsibility is clearly defined to ensure the system is successful. You may also need to consider training for key members of staff.


6)     Review: An effective EMS requires monitoring and updating. Reviewing your EMS is something you should try to do on a regular basis e.g. undertaking internal audits and management reviews. Once the review is complete, results must be communicated and where appropriate, update the system.