Environmental Management Systems Overview
An Environmental Management System (EMS) is an organized and formal approach to managing environmental issues within an organization. It is based on the concept that environmental issues should be managed in the same way that an organization manages its core business functions and links the environmental concerns with economic considerations.
An effective EMS is built on Total Quality Management and Quality Management System concepts. To improve environmental management, focus should be not only on what things happen but also why they happen. Over time, the systematic identification and correction of system deficiencies leads to better environmental (and overall organizational) performance.
The EMS model leads to continual improvement based upon:
- Planning: such as identify environmental impacts that result from process operations; establish goals.
- Doing: such as environmental reduction projects or training.
- Checking: such as monitoring.
- Acting: such as management review and program adjustment.
The current regulatory system only addresses 20 percent of the environmental issues that an organization faces. An EMS can help address non-regulated issues as well, which can include: energy efficiency, odor, traffic, etc. The EMS also can promote stronger operational control and employee stewardship.
Benefits of EMS
Many benefits may result from investing the time and resources to develop an EMS. Key factors to consider include:
- Improved compliance with federal, state and local regulations
- Improved environmental performance based on continual improvement (both regulatory and non-regulatory)
- Reduced environmental risk
- Reduced employee risk, fewer accidents in the workplace
- Reduced operational costs
- Conservation of resources
- Increased efficiency
- Increased employee involvement and understanding of their impacts on the environment
- Enhanced image with community, regulators, lenders and others
- Improved fulfillment of customer requirements and attract new customers
- Qualification for recognition or voluntary incentive programs (such as EPA Performance Track)
A realistic evaluation of the cost to develop and implement an EMS must also be taken into account. Internal resources will include staff time to develop the EMS and training of personnel. Consultants may need to be retained and, if an organization decides to pursue certification, there is a cost associated with the audit and review.