Bite size chunks

Paul Burr, senior consultant at White Young Green Environmental - which helped develop the package - explains the Easy Access EMS programme

The construction sector presents its own set of environmental challenges, given the shifting nature of the work place, materials and techniques being used. In addition, changes in circumstances at different stages of projects and a high reliance on the use of subcontractors (many of them small businesses) introduce complications that are not typical for other sectors.

In response to this challenge CIRIA instigated the development of Easy Access Environment Management, a package of guidance and templates, based on the implementation of environmental management systems (outlined in the new British Standard 8555).

Smooth progression

Easy Access has been developed specifically to help organisations in the construction sector deal with the issues they face, allowing smooth progression to ISO 14001. It is really environmental management in bite size chunks.

For example, no two construction sites are the same, and the construction site team may not all speak fluent English. It is vital that a company's EMS is developed and focused to suit their particular needs and that it delivers tangible business benefits. Easily said, but not always easily delivered in the construction industry.

Its phased approach was recognised as an effective and practical model for organisations of all sizes and the CIRIA recognised a benefit in the clear implementation programme. Furthermore, recognition for smaller organisations with limited resources and organisations which pose lower risks to the environment was seen as being of particular importance to the sector.

Easy Access was built upon the partnerships experience of environmental management and launched in 2003 with a training programme to build skills in businesses to implement each phase. It was supported with guidance material consisting of CD-Rom, templates and planning tools.

These materials were developed early in the project, but trials were important. The approach, training and support materials were tested with organisations from the construction sector and feedback gathered to identify necessary enhancements. A pilot programme was delivered to over 50 businesses within the supply chain of AMEC, BAA, and Kier Eastern. From the initial trial stages of the project it takes organisations some months to work through all of the phases (1-7). So as not to delay the availability of phases 1 to 3 these were launched in April 2003 alongside the launch of BS8555. Phases 4 to 7 were still being tested at this point in time.

The first stages

Phases 1-3 were introduced first, and consisted of:

  • Phase 1: Securing Commitment and Establishing the Baseline;
  • Phase 2: Legal Compliance; and
  • Phase 3: Developing Objectives, Targets and Programmes.
  • They have now been available for over a year and have proven to be an effective support tool for businesses in the construction sector which are addressing environmental performance.

    Supply chain management

    Another important aspect of Easy Access is to help large companies manage tiers of subcontractors and for the standards they want to see cascade down through the tiers of suppliers.

    Peter Johnson, quality and environmental manager at Kier Eastern says: "When developing a supply chain in 2003/2004, environmental awareness and capability were not originally one of the selection procedure criteria. But if we are going to comply with our environmental policy then it will need to become a selection criterion.

    "How do you assess a sub-contractor's environmental capabilities? We deal with a large number of sub-contractors of varying sizes. For most of our supply chain members obtaining ISO 14001 is not practicable. However, setting an achievement of BS 8555 level 1, 2 or 3 depending on the company's impact on the environment is an option being considered for the future. The Easy Access programme could help our supply chain members to achieve this, particularly if we help with the training." Phases 1 to 3 enable organisations to get started and implement a basic EMS, which identifies their significant impacts and relevant legal requirements, and sets objectives, targets and improvements programmes with supporting key performance indicators. However, other elements of a full EMS (as recognised by the standard ISO 14001) are not covered and Phases 4 to 6 address these.

    Assessing the system's effectiveness

    Phases 4 to 6 introduce environmental management practices and procedures which assess the effectiveness of the system and factor in review processes and ongoing checking, auditing, training and communications which help strengthen the system as an ongoing improvement process.

    Phase 7 looks at integration with existing management systems and practices. Organisations which already have management systems in place for quality, health and safety, Investors in People etc will have some of the elements of a formal EMS, as such Phase 7 helps organisations identify how they might integrate elements of these systems to create a more efficient and streamlined approach.

    The last four phases are being introduced and consist of:

  • Phase 4: Implementation and Operation;
  • Phase 5: Checking, Audit and Review;
  • Phase 6: EMS Acknowledgement; and
  • Phase 7: Integration.
  • Cost-effective implementation

    Paul Burr of White Young Green Environmental, who was centrally involved in the development of Easy Access, says: "Easy Access has been set up so that it can be delivered to groups of organisations in a cost-effective manner. In addition, the guidance and supporting materials enable organisations to follow a clear, step by step path with recognised stop-off points along the way at which they can gain some degree of recognition for their efforts.

    "These features make the approach accessible for organisations of all sizes and as such can be a highly effective model for larger construction organisations to employ as part of their supplier engagement and improvement processes."

    The package seeks to provide a practical response to the commonly held view that construction is an inherently dirty business. While there is still much work to do in the sector, standards have improved markedly over the past ten years through the implementation and maintenance of effective management practices and processes. Easy Access provides a practical approach to implementing and maintaining effective systems for environmental management.


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