Management systems are not as daunting as you might think

Environment Minister Elliot Morley argues that environmental management systems are not as daunting as many businesses might think

Many businesses are becoming more environmentally friendly. Many more would like to. However, the challenge for most is just how to do it.
An effective and robust environmental management system (such as ISO 14001 or registration for the European Regulation EMAS) can often be the key.
Environmental management systems (EMSs) provide organisations with a powerful and practical way to reduce their environmental impacts systematically, be more efficient with natural resources, and manage their supply chain more effectively. A more efficient organisation also uses fewer resources. In fact, EMSs have been found to provide cost savings and increased competitiveness.
Recently, companies have achieved economic benefits, greater customer satisfaction, and improved internal communications with an EMS in place. It all sounds great but the barrier appears to be confusion surrounding how difficult, or indeed easy, it is to implement an EMS.
So far, more than 6,000 organisations across the UK are believed to have adopted EMSs certified to ISO 14001. That leaves us fourth worldwide but considerably behind the top country, Japan, which has twice that number.
Adopting an EMS does not have to be daunting. Breaking the implementation into discrete phases, it becomes much simpler. There are also plenty of support tools that can help.
For instance, a new British Standard - BS 8555 - has been developed to help implement an EMS by taking a stepwise approach and enable them to achieve certification to ISO 14001 or EMAS registration at their own speed.
I would like to see organisations make the kind of commitments they have to other certified systems and standards and adopt a robust EMS certified to ISO 14001 or BS 8555. These should be audited by an independent certifier accredited by the UK Accreditation Service.
Companies will also open up more procurement opportunities as the public sector and others move to source materials and services from companies that view their impacts on the environment seriously.
More and more organisations have to prove they are managing their risks, including environmental ones, in a responsible and systematic way.
The revisions to the Pensions Act and the growth of socially responsible investment mean even financial institutions are asking more questions about how companies manage their environmental impacts. Business performance indices are also monitoring the performance of organisations.
Organisations which are regulated by the Environment Agency can also expect a lighter regulatory touch and lower fees and charges, as a result of a risk-based approach to environmental enforcement where priority regulatory effort is given to poorest operators and higher-risk activities.
Cost-effective, attractive to business partners, environmentally friendly, easy access to a wide range of guidance and support - it makes good business sense to implement and maintain a robust and effective EMS. I only hope more find out just how easy it can be to start.
· See the EA study at remas.ewindows.eu.org/
index.htm
· Details of BS 8555 can be found at www.iema.net

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