Environmental Management Systems - By Ken Smith of Casella Stanger

Environmental responsibility is a term commonly used in boardrooms throughout the UK. This highlights that effective management of environmental issues is an area of concern for many companies, from large FTSE 100 companies to smaller organisations.

This interest in environmental responsibility is generated by different reasons for each company, however, they all aim to achieve the same goal – to minimise and control potential negative environmental impacts and risks.

What is an Environmental Management System?
An Environmental Management System (EMS) is a powerful tool for the identification and management of environmental risks. It also provides a mechanism for delivering performance improvements, resource savings and promoting environmental best practice.

There are two EMS standards which an organisation can receive external certification too namely, the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) and BS EN ISO14001. Both standards have been widely accepted by UK businesses with over 2,500 BS EN ISO 14001 certificates and almost 90 EMAS certificates currently issued within the UK.

The 'standards' identify that an effective environmental management should be based around the following stages;

  • Planning stage - including development of an environmental policy, the evaluation of environmental aspects and impacts, the development of objectives and targets and the preparation of an environmental management programme (or action plan);
  • Implementation stage - including defining roles and responsibilities, assessing competence and assigning training, communications, documentation and document control, operational control and emergency preparedness;
  • Checking & corrective action - including monitoring of performance, specifying corrective action, record keeping and auditing;
  • Review - including management review.

EMAS is based on a European Union regulation and BS EN ISO 14001 is an internationally recognised standard. The main difference between the two standards is that EMAS requires the additional production of a periodic public environmental statement which outlines an organisation's environmental impacts, environmental programme, the involvement of stakeholders and progress in achieving improvement in performance. It also requires a formal review.

So why implement an EMS?
The use of EMSs to control environmental risks is not a new concept. EMSs have been externally reviewed since 1992 and as stated earlier over 3000 EMSs have been externally certified within the UK. This large uptake in the implementation of EMS demonstrates that there are continued benefits from implementing EMS.

Some of the business benefits gained from the implementation of an EMS are detailed below;

  • A more systematic approach to business management.
  • Reduce prosecution and improved relationships with regulatory authorities.
  • The confidence to do business in what before may have been viewed as high-risk areas or processes.
  • Financial benefits in terms of, for example, reduced waste and energy bills.
  • Competitive advantage over organisations with less developed risk management procedures.
  • Improved public profile and better relationship with stakeholders.

Types of EMS
An EMS can take many forms, from detailed and prescriptive procedures, to simple flowcharts. It can also be delivered and communicated in many different ways, from paper copies of procedures to electronic systems held on company intranets.

The type of EMS that an organisation chooses depends on the size and culture of the organisation and the existing communications process. One example that a large multi-site organisation may opt to use is an internet based software package such as 'Oxegen'.

Oxegen can assist an organisation in rapidly establishing its EMS or to maintain and keep 'live' its existing system. The package is currently used in a variety of sectors including automotive, retail, forestry and local government.

Alternatively a Small to Medium sized Enterprise (SME) may opt to install a small paper based simple flowchart system which provides clear instructions which all levels of staff can understand.

Accord Case Study
Casella Stanger have worked with Accord Group to develop an EMS certified to ISO 14001. Accord plc owns a number of businesses in the services sector which includes companies that supply material to the public sector, companies that are responsible for highway maintenance and companies that are responsible for refuse collection and street cleaning. Due to the growing interest from their public sector clients in ensuring that products and services that are purchased are environmentally sound, Accord plc decided to develop an EMS for their company. The decision was made to adopt an EMS at corporate level to demonstrate that their was top management commitment to the EMS. This system had to address corporate issues, but also be flexible enough to be applicable to the diverse range of businesses throughout the group. Casella Stanger developed an EMS which addressed the environmental issues of consideration for the group, but allowed each business to adopt their own controls and procedures. Accord saw benefits from the system including identifying legal non-compliances and putting in place procedures and practices to improve and in identifying potential risk and positive resource savings. Accord has now achieved ISO 14001 for their corporate business and is adopting EMS throughout the business.

Do you need an EMS?
Whatever your size or activities an EMS can be developed which is effective and suitable to your organisational needs. Indeed consultants such as Casella Stanger are well placed to advise on the type and format of EMS that an organisation should install. Casella Stanger has extensive experience in developing and implementing EMS throughout a wide range of organisation, including its own business. If you are interested in developing an EMS please contact Mr. K. Smith of Casella Stanger on 0207 902 6100.


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