An environmental management system (EMS) is a program that can be used to identify, manage and reduce an organisation's impact on the environment and generate reports on environmental performance progress. It provides a systematic and methodical approach to planning, implementing and reviewing an organisation's response to those impacts.
An EMS does not set environmental standards, but sets out procedures designed to meet the environmental performance requirements that are most relevant to the organisation. It can also be integrated with other management systems (such as Occupational Health and Safety) to give a whole of business approach.
By implementing an EMS, an organisation can ensure that addressing environmental issues is thoroughly explicitly incorporated into normal business operations.
While industry has led the uptake of EMS, a broad range of organisations (including small to medium enterprises, government agencies and schools) are implementing EMSs.
EMS models have been developed throughout the world, including ISO 14001, the European Eco Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) and the British Standard (BS7750). While there are differences between these models, they all incorporate the general principles of an EMS, for example:
- appointment of an environment manager or environment team, who is responsible for the EMS and for ensuring organisational commitment
- establishment of an environment policy for the organisation
- identification of significant environmental aspects (activities) and impacts
- identification of relevant legislative and regulatory requirements
- identification of environmental priorities and establishment of environmental objectives and targets
- development and implementation of an environment management program (this includes assigning responsibilities for undertaking actions)
- establishment of a monitoring, review and reporting program to review effectiveness of the program, to report to management on implementation and to undertake any corrective action
- ensuring that the EMS is based on the premise of continued improvement.