Environmental risk management

Environmental risk management

There are tools available that can help you develop a consistent framework to manage your environmental risks. By developing and implementing an environmental management plan (EMP) or environmental management system (EMS), your business can demonstrate that all reasonable actions are being taken to avoid causing environmental harm.

Understanding your risks using the assessing and controlling risk guide (publication 1695) to develop a hazard and risk register forms a basis of any plan or system, and can help you tailor your approach to suit the level of risk of your business operations.

A new legal framework will come into effect on 1 July 2020 that will help drive environmental improvements by ensuring everyone takes responsibility for the risks they pose to the environment. The cornerstone of the Environment Protection Amendment Act 2018 is the general environmental duty (GED). The GED fact sheet (publication 1741) provides more information.

The assessing and controlling risk guide and the GED fact sheet are available in languages other than English.

What are an EMP and EMS?

An environmental management plan (EMP) is a site or project specific plan that ensures appropriate environmental management practices are followed during a project’s duration or site operation. It is structured to meet a business’s needs and circumstances.

An environmental management system (EMS) has a broader application to a site or multiple sites within an organisation. It provides a standard framework to manage environmental aspects, fulfil compliance obligations, address risks and opportunities and demonstrate continuous improvement. Australian Standard ISO 14000 series outlines EMS requirements, and an EMS can be certified against this standard. If an organisation has an EMS, specific projects may still have an EMP that would be consistent with the parent EMS.

Some organisations choose to integrate health and safety, environment, and quality management systems (HSEQ) into one management system. This approach streamlines processes and provides comprehensive business coverage, but can also be resource intensive.


Here are some factors to consider when deciding whether to develop an EMP or an EMS:

  • Do you have management commitment?
  • Do you have adequately trained people to develop, implement and monitor the plan or system?
  • If you do not have the required skills, contact a suitably qualified environmental consultant to help you develop your EMP/EMS.
  • You will need to budget for costs associated with maintaining (and certifying) your EMS.
  • The level of detail and complexity in the plan or system should reflect the level of risk at your business.
  • You need to ensure you monitor effectiveness of your environmental risk management approach by:
    • regularly reviewing your hazards, risks, controls (hazard and risk register) as set out in Assessing and controlling risk: A guide for business (publication 1695)
    • regularly reviewing and investigating incidents, complaints and near misses. This can be an indicator for how well you are managing risk.

Guidance in languages other than English

Assessing and controlling risk: A guide for business (publication 1695)

Industry guidance: supporting you to comply with the general environmental duty (publication 1741)

Page last updated on 5 Sep 2019