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Setting up an Environmental Management System (EMS)

Written by Nick Harford on 18 September 2020

An Environmental management system (EMS) can be a powerful tool to not only monitor and manage environmental impacts but also as an instrument for overall organisational improvement.

When well developed, implemented and used to full effect, an EMS can of course reduce environmental risks and harm, but can also:

> leverage efficiencies and cost reduction;

> facilitate cultural change and engagement; and

> support competitive advantages and brand differentiation.

Like any business system, whether for safety or quality or other businesses elements, the effectiveness of an EMS is ultimately a function of the effort and commitment that goes in to executing and employing the system.

As a guide to getting started, the basis of an EMS is often about getting data right. Tracking key environmental impacts such as energy, water, waste and greenhouse emissions forms the foundation to understand an organisation’s environmental footprint, issues and opportunities.

An EMS then establishes a framework to guide decisions that have a material effect on those impacts. Policies and procedures then provide guidance and instructions on how people are expected to operate, day to day requirements and what is the desired outcome.

An Environmental Management System (EMS) is a structured framework to manage the environmental performance of a company’s activities while helping to ensure environmental compliance. An EMS provides a structured approach to identifying and managing environmental impacts, targets, responsibilities, priorities and actions.

As with many systems there is of course an international standard for EMS, ISO14001. The standard is a great framework whether an organisation seeks accreditation or not. With or without that standard, a good EMS covers off on:

Regulations and compliance

> Does your organisation have an environmental strategy and policy and is it compliant with environmental laws and regulations?

Roles and responsibilities

> Does the company have an Environmental manager or someone responsible for environmental issues and conduct environmental training and induction?

Monitoring and Reporting

> Do you currently measure and record key environmental impacts and is there an Environmental Risk Assessment?

Environmental control

> Are you aware of your organisations environmental risks, impacts and significant aspects relating to activities and operations?

As the following shows, an EMS can be developed and implemented in a relatively short time and then the on-going benefits accrue and drive on-going benefits.

It has been noticeable that there is an increased take up of EMS. In the last 12-18 months Equilibrium has fielded increased inquiries from organisations seeking advice and support to det an EMS and gain greater control of their environmental impacts.

The stated reasons are many. Some are motivated by their customers, clients or the market generally and want to be seen to be doing the right thing, others recognise the need to measure so you can manage, and others are on a longer journey where environmental management is a foundation piece in a values driven approach to overall sustainability.

Whatever the inspiration, a good EMS is a solid approach to organisational and reputational improvement.

If your business is interested insetting up an EMS, please contact the Equilibrium team on (03) 9372 5356 or at info@equil.com.au

Visit our Case Studies page to see some prior EMS projects.

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