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Environmental Management System (EMS)


What is an Environmental Management System (EMS)?

An Environmental Management System (EMS) is a comprehensive framework that integrates policies, procedures, and processes to effectively manage an organization's environmental performance and address its impacts on the environment. 

It serves as a tool for improving environmental practices, ensuring compliance with legal standards, reducing waste, and promoting sustainability. The EMS follows a systematic approach, typically based on the ISO 14001 standard, to monitor, summarize, and report specialized environmental performance information to both internal and external stakeholders.


Goals of an EMS

The primary goals of an EMS are to increase compliance with legal requirements and regulations while striving to minimize waste generation, environmental impact, and continual improvement

Compliance refers to adhering to and maintaining the minimal legal standards set by regulatory bodies. Non-compliance can lead to fines, government intervention, or even the inability to continue operating. 

Waste reduction is about minimizing environmental harm throughout an organization's activities. The EMS facilitates the development, implementation, management, coordination, and monitoring of environmental policies, starting from the design phase by promoting pollution prevention and waste minimization strategies. The principles of "reduce, reuse, and recycle" play a significant role in limiting waste generation.


Key Features of an EMS

Key features of an EMS include its function as a tool for improving environmental performance through activities such as design, pollution control, waste minimization, training, reporting to top management, and goal setting. 

It provides a systematic approach to managing an organization's environmental affairs, ensuring the consideration of immediate and long-term impacts of products, services, and processes on the environment. The EMS establishes order and consistency by allocating resources, assigning responsibility, and continuously evaluating practices, procedures, and processes. It fosters environmental buy-in from both management and employees, promoting accountability and responsibility within the organization.


EMS Model: Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA)

The EMS follows a Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle, which represents a continuous improvement process. It starts with planning, including the development of an environmental policy and the formulation of the EMS. The next step involves implementing the EMS, followed by checking the system's effectiveness and taking appropriate actions based on the findings. 

This model ensures that an organization continually reviews and revises its EMS, adapting to changing circumstances and striving for ongoing improvement. The PDCA cycle is applicable to a wide range of organizations, including manufacturing facilities, service industries, and government agencies.


1. Plan

Environmental aspects / Legal and other requirements / Objectives, targets, and programs

2. Do

Resources, responsibilities, and authority / Competence, training, and awareness / Communication / Documentation / Control of documents / Operational control / Emergency preparedness and response

3. Check

Monitor and measure / Evaluate compliance / Nonconformity, corrective and preventive action / Control of records / Internal audits

4. Act

Management review / ISO 14001 audit


Accreditation: ISO 14001: 2015

Accreditation of an EMS can be achieved through compliance with the ISO 14001 standard, published by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) - a global body that creates and distributes standards accepted internationally. With over 420,000 certifications issued annually, ISO 14001 is the most widely recognized and utilized standard for environmental management systems worldwide. It provides organizations with a solid framework for implementing an EMS and emphasizes the use of the PDCA methodology to achieve continuous improvement in an organization's environmental performance. 


Benefits of an EMS

The advantages of an organization using an EMS include improving environmental performance, ensuring compliance, increasing business reputation, reducing operational costs, and enhancing employee morale. 


Environmental Performance and Compliance 

Implementing an EMS will help an organization take the necessary steps to control environmental risks and strive for continual improvement. Ensuring controls are implemented and gaining third-party auditing will demonstrate that compliance with current and future statutory requirements has been met.


Business Reputation 

By receiving certification from the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO), your key stakeholders will know that you are accredited to a high level. This shows that you are taking your organization’s environmental impact seriously.    


Reduction of Operational Costs 

An EMS assesses how your organization uses resources and identifies ways to reduce elements like waste, ensuring more efficient use of resources.  Minimizing unnecessary consumption results in a reduction in costs. For instance, improving how you consume energy will lead to reduced spending on electricity or gas.   


Enhanced Environmental Culture 

Environmental action is a core value that employees are looking to share with their employers. Showcasing that your organization cares for people and the planet increases the likelihood of diversifying and improving the skill set of your company by hiring like-minded people.    



An Environmental Management System (EMS) is a comprehensive framework that enables organizations to manage their environmental performance effectively. By integrating policies, procedures, and processes, an EMS helps organizations improve compliance with legal standards, reduce waste, and minimize their environmental impact. 

It provides a systematic approach to environmental management, emphasizing continual improvement, accountability, and sustainability. The EMS follows the PDCA cycle, ensuring ongoing review and revision of the system. Accreditation can be achieved through compliance with the ISO 14001 standard, which sets a recognized framework for implementing an EMS and driving continuous environmental improvement.

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