Environmental Management systems are defined as explicit sets of arrangements and processes designed to manage environmental issues and ensure that organizations environmental performance goals and objectives are achieved.
EMS has also been defined as part of an organisation’s management system used to develop and implement its environmental policy and manage its environmental aspects.
A management system is a set of interrelated elements used to establish policy and objectives and to achieve those objectives.
A management system includes organizational structure, planning activities, responsibilities, practices, procedures, processes and resources.
Thus EMSs are means by which organizations comply with environmental regulations and legislation and identify, minimize and manage their environmental impacts.
In order to implement an EMS organizations one must identify performance goals and objectives. To do this one needs to first identify environmental aspects.
Environmental aspects (also called environmental effects or impacts) are substances which cause environmental impacts.
Environmental aspects are defined as an element of an organization’s activities or products or services that interact with the environment.
Environmental aspects can be divided into categories such as those we have seen in the previous units and include:
Air pollution and odour
Water pollution including surface, ground, waste water
Use of natural resources
Aspects should be differentiated into aspects which can be directly controlled such as emissions, discharges, solid waste and aspects which can only be influenced such as selection of materials, customer consumption.
To set up a successful EMS, an organization must identify possible environmental aspects, separate controllable aspects from aspects that can be influenced, then identify aspects with significant impacts.
Environmental impacts are any change in the environment whether adverse or beneficial, wholly or partially resulting from an organization’s activities, products, or services.
Once the impact of the organizations products and services are established, one must determine which of them are significant, then set objectives and targets to address significant impacts over which the organization can have an impact.
Elements of EMS
An EMS will include the following main elements:
a) Establish an environmental policy
This commits an organization, and is defined as the overall intentions and direction of an organization related to its environmental performance as formally expressed by top management.
The policy must commit to continual improvement, pollution prevention, and regulatory compliance and meet other organizational requirements.
b) Identify and evaluate environmental aspects
This forms a baseline analysis for comparing set objectives and targets. It involves identification of aspects whether past, present or future, abnormal or normal, frequent or infrequent, controllable or those that can be influenced; significance evaluation based on data, experience, information to determine the significance of aspects. This helps to determine aspects which need control or improvement.
c) Identify relevant legal and regulatory requirements
A procedure to ensure that the organization has access to applicable environmental and legal requirements and to determine how these requirements apply to its environmental aspects must be in place.
d) Develop objectives and targets to control impacts
Management should formulate specific performance objectives, targets and goals. These objectives should be SMART
T- Time bound
They should be documented and aimed at specific functions and levels in the organization. Technology, finance, operations, business and views of interested parties should be taken into account.
These objectives and targets may be classified as relating to:
Control– relating to operating parameters such as objectives and targets to meet laws and regulations.
Improvement–based on goals and requirements of stakeholders , organizational vision and available technologies.
Investigation into future improvements – involving research
To ensure interactions with the environment are controlled and improvements of environmental performance are made and maintained, there are four possible measures:
These four ways control and improve environmental impact in terms of preference with prevention being the best and control being the worst.
Establish and maintain an environmental programme to achieve objectives and targets.
The environmental programme outlines how an organization intends to meet the objectives and targets that are set. It ensures that policy goals, objectives and targets are supported by strategy for implementation. It designates responsibility, plan, authority, control and time –scales.
Implementation and operation (Do)
Organization and responsibilities
The responsibilities that different organizational units and functions have within the EMS are key. Job descriptions need to be defined communicated and understood and specific environmental management structures should be built into existing ones.
Implementation of EMS including training, documentation, operational control and emergency preparedness and response requires that the competencies/ qualifications required should be clearly defined and documented.
Checking and Corrective action (Check)
Monitoring of activities and record keeping
The monitoring and measurement techniques will depend on the significant environmental aspects, related objectives and targets. Measurements may be scientific e.g. sampling, metering or quantitative e.g. informed estimates.
EMS audit procedures Audits may be:
Internal- auditor is employee of organization being monitored
External- auditor is independent second party from within the organization
Third party external audit – auditor is an independent party e.g. certifying agency.
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Parameters such as the targets, regularity, personnel responsible, resources necessary, audit protocol, communication procedures, mechanism for corrective actions and preventive and prevention of reoccurrence should be clearly spelt out.
Management review (Act)
This takes place periodically to determine effectiveness, adequacy and suitability. Based on the review, recommendations are made and incorporated into the company policy. This may require formulation of new objectives and programme modification to achieve these objectives.