What is an EMS?
Region 7 EMS ComponentsPlan Phase
- EMS Scope
- Environmental Policy
- EMS Terms and Definitions
- EMS Roles and Responsibilities
- Significant Environmental Aspects
- Legal and Other requirements
- Objectives, Targets, and Environmental Management Programs
- Operational Controls
- EMS Training
- EMS Document Control and Records Management
- EMS Operating Procedures
ISO 14001The requirements identified on this page are derived from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 14001 standard for environmental management systems. Additional information on this standard can be obtained from their Website at www.iso.org/iso/home.htm
An environmental management system (EMS) is that part of an organization's overall management system that incorporates all facets of its environmental program, which is then focused on the identification of significant environmental interactions and the mitigation of the negative consequences associated with them. In doing so, the EMS provides a structured framework for organizations to build mission capability by:
- Integrating environmental considerations into day-to-day operations
- Improving overall environmental performance and compliance
- Operating more efficiently and reduce costs
- Reducing pollution generation
- Demonstrating improved performance to the public
In general, an EMS:
- Includes strategic planning, organizational structure, and implementation of an environmental policy as an integrated part of the organization's activities
- Can be implemented in an organization in many different ways, depending on the organization's activities and needs
- Can be adopted by organizations of all sizes and types, including government agencies and small businesses
- Does not impose new technical requirements, nor is it a substitute for existing regulatory standards
- Should be tailored to an organization's processes and goals
- Should involve everyone in the organization so they understand, reduce, and manage the environmental impacts of daily activities with greater efficiency and control
- Encourages an organization to continuously improve its environmental performance
The most commonly used framework for an EMS is the ISO 14001 standard developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).
- Established in 1996, this framework is the official international EMS standard.
- ISO 14001 was initially used in the private sector, principally by industrial facilities.
- EPA participated in the development of the ISO 14001 standard and recognized its potential applicability to a wide variety of public sector activities.
- Although optional and voluntary, once an EMS is developed and implemented, some organizations may undergo a third-party audit to obtain ISO 14001 certification.
The ISO 14001 standard is organized around four main phases or stages that form a continuous “Plan – Do – Check – Act” cycle for improvement of the system, as described below and shown in Figure 1.
1. Planning Environmental Activities (Plan Phase)
- Scope and Policy – Senior managers define the boundaries of the EMS (the scope) and commit to environmental improvement by establishing the organization's environmental policy.
- Aspects – An organization first identifies the environmental aspects of its operations. Environmental aspects are those items, such as air pollutants or hazardous waste, that can have negative (or positive) impacts on people and/or the environment.
- Significance – An organization then determines which aspects are significant by choosing criteria considered most important by the organization (i.e., setting priorities).
- Objectives and Targets – Once significant environmental aspects are determined, the organization sets objectives and targets.
- An objective is an overall environmental goal (e.g., minimize use of chemical X).
- A target is a detailed, quantified requirement created to fulfill an objective (e.g., reduce use of chemical X by 25 percent by September 2009).
- Environmental Management Programs – The final part of the planning phase is developing an environmental management program (EMP) that includes these specific actions for meeting the targets:
- Designating roles and responsibilities
- Identifying training needs
- Establishing a schedule
- Describing procedures to measure and document results
- Outlining clearly defined steps to meet the targets
2. Implementation and Operation (Do Phase)
- An organization follows through with implementing its EMPs using necessary resources (human, financial, etc.).
- An important component is providing EMS awareness training for all employees.
- Other implementation steps include documentation, complying with the organization's established operating procedures, and setting up internal and external lines of communication.
3. Monitoring and Evaluation (Check Phase)
- An organization monitors and documents its operations to evaluate whether targets are being met.
- If targets are not being met, the organization takes corrective action.
4. Management Review and Action (Act Phase)
- Senior management reviews the results of the evaluation to see if the EMS is working properly.
- Management determines whether the original environmental policy is consistent with organizational values.
- The plan is revised to enhance the effectiveness of the EMS, as appropriate.
- The review process creates a loop of continuous improvement.
Additional information about the ISO 14001 EMS framework and how to implement an EMS in your organization can be found on the International Organization for Standardization Website.