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Environmental Management Systems (EMS)

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Environmental Management Systems (EMS)

EPA encourages organizations to use environmental management systems (EMSs) that improve compliance, pollution prevention, and other measures of environmental performance. The Agency will continue to learn more about which EMS elements and applications are most effective, and to determine how these systems might be used to strengthen environmental programs and policies.

Related publications from the Ag Center
Environmental Management Systems and Audit Protocols

More information from EPA Headquarters
Environmental Management
EPA's Position on Environmental Management Systems
Environmental Management Systems/ISO 14001
Compliance-Focused Environmental Management System - Enforcement Agreement Guidance (PDF) (17 pp, 39K)

More information from EPA Regions
Region 1 (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, and 10 Tribal Nations)
Region 2 (New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, and 7 Tribal Nations)
Region 3 (Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia)
Region 4 (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee)
Region 5 (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin and 35 Tribes)
Region 6 (Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Texas, and 65 Tribes)
Region 7 (Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and 9 Tribal Nations)
Region 8 (Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming, and 27 Tribal Nations)
Region 9 (Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, the Pacific Islands, and over 140 Tribal Nations)
Region 10 (Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and Native Tribes)

EMS information from the states Exit EPA
University of Nebraska - Lincoln, Livestock EMS Information
NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources - EMS Agricultural Information
NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources - EMS for Pork Producers
NC Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance - Pork Production
NC Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance - Farmer Spreadsheets
University of Wisconsin - Extension: EMS in Agriculture
University of Wisconsin - Extension: Livestock EMS Project
Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program
Georgia Department of Natural Resources: Pollution Prevention Assistance Division - Agriculture and Horticulture
Utah State University Ag EMS Publications
Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment: Environmental Management System Permit Pilot Project (PDF) (30 pp, 252K)
New York State Agricultural Environmental Management
Georgia Poultry EMS Pilot Project (PDF) (2 pp, 641K)
North Carolina - ABC Farms Environmental Systems Manual (PDF) (16 pp, 446K) (EMS Manual Template)
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources - Green Tier Program
Louisiana State University - The Louisiana Master Farmer Program
California Dairy Quality Assurance Program
Idaho OnePlan
Montana State University - Natural Resources Extension Program: Landowner Assessments

EMS information from Canada 
Environment Canada EMS Web site Exit EPA

EMS information from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy Exit EPA
Environmental Management Systems and Standards: ISO 14000
Working Towards Registration for ISO 14001
ISO 14001 and Agriculture: Contributed papers
ISO 14001 and Agriculture: Bibliography

Other EMS information Exit EPA
Public Entity Environmental Management System Resource Center (PEER) - provides a broad array of information and tools to help public entities (primarily local governments) understand and adopt EMSs for their operations. The PEER Center is a collaboration between EPA Office of Water and the Global Environment and Technology Foundation.

Examples of EMSs Exit EPA
The Food Alliance
Protected Harvest
Lodi-Woodbridge Winegrape Commission
Shepherd's Grain
Iowa Soybean Association
California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG) - Sustainable Winegrowing Program

What Is an Environmental Management System?

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) defines environmental management systems as "that part of the overall management system which includes organizational structure, planning activities, responsibilities, practices, procedures, processes, and resources for developing, implementing, achieving, reviewing, and maintaining the environmental policy."

In other words, an EMS focuses on environmental management practices, rather than the activities themselves. The EMS provides the structure by which the specific activities can be carried out efficiently and in a manner consistent with key organizational goals, but does not specify levels of performance (e.g., the EMS will ensure that proper procedures are in place and that operator training exists, but won't specify methods or frequency of sampling). The EMS allows an organization the flexibility to adapt the system to its needs and priorities, rather than forcing a "one size fits all" mentality.

Implementation of an EMS is a voluntary approach to improving environmental performance. Over the years, many public and private sector organizations have implemented EMSs, and their numbers grow daily. These organizations report a number of important EMS benefits.

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What Are the Key Elements of an EMS?

The key elements of any environmental management system are:

More information from EPA
Environmental Management Systems: An Implementation Guide for Small and Medium-Sized Organizations

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How Does EPA Promote Environmental Management Systems?

EMSs have great potential for helping small businesses, in particular, improve environmental performance, because they offer a type of operational template that can be easily modified and adopted.

Ongoing Activities --

Approach -- Working with states, tribes, and other stakeholders, EPA will assess the real-world use of EMSs and look at their implications for environmental programs and policies. It will help selected sectors (especially smaller businesses) develop and test EMSs, and it will promote EMSs in selected geographic areas. To do this, EPA will:

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Compliance-Focused Environmental Management Systems

Since the late 1980s, civil multimedia compliance investigations conducted by EPA have increasingly involved identifying causes of observed noncompliance. In a significant number of cases, the causes arise from inadequate environmental management systems. In response, EPA has developed key elements for a compliance-focused EMS model, which have been used as the basis for EMS requirements in several settlement agreements.

The compliance-focused EMS model is intended to supplement, not replace, EMS models developed by voluntary consensus standards bodies, such as the ISO 14001 EMS standard developed by the International Organization for Standardization.

A settlement agreement that requires an EMS should include a requirement that the organization conduct an initial review of its current EMS, followed by development of a comprehensive compliance-focused EMS that must be documented in a manual. The EMS manual must contain policies, procedures, and standards for the 12 key elements, at a minimum, and should also identify other, more detailed procedures and processes (e.g., inspections and self-monitoring) that may be located elsewhere at the facility. After the organization has had sufficient time to implement and refine the EMS (usually 2 to 3 years), the agreement should require at least one EMS audit by an independent third-party auditor, with results reported to both the organization and EPA. However, additional audits may be required, as individual circumstances dictate.

Key Elements of a Compliance-Focused Environmental Management System --

-- Specifies accountability and responsibilities of organization’s management, on-site service providers, and contractors for environmental protection practices, assuring compliance, required reporting to regulatory agencies, and corrective actions implemented in their area(s) of responsibility.
-- Describes incentive programs for managers and employees to perform in accordance with compliance policies, standards and procedures.
-- Describes potential consequences for departure from specified operating procedures, including liability for civil/administrative penalties imposed as a result of noncompliance.

-- Describes process for identifying, interpreting, and effectively communicating environmental requirements to affected organization personnel, on-site service providers, and contractors, and ensuring that facility activities conform to those requirements. Specifies procedures for prospectively identifying and obtaining information about changes and proposed changes in environmental requirements, and incorporating those changes into the EMS.
-- Establishes and describes processes to ensure communication with regulatory agencies regarding environmental requirements and regulatory compliance.

-- Identifies an ongoing process for assessing operations, for the purposes of preventing and controlling releases, ensuring environmental protection, and maintaining compliance with statutory and regulatory requirements. This section shall describe monitoring and measurements, as appropriate, to ensure sustained compliance. It shall also include identifying operations and waste streams where equipment malfunctions and deterioration, operator errors, and discharges or emissions may be causing, or may lead to: (1) releases of hazardous waste or other pollutants to the environment, (2) a threat to human health or the environment, or (3) violations of environmental requirements.
-- Describes process for identifying operations and activities where documented standard operating practices (SOPs) are needed to prevent potential violations or pollutant releases, and defines a uniform process for developing, approving, and implementing the SOPs.
-- Describes a system for conducting and documenting routine, objective self-inspections by department supervisors and trained staff, especially at locations identified by the process described above.
-- Describes process for ensuring input of environmental requirements (or concerns) in planning, design, and operation of ongoing, new, and/or changing buildings, processes, maintenance activities, and products.

-- Describes standard procedures and requirements for internal and external reporting of potential violations and release incidents.
-- Establishes procedures for investigation, and prompt and appropriate correction of potential violations. The investigation process includes root-cause analysis of identified problems to aid in developing the corrective actions.
-- Describes a system for development, tracking, and effectiveness verification of corrective and preventive actions.
-- Each of these procedures shall specify self-testing of such procedures, where practicable.

-- Identifies specific education and training required for organization personnel, as well as process for documenting training provided.
-- Describes program to ensure that organization employees are aware of its environmental policies and procedures, environmental requirements, and their roles and responsibilities within the environmental management system.
-- Describes program for ensuring that personnel responsible for meeting and maintaining compliance with environmental requirements are competent on the basis of appropriate education, training, and/or experience.

-- Describes how environmental planning will be integrated into organizational decisionmaking, including plans and decisions on capital improvements, product and process design, training programs, and maintenance activities.
-- Requires establishing written targets, objectives, and action plans by at least each operating organizational subunit with environmental responsibilities, as appropriate, including those for contractor operations conducted at the facility, and how specified actions will be tracked and progress reported. Targets and objectives must include achieving and maintaining compliance with all environmental requirements.

-- Identifies the types of records developed in support of the EMS (including audits and reviews), who maintains them and where, and protocols for responding to inquiries and requests for release of information.
-- Specifies the data management systems for any internal waste tracking, environmental data, and hazardous waste determinations.

-- Describes program for periodic (at least annually) evaluation of the EMS, including incorporating the results of the assessment into program improvements, revisions to the manual, and communicating findings and action plans to affected employees, onsite service providers, and contractors.
-- Describes a program for ongoing evaluation of facility compliance with environmental requirements, and should specify periodic compliance audits by an independent auditor(s). Audit results are reported to upper management, and potential violations are addressed through the process described under Environmental Incident and Noncompliance Investigations above.

More information from EPA
Compliance-Focused Environmental Management System - Enforcement Agreement Guidance (PDF) (17 pp, 39K)

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Questions and Answers About ISO 14000

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) promotes the development and implementation of voluntary international standards, both for particular products and for environmental management issues. ISO defines environmental management systems as "that part of the overall management system which includes organizational structure, planning activities, responsibilities, practices, procedures, processes, and resources for developing, implementing, achieving, reviewing, and maintaining the environmental policy."

What are ISO 14000 and ISO 14001?
ISO 14000 refers to a series of voluntary standards in the environmental field under development by ISO. Included in the ISO 14000 series are the ISO 14001 EMS Standard and other standards in fields such as environmental auditing, environmental performance evaluation, environmental labeling, and life-cycle assessment. The EMS and auditing standards are now final. The others are in various stages of development.

How are the ISO standards developed?
All the ISO standards are developed through a voluntary, consensus-based approach. Each member country of ISO develops its position on the standards and these positions are then negotiated with other member countries. Draft versions of the standards are sent out for formal written comment and each country casts its official vote on the drafts at the appropriate stage of the process. Within each country, various types of organizations can and do participate in the process including industry, government (federal and state), and other interested parties, including various non-government organizations (NGOs). For example, EPA and states participated in the development of the ISO 14001 standard and are now evaluating its usefulness through a variety of pilot projects.

What must a community or organization do to have an EMS that meets the ISO 14001 standard?
The ISO 14001 standard requires that a community or organization put in place
and implement a series of practices and procedures that, when taken together, result in an environmental management system. ISO 14001 is not a technical standard and as such does not in any way replace technical requirements embodied in statutes or regulations. It also does not set prescribed standards of
performance for organizations. The major requirements of an EMS under ISO 14001 include:

Is an EMS under ISO 14001 relevant to communities and organizations?
Yes. Because ISO 14001 is essentially a system designed to help communities and other types of organizations meet their environmental obligations and reduce the impact of their operations on the environment, it is relevant to all types of organizations.

What are some of the potential benefits of an EMS based on ISO 14001?

Can existing environmental management activities be integrated into the EMS under 14001?
Yes. The standard is flexible and does not require organizations to necessarily "retool" their existing activities. The standard establishes a management framework by which an organization's impacts on the environment can be systematically identified and reduced. For example, many organizations have active and effective pollution prevention activities underway. These could be incorporated into the overall EMS under ISO 14001.

Why is EPA interested in promoting and testing EMSs under ISO 14001?
Like a number of states, EPA believes EMSs, if implemented properly, could serve as a valuable tool to help organizations improve their environmental performance, increase the use of pollution prevention, and improve compliance. However, this premise needs to be evaluated closely, working with a variety of organizations. EMSs could, in the future, serve as the basis for providing regulatory flexibility to organizations that successfully implement them.

More information from EPA
Environmental Management Systems/ISO 14001

More information from other organizations Exit EPA
National Database on Environmental Management Systems 

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