An Environmental Management System (EMS) is a framework that helps an organisation to achieve its environmental goals through consistent review, checkpoint, evaluation, and improvement of its environmental performance in line with government frameworks. It is a system which integrates environmental management issues with the overall management functions of an organisation. It is a problem-identification and problem-solving tool which can be implemented in an organisation in different ways, depending on the needs and objectives of an organisation. The belief is that this consistent review and evaluation of the organisation in its environmental framework will identify opportunities for improving environmental performance. Each organisation’s EMS has its objectives and targets.
Features and Benefits of Environmental Management System
An EMS addresses the organisation’s responsibility over environmental management. This approach will help the organisation to mitigate its risk of non-compliance and ensure the health and safety of the employees and the public.
- The first and foremost benefit is, implementing an EMS will help an organisation take the necessary steps to control and reduce environmental risks and strive for continual improvement in its performance.
- ISO 14001 standard provides requirements for effective environment systems for an organisation with guidance and a framework to follow. The ISO 14001 standard of Environment management system is mainly for environmental pollution prevention, compliance with environmental regulations and improvement in environmental performance.
- EMS is a solution-driven and problem-solving approach which can be implemented in an organisation in several ways, depending on the needs and objectives of an organisation.
- The EMS can help in the productive use or reuse of the company’s assets.
- A proper EMS model in an organisation not only helps to reduce the environmental effects of the organisation but also pays the way for the organisation to fulfil its EPR obligations if any.
- The EMS’ implemented organisation gains an excellent public image, develops as a trustworthy company and indirectly benefits its organisation by increasing the confidence of stakeholders.
- EMS allows an organisation to identify ways to reduce waste and ensure more efficient use of resources.
- The showcase of the organisation’s care for the people and the environment increases the company’s diversifying skill set by hiring like-minded people.
ISO 14001:2015 Standard and Framework for EMS
ISO 14001 is the most recognised and official international standard within environmental management and the most widely used standard in the world, based on the Plan-Do-Check-Act methodology. It sets the criteria for an environmental management system. This ISO 14001 certification is issued yearly and provides a road map of frameworks that a company or an organisation may follow to set up effective environmental management systems. Its framework suits any organisation or company regardless of its activity and sector.
The ISO 14001 standard framework assures the employee, customer and company stockholders that the environmental impact is being measured and improved. It provides requirements with guidelines related to the environmental impact and gives specific approaches such as audits and communication.
The ISO 14001 standard defined the most essential five stages of an EMS. They are:
- Environmental Policy
The most important aspect of an EMS (Environmental management system) is developing an environmental policy. ISO 14001 requires local governments to implement their environmental policy. The local government’s environmental policy would be a basis for the EMP.
The policy outlines the critical environmental issues that the EMS in an organisation should tackle. The policy must be relevant to the company’s activities, products and services and must show commitment to continuous improvement, prevention of pollution, and compliance with laws. It must also be well documented and implemented.
When developing the EMS Policy, one of the essential steps is for top management to define the actual policy, make a solid commitment to continuous improvement, comply with relevant laws and regulations, and develop a framework for setting and reviewing environmental goals.
The second part is planning. Before performing a planning, specific criteria need to be considered, such as
- What environmental acts and laws need to be complied with by the organisation?
- What are the objectives of the organisation towards its environmental compliance?
- How the organisation impacts the environment and how it will achieve its goal towards its EMS responsibility.
Considering all these, the EMS has to have a plan. The planning begins with identifying aspects like legal and other requirements concerning the elements of the organisation’s activities, products or services that interact with the environment, such as energy consumption, material consumption, and Hazardous and non-hazardous waste.
The success of the Environmental management system lies in proper implementation and operation. This layer comprises of following steps.
- Awareness needs to rise among company staff members on the importance of following EMS.
- Another important step in the implementation of the system is the communication part. The communication can be both internal communications (within the company) and external communication.
- Documentation is an essential part of the implementation step. The need for documentation must be clearly set, and documents must be reviewed periodically, revised and updated, and approved by responsible staff. Documents need to be readily available and easy to locate whenever required.
- Emergency preparedness is also a part of the EMS implementation process. The potential for accidents and emergency situations needs to be identified, and their associated environmental impacts must be reduced and must be reviewed periodically.
The ISO 14001 standard mandates checking and correction procedure for the EMS. This is done through proper auditing, intensive monitoring, necessary measurements, and prevention action. Regular monitoring and measuring are the key aspects of EMS that significantly impact the environment.
The final requirement of ISO 14001 standards is management review. The top management should periodically review the environmental management system by conducting review meetings and deciding about the future plan and access.
Regulations and Legislations
An enormous list of legislation needs to be complied with by the organisation for EMS. Here are some comprehensive lists of legislation that any company need to abide by:
- Water Act, 1974
- Air (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act, 1981
- Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 EP Act – This is the umbrella act which entails the following rules:
- E-Waste (Management) Rules, 2016
- Bio-Medical Waste Management Rules, 2016
- Construction and Demolition Waste Management Rules, 2016
- Manufacture, Storage and Import of Hazardous Chemicals Rules, 1989
- Hazardous and Other Waste Management Rules, 2016
- Coastal Regulation Zone Notification, 2011
- Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 2006
- Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016.
- Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972
- Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980
- Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991
- Biological Diversity Act, 2002
- National Green Tribunal Act, 2010
As mentioned earlier, these are some essential environmental law compliances, too, that a business must be aware of, and one can seek the assistance of experts for compliance with such laws.
Types of Industries based on Environmental Impact
The Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change has adopted a new method of classifying each type of industry. A “white category industries” concept has been introduced for classifying “non-polluting” companies. They do not need a permit or consent from the state Pollution Control Board; all other industries are classified under red, orange and green categories. The businesses in these non-exempted categories will be given a pollution index score depending on their utilisation of resources such as air and hazardous waste emissions.
- The PI score for the red category is 60 and above.
- The PI score for the orange category company is 41 to 59
- The PI score for the green category company is 21 to 40
- PI score up to 20 is a white category company.
Step-by-Step Framework for Environmental Management System
Organisation Goal towards EMS
Setting up an organisational goal and planning process like what is the organisation’s responsibility towards environmental responsibility and how we will achieve the goal.
The Commitment of Top Management
Commitment to support and the development of EMS is essential. Management first should understand the importance of EMS and what action the administration will take to put the EMS in place.
Building an Implementation Team
A team is responsible for essential management functions such as engineering, finance, and production. This team should meet regularly, especially at the initial stages, for effective implementation of EMS.
Meeting and Review
A regular meeting is needed to discuss the organisation’s objectives in implementing the EMS. The next important step is conducting a preliminary review of compliance with the environmental procedures and systems to be followed.
After preliminary review, prepare a project plan and budget. The plan should include key actions such as responsible persons, resources and targets.
Involving Employees and Monitoring
The employee should be involved in the EMS development process. Sharing the knowledge of the employees helps in effective EMS. Regular monitoring and communication enhance the performance of EMS.
An Environmental management system (EMS) is one of the most effective ways to reduce the organisation’s environmental impact and also a vital aspect of the organisation’s growth. By implementing the EMS, the organisation can address all its environmental-related issues, avoid government penalisation, and maintain its image as an excellent and trustworthy organisation.