Environmental management systems play a key role in helping organisations manage their environmental impacts and implement improvements to reduce detrimental consequences that their activities may have. An environmental management system is a set of policies, procedures, registers, lists and other documents and tools that establish how a business functions with regards to environmental management within their day to day functions. Organisations implement environmental management systems for a variety of reasons such as improving performance, meeting community expectations or complying with a legal obligation.
Why is environmental management important?
Environmental management systems are significantly valuable, and there can be negative consequences if one is not established. They establish clear expectations and procedures for how activities can and cannot be undertaken, in order to achieve the objectives of environmental sustainability.
Most importantly, an environmental management system helps to protect the health and safety of the environment and surrounding human populations.
Environmental management systems also address emergency response plans in the case of an accident or emergency. This enables organisations to be prepared to effectively and swiftly respond to emergencies in a way that will protect the environment, including human populations..
Benefits of environmental management
There are many benefits of robust environmental management systems, including:
- Clear understanding of environmental risks – In order to more effectively and sustainably operate as an organisation, understanding the environmental risks involved in the activities of the organisation is crucial.
- Efficient use of resources – Management systems can help organisations optimise their resources which not only leads to more efficiency, but can also bring financial benefits.
- Minimise environmental impacts – Management systems provide clear strategies to reach environmental goals, helping organisations reduce their impact.
- Improve your image – Organisations that operate in sustainable and environmentally-conscious ways improve their corporate image.
- Get ahead of competitors – Organisations that are committed to environmentally-friendly practices have a competitive edge over others which don’t.
- Ensure compliance – A management system is one of the most effective ways to ensure organisations meet their obligations.
How to improve environmental management systems
- Plan Effectively – Effective planning is key to developing robust environmental management systems. Specifically, organisations should consider their environmental goals, prepare a budget and schedule and secure the necessary resources. Environmental management systems should be created based on an organisation’s Environmental Policy which outlines their commitment to responsible environmental behaviour.
- Get the Right Help – Seeking the advice and guidance of an environmental consultant is crucial for ensuring regulation compliance and realistic objectives.
- Consult Employees – Employees who are closest to the organisation’s processes often have a good sense of what needs improvement. Additionally, employee training and awareness is important for effectively implementing the system.
- Effective Documentation – An environmental management system should outline the procedures for effective documentation relating to an organisation’s objectives. All records should be well maintained according to relevant laws. Documents may be used later on for evaluating and improving the management system.
- Evaluate and Improve – Periodically, an environmental management system should undergo auditing and improvements to better assist the organisation in meeting its objectives. Continual improvement of management systems ensures that they are an effective tool in perpetuity.