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Environmental Management Systems

Environmental Management Systems
ISO 14001 certification

What is an EMS?

An Environment Management System is a means of ensuring that your business or organisation continually considers all aspects of its operation that either actually or potentially have some impact on the environment, primarily in terms of pollution.

ISO 14001 and ISO 9001 now have much in common, so it is relatively straightforward to combine or integrate the two systems if say you are already working to ISO 9001.

ISO 14001 is also being used increasingly as a marketing tool to advertise an organisation's environmental credentials to the outside world.

The following paragraphs briefly describe the main areas of consideration that are required for implementation of ISO 14001:

Policy and Objectives

ISO 14001 requires a clear environmental policy statement and some underlying Objectives one the "Aspects" and "Impacts" have been identified. These may for example be to reduce an emission to a specified level, reduce electricity consumption, or to recycle more waste products. The Policy statement also must be publicly available.

Defining your Environmental "Aspects"

It is necessary to identify the organisation's "environmental aspects"; these being the various ways that the organisation may impact the environment. The Aspects may be very obvious in say a chemical or steel works, but can equally be applied to cleaner service sector industries. In a simple office based business the environmental aspects would probably include the use of electricity, water resources and the means of general office waste disposal. Aspects and their respective Impacts will need to be prioritised or weighted in order that more serious issues are dealt with first.

Legal Requirements

There are an ever increasing number of legal requirements relating to the environment and ISO 14001 requires its users to identify and keep abreast of all relevant legislation. This is likely to be the most difficult part of maintaining an EMS, but there are various sources of information that can be used.

Objectives Targets and Programmes

Based on the identified environmental aspects and impacts it is necessary to document objectives and targets that relate to them, whilst taking account of the importance or criticality of the particular aspect. As with ISO 9001, the intention here is to put in place the means for continuous improvement.

Emergency Preparedness & Response

The organisation is required to prepare and document its response to envisaged emergency situations where these may have an adverse impact on the environment. In an oil refinery for example a plan should exist to cater for oil spillages in order to prevent widespread contamination, however any organisation should try to envisage any relevant emergency scenarios, though in a simple office based environment this requirement will be be fairly small. This requirement will be more familiar to those organisations that have undertaken work toward business continuity planning.
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