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How to Plan an Environmental Management System

In this blog article, we look at how to plan an environmental management system.

But before we dive into the more complex planning side of things, let’s quickly discuss what an effective environmental management system does.

What is an Environmental Management System?

An environmental management system is a system of processes, checks, guidelines, and requirements that an organisation follows to enhance its environmental performance. It contributes to sustainable development by supporting organisations with:

  • protecting the environment by mitigating adverse environmental impacts;
  • mitigating the potential adverse effect of environmental conditions;
  • the fulfillment of compliance obligations;
  • enhancing environmental performance;
  • adopting a lifecycle-based approach to operations;
  • achieving financial and operational benefit by implementing environmentally sound alternatives; and,
  • communicating environmental information to relevant interested parties.

ISO 14001: Environmental Management Systems

A popular and valuable tool for designing, implementing, monitoring, and optimising an effective environmental management system is the ISO standard 14001.

ISO 14001: Environmental Management Systems sets out the requirements for an environmental management system. Having an effective environmental management system in place can allow businesses to identify, monitor, control, and manage the environmental issues relevant to their operation.

If you are trying to understand how to plan an environmental management system for your organisation, the ISO 14001 framework is definitely worth considering. Click here to learn more about ISO 14001 certification and compliance.

How to Plan an Environmental Management System

A common approach to implementing an environmental management system is the Plan-Do-Check-Act model, outlined in ISO 14001. This model can be applied to an environmental management system and each of its individual elements.

Plan Do Act Check - Environmental Management Systems

The Plan-Do-Check-Act model operates as follows:

Plan: establish environmental objectives and processes necessary to deliver results in accordance with the organization’s environmental policy.

Do: implement the processes as planned.

Check: monitor and measure processes against the environmental policy, including its commitments, environmental objectives, and operating criteria, and report the results.

Act: take actions to continually improve.

Planning is really the key to successful system implementation.

When planning for an environmental management system you should take the following steps:

  1. Define the organisational goals for the system
  2. Secure commitment from management
  3. Determine the project team
  4. Prepare budget and schedule
  5. Secure resources
  6. Determine the most appropriate design strategy
  7. Define implementation requirements
  8. Determine education and training requirements and plan
  9. Define internal audits and actions strategy
  10. Consider certification requirements
  11. Monitor and communicate progress

Some of the factors that need to be considered during the planning process include:

  • Understanding why the environmental management system is needed
  • Understanding what the impacts and issues that need managing are
  • Organisation and management support
  • Understanding what environmental systems are already in place
  • Understanding the organisations lifecycle
  • Setting realistic targets and activities that can be achieved and managed
  • Determining how to roll out the system with awareness and training

It has been determined that the organisations most successful in implementing an effective environmental management system have strong management and employee commitment, along with multifunctional involvement in the project.

Environmental Management System Design Strategies

There are 3 popular design strategies that can be considered for an environmental management system.

Organisations should determine which design strategy is most suited to them, this may be one of the strategies below or a combination of two or three strategies.

1. Alignment with an existing standard

An environmental management system that is aligned with an existing standard, such as ISO 14001, is easy for external parties to understand and audit. This approach will require an organisation to think according to the standard rather than according to how the company operates. This can have benefits but can also create challenges, particularly around duplicating documentation.

2. Alignment with company structure

Environmental management systems that are aligned with an organisation’s structure offer a simplified implementation that can be easily mapped and integrated with existing systems and functions. The downside to this approach is that the system may not be structured and maintained effectively, particularly in organisations where there are multiple facilities. Organisations taking this approach should pay particular attention to the adaptability and diversity of their management plan, as well as any compliance and reporting requirements.

3. Alignment with an existing business process

Lastly, an environmental management system can be designed in accordance with an organisations existing business processes. Bear in mind that systems designed in this way can experience challenges during implementation.

The strategy that best suits will ultimately depend on the structure of the organisation and the intended outcomes.

Key Components of an Environmental Management System

An environmental management system consists of a formalised set of internal policies, procedures, plans, and registers that address how an organisation interacts with the natural environment (Darnall, et al., 2008).

The key components of an environmental management system can be summarised as follows:

  1. Environmental Policy
  2. Identification of Goals, Objectives, and Targets
  3. Provision of Training and Awareness
  4. Register of Environmental Aspects and Impacts
  5. Record of Organisational Structure and Accountabilities
  6. Monitoring and Measuring Progress
  7. Register of Legal Requirements
  8. Operational Procedures
  9. Auditing

Environmental Management System Manual Template

Our partners at Mango Live, leading QHSE and compliance management software, have created and shared a fantastic template that you can use as the foundation for your environmental management system manual. There is some handy information in there that may help you throughout the system planning and design phases.

Click here to access Mango’s free environmental management system manual template.

Other Resources to Help With Planning an Environmental Management System

Environmental Assessment Checklist

Use this form to assess the environmental aspects of your project or site.

Environmental Policy

Sample policy and procedures for your environmental policy.

Below are links to some informative blogs on environmental management.

How Environmentally Friendly Is Your Office?

In this article, we take a look at ways you can make your office more sustainable. With the global focus on sustainability and achieving net-zero by 2030 ever-increasing, there has never been a more critical time than now for organisations to commit to reducing their environmental impact.

The Green ISO Standards to Help Shape a Sustainable Future

Everybody around the world has accepted that things need to change. We need to live more sustainable lives and reduce the impact that we have on our environment. In this article, we look at several new, green standards from the ISO which guide organisations to manage their environmental impact and help shape a sustainable future.

Environmental Management And Sustainability

As the ramifications of industrialization and the technological revolution are realised, companies and individuals around the world are looking for cleaner and more sustainable ways of doing things. In this article, we look at the ISO standards regarding environmental management and sustainability.

Environmental Management System Consulting

QSM Group is highly experienced in assisting businesses, in all different industries, with designing, implementing, monitoring, and optimising their successful environmental management system. Our clients have a 100% success rate in achieving certification with management systems designed and implemented with our support.

Contact us to chat with an experienced QHSE and compliance consultant today.

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