Practical Environmental Management Systems
UK Government Environment and Energy Helpline 0800 585 794
Planning and organisation is vital to successfully implementing an EMS and it is important to involve a range of people in EMS implementation, particularly when the EMS overlaps with their normal roles or functions. A formal implementation team will help to keep the EMS on track and identify and remove obstacles to progress. The team should include a representative from:
- Environmental/health and safety
- Senior management.
Representatives from the purchasing, finance and personnel departments may also need to be involved from time to time.
An EMS ‘champion’ should be made responsible for implementing the EMS and co-ordinating the efforts of the implementation team . The team should agree a common and collaborative approach and share out the work. To ensure progress is made, it is essential that team members be allocated sufficient time and resources.
The team should meet regularly - perhaps fortnightly - with adequate secretarial support to ensure minutes are taken and, most importantly, action plans are updated. To keep the whole project on track, the EMS champion should review any action plans weekly. The EMS champion may also find it useful to set up separate teams to tackle specific issues such as waste minimisation, packaging use, water use and energy efficiency, and should involve employees from all levels of the business.
Using a senior manager to steer the team and provide an overview will facilitate progress and ensure good communications with senior management.
Timescale for implementation
The time to implement an EMS is usually around 12 - 18 months but there is no correct or standard timescale for developing an EMS and other business pressures may take precedence. Where customers are demanding an EMS, they will often accept a reasonable timescale provided it is accompanied by a good, realistic implementation plan.
An Initial Review will help assess how the company operations affect the environment and provide benchmark data to help achieve continual improvement. ISO 14001 does not insist on a formal Initial Review, but it does require an assessment of environmental issues and impacts. Carrying out an Initial Review will help to:
- Gain a strategic overview of the company attitude to waste and environmental issues.
- Prepare/revise the environmental policy.
- Identify the environmental aspects of activities and their impacts.
- Assess relevant legislation.
- Identify opportunities to improve performance.
- Set objectives and targets for improvement.
The main tasks in an Initial Review are data gathering and analysis. Relevant data may be held by many different managers and operators. Checklists and worksheets provided in GG251 (see box at right) to help identify and locate the documents needed to determine the company's environmental aspects and impacts. All documents gathered for the Initial Review should be filed for future reference. The Worksheets can be used to collect information about:
- The site and its environmental history.
- Raw material consumption and storage.
- Utility consumption and costs.
- Solid waste amounts and management.
- Emissions to atmosphere.
When the Initial Review is complete it is possible to write an effective environmental policy. The statements made in the policy should be reasonable and practical and match the business needs. The policy may commit the company to different management approaches and both customers and members of the public may want to see it. It should be reviewed regularly and, if necessary, revised to take account of developments in the EMS.
Section 4.2 of ISO 14001 requires a written environmental policy and has requirements for the policy.
The policy should make references to the aims for significant environmental aspects, refer to continual improvement (through objectives and targets) and compliance with legislation. It could also refer to:
- Training and awareness for employees.
- Working with the supply chain to improve environmental performance.
- Planning for emergencies.
- Relations with neighbours and regulators.
- The concept of sustainability.
The policy should be signed and dated by a senior manager and made available to all employees, customers and other stakeholders.
Setting objectives and realistic targets is the best way to achieve continual improvement and give maximum savings from an EMS.
Section 4.3.3 of ISO 14001 requires that objectives and targets be set for continual improvement.
These are the guiding aims of the EMS and should be set to achieve improvements in:
- The significant environmental aspects.
- The environmental policy.
- Technical options.
- Financial, operational and other business requirements.
An objective can have more than one target and setting targets for each objective gives a short-term measurable goal for performance assessment. Opportunities to reduce waste identified during the Initial Review can aid target setting, e.g. a 15% reduction in packaging use and 10% reduction in water consumption within a year.
Targets should always be SMART and can be one of three types:
- Measurement: Improvement targets cannot be set without base-line measurements.
- Improvement: Measuring an aspect and then identifying the scope for improvement allows improvement targets to be set (quantify the cost/benefits for senior managers).
- Control: After improvements have been made, control targets are used to ‘hold the gains’.
Owners for individual targets should always be identified to ensure that the workload is shared out, that individuals are clearly responsible for different issues and that they know where to focus their efforts.
- Written objectives and targets for each relevant function and level for the company.
- A written procedure for setting objectives and targets.
- Records of previous objectives and targets and a summary report on performance (also needed for the Management Review).
Compliance with the law is a key part of any EMS. The way to be confident of full compliance is to put the appropriate controls in place. It is necessary to:
- Identify a source of guidance to all environmental legislation (e.g. the Environment and Energy Helpline).
- Identify the legislation relevant to the site and operations.
- Get a copy of the Acts, Regulations or Codes of Practice as necessary.
- List the appropriate legislation and how it applies to the site in a ‘Register of Legislation’.
Section 4.3.2 of ISO 14001 requires a procedure to identify and obtain access to all environment-related legal requirements.
The method used to identify the legal requirements should be a procedure within the EMS. This procedure should require at least an annual review/update of the Register and the review should be linked to an annual assessment of compliance. When the Register is updated, key changes should be summarised at the front and relevant employees should be notified. If you are not sure which legislation, regulations and codes of practice apply to your site, you should seek specialist advice. Advice on all environmental legislation affecting plastics processors is available from the Environment and Energy Helpline.
- A written procedure to identify legal and other requirements applicable to the site's environment-related activities.
- A procedure that ensures managers are aware of forthcoming legislation that may affect the company
- A ‘Register of Legislation’
- All permits, authorisations, etc required under current legislation
- Proof of updating of the Register of Legislation.
- Environmental Management Systems for the plastics industry (GG251).
- Finding and reducing waste in plastics processing (GG277).
Available free from the Environment and Energy Helpline (0800 585 794)
The "Practical Environmental Management Systems" series is designed to give plastics processors an insight into how to implement an Environmental Management System. The series is being published in Polymer Engineering on a monthly basis and is published here after the Polymer Engineering publication. The series is:
Part 1: Clean business = good business
Part 2: Starting out (This Section)
Part 3: Managing interactions with the environment
Part 4: The basic EMS system
Part 5: Operating an EMS system
Download the complete series as an Adobe Acrobat file.
Last edited: 11/03/10
© Tangram Technology Ltd. 2002
Our standard disclaimer regarding Internet data applies.