Practical Environmental Management Systems
Part 4 - The basic EMS system




The fourth in a series of Worksheets by Jonathan Churchman-Davies and Dr. Robin Kent for Envirowise on how to implement Environmental Management Systems in the plastics industry.

UK Government Environment and Energy Helpline 0800 585 794

This Worksheet concentrates on operating the EMS and considers many of the areas where ISO 14001 makes specific demands.

Envirowise publications provide sample documents and forms that will assist in writing many of these procedures.


Procedures should record the way you do things as simply as possible.

Management programme

This is a written programme of work stating when and how the objectives will be achieved, and who is responsible for achieving them. This helps effective EMS implementation and ensures a systematic approach to waste minimisation and optimum benefits. The Management Programme is not a detailed project plan, but should include deadlines for completing the tasks associated with the objectives and targets.

Section 4.3.4 of ISO 14001 requires a Management Programme to enable objectives and targets to be achieved.

One key to success is to set intermediate deadlines for each objective. This enables objectives to be completed in small, manageable parts and defines clearly ‘what’, ‘who’ and ‘when’. Give ownership of each target to a responsible individual and set 'milestones' to allow the objectives, the targets and the Programme to be audited.


Organisation and structure

Senior management commitment and correctly delegated power and responsibility are vital for the success of the EMS.

Section 4.4.1 of the standard requires ensuring that roles and responsibilities with regard to environmental management are clearly defined and documented.



Training is an essential requirement for the success of an EMS. It should raise general awareness of environmental issues and also provide specific technical skills.

When developing the EMS, a training needs assessment matrix should be produced. This will include the relevant job functions and the different types of technical knowledge required to operate the EMS.

It is important to provide proof of training and to ensure that if a key training session is missed then this is rescheduled for a later date. Many Quality Management Systems (QMS) also include procedures for recording training needs and attendance.

Section 4.4.2 of ISO 14001 requires the identification of training needs in a structured and documented method and the development of a training programme.

To maximise cost-effectiveness and minimise inconvenience, training sessions can be run between shifts to reach a larger audience. 

Note: It is not sufficient to provide training just once. Refresher training and further specialist training may be necessary for the system to mature and provide good results.



Communicating the reasons for the EMS, the role of individuals and the progress being made will help to achieve ownership of the EMS by all employees and maintain the momentum for continuous improvement. Tell the outside world what is being done and what has been achieved to improve public and customer perception and show that you care for the environment.

Section 4.4.3 of ISO 14001 requires procedures for internal and external communication.

Internal communications

The procedure should specify the methods, e.g. newsletters and posters and, the approximate frequency of communication. Information of relevance to the EMS - current performance, successes, incidents, new legislation, site improvements, awards - should be communicated, and records kept to prove the communications took place.

External communications

The procedure is to ensure that:

Section 4.4.3 of ISO 14001 requires consideration of external reporting of significant environmental aspects. The decision should be recorded in the Management Review minutes.

After progress with the EMS, the annual performance data could form the basis for either an internal or an external report.


Management manual

The Management Manual acts as a guide to the EMS procedures and documents and describes the entire system.

The Management Manual should include:

Section 4.4.4 of ISO 14001 requires the maintenance of information describing the EMS.

The format of the Management Manual can follow the format of any existing quality management manual. It is possible to produce a joint Quality, Environmental and Health and Safety Manuals and to refer to it as the ‘Company Manual’.


Document control

Document control for an EMS is similar to that in a QMS. There should already be a suitable document control procedure in your ISO 9000 system if you are certified.

Document control relies on:

Section 4.4.5 of ISO 14001 requires a procedure for document control.


Operational controls

Operational controls/procedures should be developed for all situations where their absence could lead to a deviation from the environmental policy. Keep procedures simple and use pictures and flow diagrams if possible. 

Note: Simple notices can be regarded as procedures if they are controlled by the EMS.

Every procedure should have an ‘owner’, who is responsible for writing the procedure, writing future updates and ensuring that the procedure is used. Decentralised ownership of procedures will spread out the work when they need to be updated.

Existing procedures developed for a QMS may be amended for ISO 14001. These can include procedures for:

Section 4.4.6 of ISO 14001 requires the identification of critical activities related to significant aspects, policy, objectives and targets and the development of documented procedures. An examination of supply chain issues for contractors and suppliers is also required.


Remember: Say you do and then do what you say.

More Information

Available free from the Environment and Energy Helpline (0800 585 794)

"Practical Environmental Management Systems" Series.

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

Part 3: Managing interactions with the environment 

Part 4: The basic EMS system (This section)

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.