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What is the definition of an Environmental Management System?

  • Serves as a tool to improve environmental performance.
  • Provides a systematic way of managing an organization's environmental affairs.
  • Is the aspect of the organization's overall management structure that addresses immediate and long-term impacts of its products, services and processes on the environment.
  • Gives order and consistency for organizations to address environmental concerns through the allocation of resources, assignment of responsibility and ongoing evaluation of practices, procedures and processes.
  • Focuses on continual improvement of the system.

What are some key elements of an EMS?

  • Policy Statement - a statement of the organization's commitment to the environment.
  • Identification of Significant Environmental Impacts - environmental attributes of products, activities and services and their effects on the environment.
  • Development of Objectives and Targets - environmental goals for the organization.
  • Implementation - plans to meet objectives and targets.
  • Training - ensure that employees are aware and capable of their environmental responsibilities. Management Review.

Can existing environmental management activities be integrated into the EMS? Yes. An EMS is flexible and does not require organizations to necessarily “retool” their existing activities. An EMS establishes a management framework by which an organization’s impacts on the environment can be systematically identified and reduced. For example, many organizations, including counties and municipalities, have active and effective pollution prevention activities underway. These could be incorporated into the overall EMS. Can EMS be used to assist with maintaining compliance? Yes. An EMS is flexible and does not require organizations to necessarily “retool” their existing activities. An EMS establishes a management framework by which an organization’s impacts on the environment can be systematically identified and reduced. For example, many organizations, including counties and municipalities, have active and effective pollution prevention activities underway. These could be incorporated into the overall EMS. What are ISO, ISO 14000, and ISO 14001?

ISO stands for the International Standards Organization, located in Geneva, Switzerland. ISO is a non-governmental organization established in 1947. The organization mainly functions to develop voluntary technical standards that aim at making the development, manufacture and supply of goods and services more efficient, safe and clean.

ISO 14000 refers to a family of voluntary standards and guidance documents to help organizations address environmental issues. Included in the family are standards for Environmental Management Systems, environmental and EMS auditing, environmental labeling, performance evaluation and life-cycle assessment.

In September 1996, the International Organization of Standardization published the first edition of ISO 14001, the Environmental Management Systems standard. This is an international voluntary standard describing specific requirements for an EMS. ISO 14001 is a specification standard to which an organization may receive certification or registration. ISO 14001 is considered the foundation document of the entire series. A second edition of ISO 14001 was published in 2004, updating the standard.

The ISO 14000 Family of Standards: Environmental Management Systems Questions may arise when implementing an EMS following the ISO 14001 standard. The U.S. body that provides input into the standard's development is the U.S. TAG (Technical Advisory Group) to TC 207 (Technical Committee). This same body has established a formal process to respond to questions that may arise regarding clarification of the ISO 14001 ("the standard"). Responses will reflect the interpretation of the Standard as intended during the drafting of the Standard and may be found in the "Clarification of Intent of ISO 14001."

What are the 17 requirements of the ISO 14001:2004 standard?

  • Environmental Policy - develop a statement of the organization's commitment to the environment.

  • Environmental Aspects and Impacts - identify environmental attributes of products, activities and services and their effects on the environment.

  • Legal and Other Requirements - identify and ensure access to relevant laws and regulations.

  • Objectives and Targets and Environmental Management Program - set environmental goals for the organization and plan actions to achieve objectives and targets.

  • Structure and Responsibility - establish roles and responsibilities within the organization.

  • Training, Awareness and Competence - ensure that employees are aware and capable of their environmental responsibilities.

  • Communication - develop processes for internal and external communication on environmental management issues.

  • EMS Documentation - maintain information about the EMS and related documents.

  • Document Control - ensure effective management of procedures and other documents.

  • Operational Control - identify, plan and manage the organization's operations and activities in line with the policy, objectives and targets, and significant aspects.

  • Emergency Preparedness and Response - develop procedures for preventing and responding to potential emergencies.

  • Monitoring and Measuring - monitor key activities and track performance including periodic compliance evaluation.

  • Evaluation of Compliance - develop procedure to periodically evaluate compliance with legal and other requirements.

  • Nonconformance and Corrective and Preventive Action - identify and correct problems and prevent recurrences.

  • Records - keep adequate records of EMS performance.

  • EMS Audit - periodically verify that the EMS is effective and achieving objectives and targets.

  • Management Review - review the EMS.