EHS Management

What You Get Out of an EMS

Not Required But Still a Good Idea

It is important to keep in mind that ISO 14001 is not a legal requirement. It is a voluntary set of management standards that may improve your environmental performance. EPA encourages industries to adopt these standards but offers no specific incentives (such as reduced frequency of inspections) in return. Nonetheless, the benefits of ISO 14001 EMS standards are numerous.

Many companies get ISO certification for business or marketing reasons. They do it because their industrial customers require it. Others adopt the standards to improve their environmental performance. Companies with an ISO 14001-like EMS are seeing many benefits, regardless of whether they get certified. For example, with an EMS in place, they find the following:

  1. All employees are receiving a consistent level of training.
  2. Employees are operating out of a common set of standard operating procedures.
  3. The general public now has a better image of the organization.
  4. Environmental liability is reduced.
  5. Waste management costs are now lower.
  6. The company has a better overall environmental compliance record than before.

The ISO 14001 EMS standards are in many ways a commonsense approach to environmental management. It may surprise some of you that you already have many of the key elements of an EMS in place within your organization.

Where to Start

The first step you need to do is secure the visible support of your senior management. An effective EMS must have top-down support that is visible to everyone in the company.

You will also need a respected employee in the company to be the “environmental person in charge.” This person must have the confidence of senior management and have the authority to plan, enforce, and maintain your EMS.

You then need to develop an environmental policy and have your CEO sign off on it. The policy is the framework on which your EMS is based.

In developing the policy, be realistic and don’t overpromise. Remember that your policy represents your company’s vision to your employees and the rest of the world.

You want to make sure you keep the promises made in the policy. Keep it simple; don’t clutter it up with idealistic prognostications that sound good on paper but are hard to implement. The policy should clearly state the organization’s commitment to continual improvement and pollution prevention, as well as its commitment to comply with applicable environmental laws and regulations.

In developing the policy, be realistic and don’t overpromise. Remember that your policy represents your company’s vision to your employees and the rest of the world. You want to make sure you keep the promises made in the policy. Keep it simple; don’t clutter it up with idealistic prognostications that sound good on paper but are hard to implement. The policy should clearly state the organization’s commitment to continual improvement and pollution prevention, as well as its commitment to comply with applicable environmental laws and regulations.

Once prepared, the policy must be clearly communicated to all employees and other interested third parties. You can post your environmental policy throughout your facility—similar to the way safety policies are posted—or on your organization’s intranet.


This article is adapted from an article written by Norman Wei, owner and principal instructor at Environmental Management and Training, LLC. You can contact Mr. Wei at norman@proactenv.com, or visit the website at www.proactenv.com.