Environmental Assessment Environmental Management Systems
Environmental Management Systems have been identified as a means of encouraging environmental sustainable work practices and process improvement. Nevertheless, others have suggested that EMS is nothing more than an environmental compliance tool that may be useful to demonstrate compliance but in reality, provides little more.
This analysis focuses on these views through concise literature review and discussion. Importantly, the discussion will lead to a justifiable and defendable conclusion on the real value of Environmental Management Systems.
Environmental Management System
In addressing the concept of environmental management, it is worth noting that every business organization has an impact on the environment, regardless of its size or operational activities. In other words, everybody within the business world has a role to play in promoting a safe and healthy environment.
For setting these standards, the adoption of EMS was necessary as it works towards minimizing the negative impact of business activities on the environment (Abdullah 2007, p. 39).
What is EMS? According to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), EMS is a tool designed to help companies to recognize and address the impact of their activities on the environment. This implies that issues of environmental management need to be incorporated within management issues of any active organization.
Their intertwined nature implies that managers have to work towards being sensitive about the organizations impact on the environment (Abdullah 2007, p. 40). The adoption of an EMS denotes the commitment of a company to integrate environmental issues into its daily management issues.
While most forms of management concentrate on short-term issues, environmental management entails a continuous process in environmental performance for a long period of time. Oftentimes, an EMS usually changes in response to changes within the company (Bennin 2008).
The commonest change is business expansion, which have a significant impact on the environment, thus calling for an improved management system. A part from organizational change, it is equally important for an effective EMS to recognize other factors like changes in laws governing the environment, competition within a market and ever-changing technology (JAS-ANZ EMS Case Study 2008).
Essentially, the principal aim of any form of environmental management approach is to lower the environmental impacts of an organizations activities, without undermining its sustainable competitiveness within the market.
In other words, environmental management goes beyond the management of environmental impacts, after they have already taken place. In fact, an effective environmental management should focus on eliminating or minimizing the possibility of environmental impacts.
Even though the issues of environmental management are not new, it is paramount to note that the awareness of these issues has not been embraced throughout human history. National and international EMS recognition and certification came to the limelight in 1900s. These schemes have continuously evolved to attain standardized status, which are compatible and acceptable within the global arena of standardization (Abdullah 2007, p. 40).
Among international standards, it is essential to note that ISO 14001 encompasses elements of environmental management, which can be monitored by international organizations.
This standard further serves as an umbrella for several ISO 1400 series, addressing an array of environmental management issues like life-cycle assessment and auditing among others. Although the use of ISO 14001 is considered to be optional and voluntary, it is a mandatory condition during commercial tendering processes (Haider 2010, p. 29).
There are several models of Environmental Management Systems, which are applicable today. As mentioned above, the commonest is ISO 14001. Others include the European Eco-Management and Audit Scheme, the U.S. Department of Justice and the National Enforcement Investigation Center (Federal Facilities Council 1999, p. 4).
The model set by ISO 14001 is widely acceptable in the United States. Moreover, there are models, which have been developed with variations from the original ISO 14001 models. These are preferred by organizations that are unwilling to subscribe to the ISO 14001 standardization.
Examples of such models include DEP EMS, which is used by learning institutions and the National Biosolids Partnership EMS. Notably, all these models are based on a PDCA cycle, which determines the way an organization integrates management issues into its daily operations (Rendell & McGinty 2004).
It is also referred to as the EU Eco Management and Audit Scheme. Unlike other models, EMAS is voluntary in nature and directs all companies to have a public statement, which defines their performance that is measured against set goals and objectives. It widely integrates the concepts of ISO 14001 international standards.
This model was published in the year 2003 in Britain. Its main purpose was to simplify the implementation of ISO 14001 and EMAS for relatively small organizations. This was made possible by dividing the implementation process into six manageable stages.
The Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment, IEMA, has established a scheme, which allows companies in the United Kingdom to be recognized for their achievements after every implementation stage. This, however, has to be geared towards realizing ISO 14001 or EMAS (Federal Facilities Council 1999, p. 4).
Proponents of the process argue that it enhances the measurement of progress against certain indicators, and this can be applicable in attaining certain allowed performance, which is recognized internationally and confirmed by an independent auditor.
For this identification, companies, which satisfactorily complete each stage of implementation, are always enumerated in a public Acorn register. Besides IEMA, BSI Management Systems has also crafted a scheme, aimed at certifying the achievement of each of the BS 855 steps. This criterion is known as Steps Towards Environmental Management Systems, STEMs (Federal Facilities Council 1999, p. 4).
A good EMS
For an EMS to be effective in promoting environmental sustainability and continuous improvement practices there are several characteristics, which have to be recognized internally. Firstly, an EMS has to be implemented within certain strategic boundaries together with being included within organizational policies and plans (Bennin 2008).
It is believed that high-level of commitment is usually required in order to challenge the management over its role in the entire process of augmenting the accomplishment of an Environmental Management System.
Additionally, a good EMS is usually structured in a manner that allows the identification of the impact of the organization on the environment (Haider 2010, p. 30). This identification allows the company to establish better targets for improving management approaches as well as the firms general environmental performance.
Another feature of an effective Environmental Management System is its ability to manage compliance of an organization with existing regulations. Moreover, it endeavors to initiate corrective measures in situations where the operations of the company do not comply with the law. In addition, an EMS should be able to promote proper management of resources and other financial achievements.
Aside from these, a good EMS ensures that there is transparency in the companys activities and strategies towards environmental sustainability (Haider 2010, p. 30). This is made possible through annual reports, which define its progress and future action plan towards the same course.
As mentioned before, the efficacy of an EMS depends on a continuous improvement process, as long as an organizations operations are still on. To ensure this, it is highly recommended to carry out an external audit by a certified body to ascertain the status and needs of the EMS (Rendell & McGinty 2004).
Of great significance is the fact that audit results have to be measured against international or national environmental management standards for a to be initiated. For instance, EMS auditing in Britain is commonly done by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service, UKAS.
Certification by a recognized third party is necessary in realizing the potential of an Environmental Management System. Furthermore, organizations, which have accredited certified EMSs, are always acknowledged by the Environment Agency as defined by the Integrated Pollution Prevention Control.
The acquisition of an accredited certification implies that a company can prove to the public, shareholders and regulators that it operates an audited firm that is compliant in the same way its financial accounts are audited by professional accountants, with relevant skills. Above all, feedback from a certified system is mostly considered to be more authentic (Tinsley & Pillai 2006).
Moreover, external certification generates confidence for the management and shareholders. This is based on the fact that no organization can be certified without total compliance to set standards. Based on this, an organization can be trusted by its clients and have a positive public image.
Furthermore, customers get assured of value within the companys supply chain. In most cases, the assurance generated can win their loyalty, thus making the firm to be more competitive (Tinsley & Pillai 2006).
Besides, promoting the performance and reputation of an organization, an independent review ensures that the environment does not suffer at the expense of this success. In other words, environmental management aspects have to be integrated in the companys management issues.
With regard to the role of accredited certification, it is doubtless that certification bodies have to meet international standards, which are generally linked to the qualifications of their assessors. The principal advantage of this approach is that it provides an assurance to the company and guards against the possibility of system failure, emanating from poor standards.
A good example in the United Kingdom is the UKAS, which has been on the frontline in streamlining the operations of bodies that are involved in EMS certification (Tinsley & Pillai 2006).
This has further played a major role in the development of ISO 17021, which addresses conformity assessment and sets requirements to be achieved by other bodies. It also enforces new regulations defined by the European Cooperation for Accreditation, as part of international standards, ISO 14001.
UKAS is expected to ensure that all standards are adhered to for the purpose of safeguarding the reliability of certification for all EMS users. Additionally, it designs a procedural way of dealing with cases of noncompliance and the strengthening of existing legislation (Sheldon & Yoxon 2002).
The future action plan of UKAS is to play a more elaborate and strategic role in promoting organizational performance with regard to environmental management.
Demand for EMS
There has been a continuous growth in the demand for EMS in Australia, New Zealand and in other parts around the world. In a survey released by ISO in 2006, it was noted that the demand for ISO 14001 rose by 16% from 2005 to 2006.
In Australia, 1,964 ISO 14001 certificates were reported from 1,778 (JAS-ANZ EMS Case Study 2008). The following factors have contributed to the rising demand for the implementation of Environmental Management Systems in most parts of the world.
One of the factors driving the demand for EMS is pressure from citizens. Most local authorities face external pressure from citizens, who demand environmental quality and proper management.
This means that people are not only interested in the products manufactured by different companies, but are also concerned with the impact of these companies activities on the environment. As a result, city councils and municipalities are held responsible, similar to the way in which companies are expected to remain accountable to citizens in maintaining a sustainable environment.
Besides demands from citizens, local authorities are faced with pressure from the international and national front. This pressure emanates from the fact that local authorities are always tasked with ensuring the implementation of sustainable development. Moreover, the complex nature of challenges facing the environment has promoted the need for better management systems. S
ingle solutions are not sufficient in dealing with multiple environmental issues (Rendell & McGinty 2004). In order for any society to achieve sustainable development, it is necessary to have a scheme, which integrates social, economic and environmental considerations. Lastly, the demand has been triggered by an exponential population growth witnessed in most parts of the world.
Cities are facing pressure on resources and are forced to craft action plans aimed at taming the effect of this pressure on the environment. As the population grows, more facilities are needed. These include but not limited to roads, factories, schools, shops and houses. Consequently, there is improved service delivery and high sensitivity on environmental management issues.
Impact of EMS
Like other debatable issues today, the concept of environmental management systems has received a myriad of opinions. Regardless of the case, it is essential to double emphasize the fact that EMS has more advantages than disadvantages. This segment of the research explores how the environment and organizations around the world have been impacted as a result of the implementation of EMS.
As mentioned above, there has been an increase in the demand for EMS in the recent years as attributed to several factors. Above all these factors, most organizations appreciate the need to manage environmental issues and organizational effects.
Several businesses have registered and remained committed towards implementing ISO 14001 standards from the time they were established in 1996. In fact, some years have experienced more than 50% increment. A decade ago, over 36,765 organizations were registered under ISO, and this number has tremendously increased (Tinsley 2001, p. 21).
Importantly, organizations have adopted ISO 14001 without necessarily being certified, while others have designed their own EMSs, which are more limited than internationally standards while others are considered to be more effective and sophisticated as compared to ISO 14001. For instance, most motor vehicle companies in the world require their first-tier suppliers to adopt certified Environmental Management Systems.
Similarly, all federal agencies in the United States were to adopt these standards in response to a presidential executive order (Tinsley 2001, p. 21). During President Bushs reign the policy was endorsed by the chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality.
While these efforts have continuously been witnessed around the world, questions have been raised over the exact impact of EMS implementation on an organization or environment. In general, an EMS provides economic and environmental benefits to companies and to the public.
Facilities with EMS have been seen to perform more reliably through compliance to set standards (Tinsley 2001, p. 2). They are also able to monitor their performance, since records are properly kept. Conversely, it has been argued that EMSs have cost implications on an organization during implementation.
EMS has highly been applauded for its role in promoting efficacy environmental management in most organizations around the world. Many companies have admitted that insufficient attention was given to environmental issues before the introduction of Environmental Management Systems (Abdullah 2007, p. 42).
Even though these organizations may have been prepared to encounter certain environmental issues, it suffices to mention that a host of such issues went unnoticed due to lack of awareness and commitment towards integration of environmental issues in organizational management.
Essentially, an EMS requires a company to put into consideration all its probable environmental issues. These include aspects and issues within the organization, which are controlled by the management, including raw materials, water, and energy among others. Besides this, the organization is required to ensure that it abides with the existing legislation, coupled with several environmental policies affecting it.
In other words, an EMS works towards reducing or eliminating environmental problems, which occur when an organization is operating (Abdullah 2007, p. 42). It also ensures that the in order to avert possible problems, which may arise in future.
It has been argued that this is one of the most significant reasons why the demand for EMSs has continuously been increasing. EMSs can save a companys money by ensuring that all its resources and inputs area maximally and effectively consumed.
This is made possible by reducing possibilities of noncompliance with the environmental regulations and positive response towards any environmental issues, which may arise (Abdullah 2007, p. 43). Environmental management experts argue that an EMS allows an organization to monitor its inputs, with an aim of introducing practices that are considered to be more effective, thus sparing the inputs from being consumed.
As mentioned before, implementation of an EMS ensures that the company remains compliant with the law, by monitoring the impact of its operations to the environment and instigating mitigation strategies to reduce disastrous occurrences. Through this compliance, the organization evades costs and hefty fines attached, thus saving resources for business expansion and investments (Sheldon & Yoxon 2002).
Importantly, EMSs minimize the possibility of accidents like oil spills, which are quite detrimental to the environment. Aside from affecting the environment negatively, oil spills are costly to clean-up and the process may significantly eat into the resources of an organization. However, implementation of an EMS eliminates such possibilities, thus saving a company from incurring enormous financial losses.