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Starting Your Own EMS?

Making an Environmental Management System Work for Your Organisation



After you have  seen the reasons for establishing and EMS on the "Why Go Green?" webpage and decided whether or not to get expert advice to validate and speed up your process on the "Why Choose Outside Expertise?" webpage, you will now want to know how to begin the process of creating your own EMS.


Whether you are starting an EMS on your own or with outside help, there is a well established method of approaching this task. Each of the stages below will need to be completed for you to create a good environmental management system for your organisation.



  1. Plant a Stake in the Ground
    Before you build an EMS, it is worthwhile taking stock of all the information you already have to hand. Do you already have an Environmental Policy? Are you already aware of environmental issues that your organisation has impacts upon? Do you have a permit from the Environment Agency (EA) or a consent from the local water authority for your activities? If not, do you need one (see legal register, below)? Have you already fallen foul of environmental law? If so what was the issue concerning? Go around your site looking at the ways that you could pollute the land, water courses (including the sewerage drains) and air. What is your site next to and how could your organisation pollute it? How much energy do you use and how much waste do you cause? Who are the interested parties in your organisation's environmental performance (both inside and outside the organisation)? What kind of depth of EMS are they expecting from your organisation? Finally, an important question that will impact on the time spent upon, and quality of your EMS - do you want to have an accredited environmental management system? Many large private sector customers and the vast majority public sector customers will prefer / require their suppliers to have an accredited EMS. For the former group it required to make life easier for them to pick their customers with adequate environmental credentials that will meet their EMS requirements. For the latter group it is a matter of governmental guidelines.
    All this information and more needs to be gathered to establish the environmental impact that your activities / product / services have on the environment. In order to ensure that all the bases have been covered with respect to environmental aspects, many companies use expert help at this point. After completing this task you have established a starting point - a stake in the ground - for further development of your EMS.

  2. Produce your Environmental Policy
    An environmental policy is your organisation's fundamental environmental document. It is signed by the executive leader of your organisation and is a statement of intent on what and how your organisation will tackle the environmental issues (the "proper" word to use in environmental parlance is environmental aspects) that you have established in section 1.
    Take heed that to a trained eye, there is a lot that can be discerned from reading a company's environmental policy, so put some thought into the structure and content of the policy, refrain from woolly and verbose statements and think hard about what environmental commitments the organisation needs to follow. Remember that this is a living document - not something to be created and put away in a drawer indefinitely. The policy is for all to see - staff, visitors, customers, anyone. Also, the policy - like the EMS itself - will need to be updated and changed as a consequence of developments within EMS and outside influences upon the organisation and its EMS.

  3. Work Out Your Environmental Legal Obligations
    Once the environmental aspects have been determined for your company, it is important for you to establish exactly how well your organisation's activities compare against UK legislation. This is often an activity for environmental experts to complete on behalf of the organisation, It is possible to plough through the legislation yourself (e.g. the "raw" legislation is available at ) though knowledge of  the history and development of environmental legislation is a great advantage when it come to what legislation affects your particular company. Note that environmental law may change in the countries that constitute the United Kingdom. The collated, written documentation of how UK legislation affects your organisation for each of its environmental aspects, along with identified non-compliance  and plans for rectification, are known and the legal register.
  4. Plan How to Control Your Environmental Aspects
    Now that the environmental aspects and legal requirements have been determined for your company, the aspects need to be controlled, monitored and reviewed for changes in order to comply with the commitments stated in the Environmental Policy.
    To achieve this task you need to determine how this work is to be prioritised, timetabled and resourced. It becomes clear that such an undertaking cannot be made without the support of the executive leader.

  5. Carry-Out the Plan
    Methods of control of environmental aspects must be documented and monitored. Occurances of loss of control must be rectified with lessons learned to avoid repetition. The whole process of aspect prioritisation, legal compliance, resource, and other issues relating to, or impacting on your organisation's environmental aspects must be reviewed at regular intervals by top level management for the environmental management system to be credible and carry impetus throughout the organisation.


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