A Framework To Improve Environmental Efficiency

Written by Integrated Skills

Mar 24, 2017

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Waste Management

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The UK continues to work toward reaching its target of zero waste going to landfill by 2020. For businesses, the control, improvement and monitoring of environmental performance is crucial if this target is going to be met. Many companies have now adopted an EMS, or Environmental Management System, to help them reach this goal.
The requirements of the EMS adopted by a company can be based on national or international standards, or be developed on a more company-specific or sector-specific basis. Regardless of which standards are utilised, this kind of framework helps businesses accomplish much to reduce waste. The EMS also reduces the chances of penalties from non-compliance with environmental laws, and ensures that procedures are in place to reduce environmental impact. The plan can also be beneficial when the company is being scrutinised by suppliers, potential clients (especially those in the public sector) as well investors.
Formulating an EMS

There are four stages to formulating an Environmental Management System.
1) Planning

The initial planning stage involves the identification of the environmental aspects of a company and the establishment of goals. A company must first decide why they wish to develop an EMS. There may be several reasons, including the desire to lessen the carbon footprint, lesson waste, reduce disposal costs, etc. This stage also involves ensuring that top management in the company is on board with the development of the EMS. This is probably the most important objective in this phase, as it will ensure a strong system is in place and mitigate risk.
Following this is the selection of an individual to be in charge of the development and implementation of the plan. They will then build a team of individuals taken from various departments including human resources, finance and operations who will be tasked with identifying which processes may be most beneficial for the EMS. After the initial meeting, this team will conduct a preliminary review of the current systems in place and then compare them with EMS criteria. Following the review, a budget and schedule will be prepared, and assistance and resources secured.
2) Doing

The implementation phase of the EMS will include the identification of compliance requirements as well as those relating to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Once these are understood, the company is then assessed to see how it interacts with the environment. The significant impacts will be determined and then investigated further to discover how they are measured or otherwise being dealt with by the company.
Next in the ‘doing stage’ is to find out how stakeholders and others think the company is handling its environmental compliance. Following this collection of information phase is the preparation of an environmental policy, as well as the definition of the key responsibilities and roles for the EMS. Targets and objectives are then defined and the operation controls and measurement needs identified.
3) Checking

The checking stage involves the conducting of internal audits to see how well the EMS is working. This involves selecting internal auditors and then designing the auditing process. In the beginning, smaller and more frequent audits may be best, as they can provide much valuable information for employees to learn from. All audit records should be properly managed, and once the audit is complete, action taken to correct any issues.
4) Action

The final phase is to develop and implement the elements of the Environmental Management System. Here also is where a review of the system should be conducted by the company’s management. Management will consider whether or not there is a need to change the EMS. If changes are needed, assignments to revise the EMS will be made according to the roles defined in the planning stage.
Following the “action” phase, a company should go back to the planning stage and determine whether improvements can be made. This ensures that the process is always being monitored and improvements are always being made – “continuous improvement”.
The Environmental Management System provides companies with a clear audit trail that ensures compliance at every step, as well as help businesses to see where waste including raw materials can be reduced.

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