An Environmental Management System emboldens organizations to modify and improve their environmental performance. The organizations commit to an environmental policy, then uses this policy as the basis for establishing a plan, which sets objectives and targets to improve environmental performance. The next step is implementation and then the organizations evaluate their performance to measure if goals and objectives have been met. If targets are not achieved, corrective actions are implemented.
The framework developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) for this systems is ISO 14001. The are five main stages defined in the ISO 14001 standard:
- Commitment and Policy: – Management is committed to environmental improvement and establishes the environmental policy of the organization. The policy is the basis of the EMS.
- Planning: the organization identifies the environmental aspects of its operations, those elements such as air pollutants or hazardous waste, which can have negative impacts on people and/or the environment. It then determines which aspects are significant by choosing the criteria that the organization considers most important. For example, an organization may choose worker health and safety, environmental compliance, and cost as its criteria. Once the environmental aspects are determined, the objectives and goals are established. The final part of planning is the design of an action plan to achieve the objectives. Responsibilities are designated, a schedule is established and the steps to meet the objectives are defined.
- Implementation: an organization complies with the action plan using the necessary resources (human, financial, etc.). An important component is employee training and awareness raising for all employees. Other steps in the implementation stage include documentation, following operating procedures, and establishing internal and external lines of communication.
- Evaluation: A company monitors its operations to assess whether objectives and goals are being met. If not, the company takes corrective action.
- Review: Top management reviews the results of the evaluation to see if the EMS is working. Management determines whether the original environmental policy is consistent with the values of the organization. The plan is then revised to optimize the effectiveness of the EMS. The review stage creates a cycle of continuous improvement for a company.
ABA operates its program for the Accreditation of Management System Certification Bodies under requirements of ISO/IEC 17011 for companies certifying Environmental Management Systems based on ISO 14001.
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