The implementation and operation of an environmental management system (EMS) is designed to ensure an organisation’s environmental objectives and targets are achieved, in line with its environmental policy.

The intended outcomes of an EMS include:

  • enhancement of environmental performance

  • fulfilment of compliance obligations

  • achievement of environmental objectives.

Organisations implementing or improving their environmental management system should conduct a context review that includes:

  • identifying relevant external and internal issues relating to activities products and services

  • considering how these issues might affect the ability to achieve intended outcomes of the environmental management system and how these can be addressed

  • identifying opportunities to improve its environmental performance.

The review can also include additional considerations such as sustainability and life cycle of procurement policies including cost reduction, value for customers and opportunities for competitive advantage.

Resources, responsibilities, documentation and operational control need to be taken into account for the EMS to function effectively. Organisations that are focused on achieving ISO 14001 certification should consider leadership and other organisational roles and responsibilities presented in the standard. A more in-depth description is presented in Clause 5 of ISO 14004:2016 guidance standard.

Clause 5.3 of ISO 14004:2016 indicates that top management leadership and commitment are essential to the successful implementation of an EMS. Managers should provide direction and ensure physical and financial resources are available, including training support where needed.

Responsibilities for other personnel include the following.

  • Developing environmental objectives and processes — managers.

  • Environmental aspects — product and process designers and operatives.

  • Monitoring EMS performance — environment manager.

  • Meeting compliance obligations — all managers.

  • Promoting environmental improvement — all managers.

  • Identifying customer and others’ expectations — communications team.

  • Requirements for suppliers — buyers.

  • Developing and maintaining accounting processes — accountants.

  • Conforming to EMS requirements — all staff whose work influences the EMS.

  • Reviewing effectiveness of the EMS — top management.

This topic works through the process of implementing and operating an EMS and the roles of those involved. It follows ISO 14001 and ISO 14004 standards and guidance.

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