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An environmental management system is a procedure for managing the commitments that a company must take on environmental matters, regardless of its size and scope of action.
An environmental management system covers the planning, organization, documentation, definition of responsibilities and roles, implementation, review and maintenance of the protocols or formality that in environmental matters must be met according to international standards.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States (EPA), the creation and implementation of an environmental management system may sound overwhelming for small or medium organizations. However, executed in basic steps, even the smallest company can address it without problems. According to the EPA, among the most relevant steps for the implementation of an EMS are:
- Identification of legal requirements
- Define the points of interaction of the company with the environment
- Preparation of environmental policy
- Definition of key roles and responsibilities
- Establishment of objectives and goals
- Design of controls, monitoring and monitoring needs
- Corrective actions
- Employee awareness
- Preparation of manuals and other documents
The correct implementation of an EMS and its certification ensures that the company is complying with international standards regarding environmental management. In the vast majority of cases, these systems focus on the observance of international standards such as the ISO 14001: 2015 quality standards.
According to the International Organization for Standardization ( ISO ) the ISO 14000 family of standards, provide a set of practical tools for companies, regardless of their nature, in order to manage their environmental responsibilities.
Types of environmental management
The environmental management systems can be approved and certified by international standards such as the ISO 14000 Standards. However, companies can partially implement environmental management in their different core processes or functions.
These systems can be informal and work in compliance with the company’s own plans regarding environmental responsibility. They may include, for example, marketing tactics in the fields of green awareness, social responsibility and environmental missions.
We can find environmental management focused in a partial or comprehensive way on training plans, control of supplies, elements of the supply chain, review of conformities and reward systems.
Environmental management in training plans
Training and awareness in the field of the environment is one of the most common management systems and often complements the other systems that companies use to achieve environmental objectives.
Employees must be trained to carry out procedures or tasks with the least possible impact on their environment. Sometimes this implies the formation of leaders in the new requirements of the company so that they can develop environmental plans and achieve them. Other times it requires the training and commitment of all employees in the execution of these plans and roles in environmental matters.
The correct handling and classification of waste, reuse and recycling, as well as other environmental practices, are a must in any training plan.
Management of inputs or resources
The factories produce or assemble their products from a variety of raw materials or materials that they purchase from different suppliers.
As part of quality management systems, industries often require environmental management systems to carefully examine their materials and ensure that they are environmentally friendly, non-toxic and reusable to a large extent. These companies must incorporate sustainable or biodegradable materials and casings into their products in the distribution, use and subsequent deposition of their products.
Service companies, on the other hand, can choose to reduce paper consumption, buy eco-friendly paper, inks and other office supplies that are totally environmentally friendly.
Environmental management in transportation and presentation
Other companies focus more on applying environmental management to transport and presentation of products. For example, the use of biodegradable materials for wrapping and packaging.
Importers, wholesalers and other distributors must use systems to ensure that products are transported without increasing the carbon footprint too much or releasing other pollutants in the environment such as ozone, nitrogen dioxide and small solid particles.
Management in the compliance review
Conformity review systems are detail-oriented processes that carefully review products and services to ensure they are following all ISO 14001 and other ISO standards.
This type of system consists mainly of a checklist that users and auditors can review when controlling lots of products, as well as plans and new implementations.
Environmental management based on reward systems
The reward systems are the processes that reward employees for ideas that promote environmental responsibility and commitment.
These systems give bonuses and other forms of compensation to employees that propose or encourage new ways to save energy or use sustainable products, encourage new practices of reuse, as well as employees who detect areas that need to be corrected or modified to align with the environmental standards.