The number of organisations embedding an Environmental Management System (EMS) into their overall policy is booming. Standards that help with setting up this system are now being shared and evolve year on year. So within this context, why and how should you implement an EMS into your organisation?
Why should an Environmental Management System be implemented?
As organisations – faced with the climate emergency – are called upon to reduce their ecological impact, tools are emerging to help them deploy more effective environmental strategies. Among them are EMS.
An EMS – an Environmental Management System – is a policy framework for the reduction and management of an organisation’s environmental impact. It provides structure through processes and goals, from their inception all the way through to their roll-out. It allows the organisation to commit to continuously improving its environmental performances in the broader sense.
The goals of an EMS are:
- compliance with environmental regulations
- savings in energy and resources
- better waste management
- implementing circularity rationales
- risk management on industrial sites
- improving environmental performance
- securing the buy-in of every employee
- enhancing the organisation’s image, etc.
Why implement an EMS? Above all, for the sake of the planet! Even if an EMS isn’t mandatory, it adds greatly to how the organisation is perceived in the eyes of its clients, partners, and the public at large. In the midst of the environmental crisis, it’s as much a sign of real commitment to the environment as it is a powerful asset in terms of image.
How an EMS will benefit my organisation
Regulatory compliance. As discussed, environmental management helps to demonstrate your organisation’s compliance with the legal and regulatory requirements in environmental protection. It should also allow future legislative developments to be better anticipated.
Competitiveness. Environmental management encompasses cost reduction. Consuming energy more effectively, and using less of it, developing eco-friendly behaviours, optimising production lines etc. All these improvements in energy efficiency ultimately yield competitive advantage. The same is true of waste: reduction or recovery makes you more competitive.
Suppliers. EMS helps to build more transparent and positive relationships with your suppliers. Integrating them into the environmental management process in turn helps them improve their own environmental performances. A virtuous circle.
Collective commitment. Environmental management serves to construct a collective strategy across the organisation. Common goals, common motivation: the EMS strengthens the group and brings new structure to the work ethic.
Image. The EMS is a measure of energy efficiency and respect for the environment. In the eyes of partners, public institutions, and of course clients, these convincing arguments help you build credibility. Quite the opposite of greenwashing.
How can an Environmental Management System be implemented?
Before launching an EMS project, it’s recommended a few points be clarified:
- The goals. Have you clearly defined these? Are they realistic, and appropriate to your situation and constraints?
- Buy-in. Will your middle and senior management support the project? Without buy-in or commitment from the teams, creating a collective dynamic will be challenging.
- Where are you now? Have you properly identified the environmental processes already in place in your organisation? They’ll provide a basis for your future EMS.
Alongside this, you need to produce an environmental analysis of your organisation (its impacts and challenges), compile the regulations that affect you, write an environmental policy and set-out a plan of action, assign specific responsibilities to your teams, train, arrange follow-up etc.
Once the environmental management system is properly in place, certification is recommended. For this, the international standard ISO 14001:2015 is a key standard. To achieve it, you need to prove your conformity with environmental legislation and your commitment to a continuous improvement approach.
In Europe, you can also seek recognition under the EMAS (Eco Management and Audit Scheme), a European regulation based on the ISO 14001 standard but with some complementary requirements attached.
Let’s be clear, however, obtaining ISO 14001 or EMAS certification isn’t easy, particularly for a micro-business or SME. That’s why intermediate tools exist, such as standard NF X 30-205, which allow an EMS to be implemented in stages. This standard also gives direction to the EnVol (Engagement volontaire de l’entreprise pour l’environnement – an organisation’s voluntary commitment to the environment), a five-year action plan aimed at organisations with fewer than 50 employees.
How can I get my organisation certified?
To initiate the certification process, you must contact one of the independent certification bodies.
For ISO 14001 certification, there are a dozen or so certifying bodies in France possessing COFRAC accreditation (Comité Français d’Accréditation – the French Accreditation Committee), essential for having the certificate internationally recognised.
For EMAS, the only accrediting body currently is Veritas. You’ll find more information on this topic the Ministry for Ecological and Inclusive Transition website.