First Government position statement on Environmental Management Systems

The UK Government recently published its first position statement on the use of environmental management systems (EMSs). The position statement outlines the benefits that the Government believes implementing an EMS can bring to an organisation. These encompass not only reducing environmental impacts and managing legal compliance, but also stimulating sustainable practices. It recommends adopting a recognised national or international scheme such as ISO14001 and ensuring it is independently audited.

The statement’s five main messages are:

  • organisations should use a robust and credible EMS that is appropriate for improving their environmental and financial performance;
  • organisations implementing an EMS should use a national or international standard or scheme;
  • an EMS should be audited by an independent certifier accredited the United Kingdom accreditation Service (UKAS);
  • an EMS should help improve environmental performance through the supply chain; and
  • an EMS that demonstrates good management of legislative compliance should be used to help achieve regulatory benefits such as reduced fees and charges.

The Government expresses disappointment that, whilst there may be nearly 5,000 registered EMSs in the UK, this is a small figure in comparison to the rate at which companies have embraced other systems such as the Charter Mark and lnvestors in People.

A good EMS, it says, can save a company money leading to reduced fees and charges as well as potentially making further savings by cutting waste and improving energy efficiency.

While the UK performs well in global league tables – it comes fourth on the list of countries with the highest number of IS014001 certificates – this showing is simply in line with ranking as an economy and does little to aid Government aspirations of appearing an environmental lead leader.

Robust EMSs provide organisations with a powerful and practical tool that can help them reduce their environmental impacts systematically, be more efficient in the way that they use natural resources, and manage their supply chain more effectively. There are bottom line business opportunities too including cost savings and access to new markets. For example, in future, companies that operate an effective environmental management system may have more procurement opportunities, as the public sector and others move to source materials and services from companies that take their impacts on the environment seriously.

The report is available at www.iema.net/readingroom/show/7919/c190

This article was published in the Institute of Environmental Management & Assessment publication the environmentalist (Nov’ 2005)

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