Plan and set up your environmental management system (EMS)

Set environmental objectives and targets

Environmental objectives are the overall aims that your business sets itself to improve environmental performance through its environmental management system (EMS). They indicate your business' aims regarding particular issues - for example, to reduce waste going to landfill by 25 per cent over five years.

Environmental targets provide short-term goals on the way to achieving these overall objectives. One objective can have several targets - for example, one target could be to reduce waste going to landfill by 10 per cent in the first year.

Your objectives and targets should be based on:

  • your environmental policy
  • information gained from your initial review
  • your register of legislation

They should aim to address any significant environmental aspects and should incorporate specific legal requirements contained in regulations and consents.

When setting objectives and targets, it is important you:

  • identify the individual or department responsible for ensuring that they are met
  • identify someone to oversee the implementation of changes and check that targets are met
  • ensure that the measures taken do not indirectly create another significant environmental aspect

Setting SMART targets

When setting targets, you should keep in mind the SMART criteria. This means that all targets should be:

  • Specific - each target should address only one issue.
  • Measurable - your targets should be expressed quantitatively and in absolute terms - eg 10 per cent reduction per unit. Setting an overall energy reduction target of 10 per cent is vague and requires qualification, as there will be variables, such as the level of production.
  • Achievable - targets should be possible to meet for everyone involved.
  • Realistic - your targets should be challenging but not overly ambitious, as they can always be revised once they have been met.
  • Time-bound - your target must be assigned a deadline for attainment.

You can download sample templates for objectives and targets for an environmental improvement programme (DOC, 95K).

For more information on setting environmental targets and indicators, see our guide on how to set environmental performance targets.

Continual improvement

To achieve certification to a formal EMS standard such as ISO 14001, you must demonstrate that you have taken steps towards achieving set objectives and targets. You must also have a monitoring programme and keep records of your monitoring regimes.

Although there is a requirement for continual improvement, there is no set rate at which you must improve. The requirement is merely to specify targets that are measurable and achievable. You can decide your business' continual improvement programme, taking into account the expectations of stakeholders and other interested parties.

For more information, see our guide on how to review and improve your environmental management system (EMS).

Once you have set objectives and targets, you will need to put your EMS into operation. See our guide on how to operate your environmental management system (EMS).

Developed with:

Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs