Set up an environmental management system

EMS environmental aspects, impacts and legislation


Identifying environmental aspects and impacts is a key part of setting up an environmental management system (EMS).

What are environmental aspects and impacts?

You should start with identifying environmental aspects and impacts:

  • environmental aspect - any element of your business' activities that can interact with the environment, eg obtaining a raw material or product
  • environmental impact - an effect that an aspect has on the environment, eg natural resource depletion, damage to habitats and potential water contamination

Identifying, understanding and recording your business' aspects and impacts will help you to comply with legislation and present opportunities to reduce your impact on the environment, minimise waste and reduce costs.

You should use information gained during your initial environmental review to identify and compile a register of your business' environmental aspects.

How to draw up a register of environmental aspects and impacts

To identify your environmental aspects, you could develop flow diagrams showing the main inputs and outputs of each of your processes or activities. Aspects can be:

When drawing up your register you could list your processes and activities, and then list environmental aspects and impacts against each one. Your register of environmental aspects should contain:

You may find it useful to include photographs of key environmental aspects in your register. This will help you to visualise and relate specific impacts to each environmental aspect.

How to set up a register of environmental legislation

Increasingly strict environmental legislation is being introduced, so it is important that your business makes sure it complies with these laws. You should also be able to clearly demonstrate your compliance to regulatory authorities.

You should produce a register of legislation for your EMS. This is a list of all relevant laws and approved codes of practice relating to your business' activities. It should also include any impending legislation that you are aware of. You do not need to hold full copies of all these documents, but the relevant people in your business must understand their requirements.

You may also want to include which product or process the legislation or code of practice applies to, where a copy can be found, the person responsible for compliance and any related EMS procedures.

Review your registers on a regular basis

Your environmental aspects and their significance may change due to new legislation or the introduction of a new process in your business, so you should review your registers regularly. Reviews should occur either annually, or when:

  • projects or alterations are introduced, resulting in new or significantly modified activities
  • new information is received - eg impending relevant environmental legislation
  • new substances are introduced into the business activities