Set up an environmental management system

EMS operational controls and procedures


Operational controls and procedures are the measures that enable a business to function. They are also the means by which you can manage environmental impacts through your environmental management system (EMS).

Existing controls may be based on common sense and they may have been developed over a number of years. However, you are likely to need to change some controls and procedures in order to improve the environmental performance of your business.

Make sure that you consult with the appropriate members of staff. If they are reluctant to change the way they work, you should highlight any benefits to them, the business and the environment.

The work carried out during the initial environment review, and your environmental aspects and impacts, should help you to decide which elements of your business you need to focus on. When analysing and adapting your controls and procedures you should ensure that they will enable you to meet your targets and objectives.

You should look at what controls you need during normal conditions, abnormal conditions and emergencies. For example, if you are controlling emissions to air from a manufacturing process, you may need process controls, procedures for using monitoring equipment, and emergency plans and procedures.

You may need to work with your suppliers and contractors, if they affect your controls and procedures, to reduce the environmental impact of your supply chain.

Your environmental management system manual

The EMS manual is the document that supports your EMS and describes how it operates. This is also known as an environmental management manual and forms the instructions for your EMS.

The manual should provide a central point of reference for implementing and maintaining the overall system and all the operations and processes involved. It should also direct employees to other relevant documents when necessary.

The manual is usually produced, maintained and controlled by the environmental manager or management representative.

If you are developing the manual yourself, try to keep the system as simple as possible. The more procedures you introduce, the more you will have to audit and maintain.

Your EMS manual can be either paper-based or electronic. A simple approach to creating an EMS manual is to follow the headings set out in a formal standard, such as ISO 14001. Under each heading briefly describe your approach to tackling that issue and then indicate the location of supporting documents like:

  • your environmental policy
  • a chart showing your business' organisational structure
  • a statement of your business' objectives and targets, and its environmental improvement programme
  • the responsibilities of employees involved in the EMS
  • documented procedures for all processes and activities that have a significant potential environmental impact