Set up an environmental management system (EMS)

Environmental management systems (EMS) the basics


An environmental management system (EMS) is similar to other management systems, such as those that manage quality or safety. An EMS lets you:

  • assesses your business' strengths and weaknesses
  • identify and manage significant environmental impacts
  • save money by increasing efficiency
  • ensure you comply with environmental legislation
  • provide benchmarks for environmental improvements

An EMS can also help you manage your resources, and improves the reliability and credibility of your environmental policy.

Basic steps of an environmental management system

The basic process of setting up an environmental management system is:

Getting your environmental management system certified

You can prove to customers that you are committed to meeting your environmental responsibilities by getting your EMS certified by a body approved by the United Kingdom Accreditation Services (UKAS).

There are a number of standards for environmental management to which your business can get certified:

  • BS 8555 - a British standard that provides guidance for implementing an EMS on a phase-by-phase basis which can be a good way of working towards either ISO 14001 or EMAS
  • ISO 14001 - the internationally recognised standard for environmental management systems
  • EMAS - a voluntary European scheme that provides external recognition for businesses that prove that they go further than just meeting regulatory requirements for environmental issues

It is possible to gain and maintain both ISO 14001 certification and EMAS verification at the same time.

For more information on the different types of environmental standard download the WRAP guide to environmental management systems (PDF, 1.6MB).