Review and improve your environmental management system (EMS)

External environmental audits


In addition to carrying out internal audits of their environmental management system (EMS), many businesses use an external organisation to check that their EMS meets the standard they are working towards.

For example, this could be certification to ISO 14001 or verification under the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS). Smaller businesses may prefer to follow BS 8555 using United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) accredited schemes.

A successful external audit will confirm that your EMS:

  • conforms to specified requirements
  • is able to consistently achieve its policy and objectives
  • is effectively carried out

The benefits of having your EMS externally certified include:

  • attracting investors, employees and clients through showing your commitment to environmental management
  • confidence that your EMS meets requirements
  • confirmation that you have adopted the right approach to your EMS

Certification to an environmental management standard requires that all elements of your EMS are audited and verified by an accredited third-party certifier or verifier. For EMAS, you will also need your environmental statement to be verified for its relevance and accuracy.

Auditors use a range of methods for certification - you should understand what they will be looking for at each stage. The main aim of the external audit is to review your business' environmental policy, environmental management programme, operational controls and audit cycle.

The external audit is usually a two-stage process:

  • initial audit - the scope of the management systems are checked
  • main audit - a more detailed audit of the system

Once your EMS has been approved by external auditors, you can register it to the appropriate standard.