Set up an environmental management system

Set environmental objectives and targets


When setting up an environmental management system (EMS), once you have conducted an initial environmental review and decided on areas of your environmental performance to improve, you need to set your environmental objectives and targets.

What are environmental objectives?

Environmental objectives are the overall aims that your business sets itself to improve environmental performance through its EMS.

They indicate the environmental aims of your business - eg to reduce waste going to landfill by 25 per cent over five years.

What are environmental targets?

Environmental targets provide short-term goals on the way to achieving your overall environmental performance objectives.

One objective can have several environmental targets - eg one target could be to reduce waste going to landfill by 10 per cent in the first year.

Your environmental 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.

Creating your environmental policy

The policy should be the guiding document in your EMS. It should clearly set out how you will manage the environmental impact of your business and should show what commitments you are prepared to make.

It should be based on the key information from your baseline assessment and legal compliance check stages.

There is no one perfect way to create a policy document - it will depend on the particular needs of your business. But there are some key elements you need to include, such as:

  • a commitment to continually improve your environmental performance
  • a commitment to comply with environmental legislation
  • a commitment to educate and train employees to enable them to work within the policy
  • how the policy will be implemented, managed and reviewed

When setting environmental 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

Environmental management system 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.

How to benchmark your environmental performance

Benchmarking provides an indication of how a business' environmental performance compares with others in its sector or industry standards. If you adopt a systematic approach to improving your performance you can save money and increase your profits without having to raise prices.

Get a free sustainability report

All Northern Ireland businesses with an annual energy and resource spend of more than £30k can get a free assessment of their environmental performance across areas such as raw materials, energy, carbon, packaging, biodiversity and waste - find out more about Invest NI Sustainability Reports.