Set up an environmental management system (EMS)

Top tips for operating an environmental management system (EMS)

Setting up and running an environmental management system (EMS) can bring your business many benefits, but can also put a strain on resources. Here’s our top tips to getting the implementation of an EMS right.

1. Start from the top

To give your EMS the best chance of being efficient and successful, you need to ensure the management of your business is committed to improving and managing environmental issues. There are a number of benefits you can consider in order to persuade management of the benefits of running an EMS, including cost reduction, compliance with environmental legislation, better management of risk and significant marketing benefits.

2. Set a robust baseline

The process of setting up an EMS starts with a baseline assessment of where your business stands now, in terms of environmental management. You could benchmark your business' environmental performance against similar operations to assess where you stand. It's essential to analyse all your business processes, stage by stage, to uncover where strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats are posed to good environmental management.

3. Set clear management roles

It's essential to define management responsibilities clearly for each area of your policy. For example, make it clear who is responsible for meeting any waste targets and who is responsible for monitoring the financial impact of the policy's implementation. Delegating specific responsibilities - and ensuring the management team is aware of these responsibilities - will significantly boost the policy's chances of success.

4. Invest in training and awareness

All of your staff need to be aware of the purpose of your EMS and environmental policy, and their role within it. It's a good idea to run training sessions, so that every member of staff knows what is expected of them - and why. Refresher training - eg on an annual basis - means you can communicate changes, while building awareness into induction plans means new staff will be on board with your policy from the start.

5. Keep the plan on track

It's a good idea to consider using 'champions' to raise awareness of your EMS and its operational controls. This can create more honest and effective communication between management and employees on issues related to your EMS. If you appoint a champion, you must ensure they are given complete management support in this role otherwise they will be undermined and their effectiveness diminished.