Environmental Management Systems
Developing a system for environmental performance can make you both a good steward and give you a competitive edge.
Developing an environmental management system (EMS) may seem like it’s adding another layer of red tape or additional responsibilities to an already-busy workload, but it can actually make a job much easier.
“Companies are increasingly turning to environmental management systems to guide the allocation of resources, assignment of responsibilities, and ongoing evaluation of practices, procedures, and processes that a company needs to integrate environmental concerns into its daily businesses,” says Kelli L. Deuth, business development manager for Trinity Consulting and a contributing author for the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association’s (NSSGA) EMS template.
In larger-scale aggregates operations, there are often dedicated environmental managers or even an entire environmental department. However, with smaller companies, employees often wear many hats — with just one of the jobs being management of an environmental program or system. This means operating as efficiently and as leanly as possible is a priority.
“An EMS can provide a lot of benefits,” Deuth says. “Many times, you use existing practices and procedures and write them into an EMS system by direct reference or with slight changes. A lot of times, people think an EMS is going to add more work, but the point is that, by having a system in place, it can be simpler and more effective to manage environmental compliance and even go beyond environmental compliance.”
Putting together a cross-sectional team from the company to develop the EMS really helps, Deuth points out. “Someone may not realize that a procedure that is going to be written into an EMS is already being done by someone in another department in the company,” she says. “Being able to write this into the EMS is much more helpful than trying to develop something brand new. Instead of having papers all over the place, you now have an organized system, making it easier to quickly access data.”
Taking a big step
The key elements of an EMS are centered on the basic components of the EMS model (Plan-Do-Check-Act), Deuth says.
“The first step in planning for an EMS is determining why a company or organization is pursuing this type of system,” Deuth says. “You need to ask, ‘Is an EMS being developed to just comply with environmental regulations or is this something [an organization] wants to use to go above and beyond compliance-only and be a good citizen?’ Clearly defining the purpose and goals for the EMS will assist with getting a commitment to support an EMS from management and employees.”
Management commitment is a key to the successful development and implementation of an EMS because management defines the organization’s goals, allocates resources, and sets the tone for change, Deuth explains. Once management is on board with the project, commitment to the EMS needs to be communicated to the organization and an implementation team with representatives from key functions such as sales, procurement, engineering, accounting, human resources, and production, she says.
Environmental Management System (EMS) Defined:
• Systematic approach to planning, controlling, measuring, and improving an organization’s environmental performance.
• Identifies the causes of environmental problems and outlines an approach to eliminate them.
“A cross-functional team will be able to comprehensively evaluate issues and existing processes, ensuring EMS procedures are practical and effective for everyone impacted by the resulting system,” Deuth says. “Employee involvement in the development process will enhance ownership and ease implementation of the system.”
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