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What is an Environmental Management System?

Trying to make your company eco-friendlier? With an Environmental Management System (EMS) in place, being a green business gets a lot easier.

You don’t have to be a global enterprise with vast resources to lay down an EMS framework. Smaller organisations can also reap the benefits, regardless of where an operation is based or what sector it belongs to. With an EMS you ensure strict compliance with legal requirements while optimising resources and reducing waste.

Ready to see what all the fuss is about? Let’s explore what an environmental management system is and how it can help you start practising green business.

Environmental Management Systems: What They Are and Why You Need One

Environmental management systems are an integral part of a larger environmental strategy. With an EMS, you have a robust framework that you can use to monitor the environmental impact of your operation, without compromising workflows or efficiency levels. While an EMS can showcase your strengths, it will also spotlight any shortcomings in environmental performance.

For companies using an EMS, thinking about environmental performance is second nature. If a new manufacturing process is introduced, its potential environmental impact will first be assessed. Control measures to mitigate this can then be put in place, with more involved strategies created as a long-term solution.

Once a company starts using an EMS, the relationship between everyday operations and the environment becomes clear. Energy consumption, carbon emissions and biodiversity loss are just a few of the key things to consider when introducing an environmental management system to your business. 

Environmental Management Standards

Sustainable products were once a novelty but today represent a significant slice of the market. In a recent update to the Sustainable Market Share Index™, it was revealed that sustainable products accounted for 17% of all purchases in the United States. Sustainable products outperformed traditional ones in many key product categories.

However, if you want to be taken seriously as a sustainable business, you’ll need to think about ISO certification. For environmental management in general, the standard ISO 14000 is used. Meanwhile, ISO 14001:2015 applies to anything relating to an EMS.

According to the most recent ISO Survey, there were more than 529,000 active ISO 14011:2015 certificates, with more than 295.000 issued in China alone. It’s the most widely recognised standard on the globe, with certifications in 171 countries.

Using the PDCA (Plan Do Check Act) model is actively encouraged by this standard. This technique makes it easier to manage change and implement improvements to environmental performance.

How an EMS Can Benefit Your Business

The most obvious advantage of an EMS is that it ensures an organisation is committed to constant monitoring and continuous improvement. It also guarantees compliance, preventing any legal issues or expensive penalties.

Ultimately, adopting an EMS demonstrates a company considers environmental impact a priority. As more industries move toward sustainable business practices, EMS implementation can help companies remain competitive. However, there are more reasons than this to bring an EMS into your business.

Lower Your Costs

Resource usage and waste reduction are key targets of an EMS. Reducing both immediately brings efficiency gains. Over time, you’ll uncover more ways you can limit consumption, further bringing down operational costs. Many organisations choose to switch to renewable energy sources, reducing costs and boosting their sustainability credentials. 

Accreditation Enhances Reputation

Adopting an EMS is an easy way to enhance the reputation of your business. It demonstrates to customers and stakeholders that, when it comes to environmental impact, you’re a company that practises what it preaches. ISO certification is a validation that your business is fulfilling environmental strategy requirements.

Attract Better Candidates

Sustainability can be a driving factor in employment decisions. In 2022, a survey released as part of IBM’s Institute for Business Value (IBV) study revealed that 67% of respondents said they were more likely to apply for eco-friendly jobs with sustainable companies. When it came to respondents who’d changed jobs recently, a third said they’d accepted a salary cut to secure a position with a more sustainable employer. 

There’s Never Been a Better Time To Implement an EMS

No matter the size of your business or the industry it’s anchored in, an environmental management system can help you make your operation more eco-friendly. A solid framework for sustainability, an EMS lets you monitor and control the environmental impact of your operation.

Because an EMS advocates continuous improvement, they can guarantee regulatory compliance. What’s more, those repeated PDCA cycles give you plenty of opportunity to curb resource consumption, reduce waste and lower costs. This means that as well as being good for the environment, an EMS can help deliver a healthy bottom line.

Author bio: Caroline Reidy is the owner of The HR Suite, one of Irelands leading HR consultancy firms. 

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