There are many benefits with developing a environmental management system. However, when an organisation gets it wrong, they are likely to waste both human and financial resources and disillusion their employees.
Common mistakes include managers which aren't committed to lead-by-example or spend time ensuring it gets up and running, objectives and targets aimed at improving environmental performance are lacking in substance, they haven't identified the human resources to run the system or communicated responsibilities to management and staff.
So how do you prevent some of these pitfalls?
There are many steps involved with the development and implementation of an effective EMS. Organisations may benefit by developing their own ISO 14001 checklist detailing the steps involved with ISO 14001 development and implementation. (The article How to up the EMS ante provides further reading about common mistakes made by organisations, as well as, describing the actions required to avoid and overcome these mistakes.)
The first item on your ISO 14001 checklist should be to ensure senior management are committed to and involved with its development, implementation and management.
Human, financial and physical resources need to be identified. Ongoing resources need to be allocated. Responsibilities need to be assigned and agreed to at this stage.
The organisations’ EMS scope will need to be defined i.e. the identification of the products, services and activities it covers and anything that is excluded.
An initial environmental review should be completed in accordance with AS/NZS ISO 14015 Environmental management – Environmental assessment of sites and organizations (EASO) and HB 206 Initial Environmental Review (handbook). The amount of detail required should be assessed prior to its commissioning.
Current environmental management activities and procedures should be integrated into the ISO 14001 EMS. These current activities and procedures should be identified during the initial environmental review stage and EMS gap analysis.
Organisations should plan for the systematic development and implementation of the elements of the EMS. Plans need to include implementation requirements, education and training requirements, internal audits and time to close out any actions, time to run the system (records are collected to demonstrate implementation) and demonstration of continuous improvement. This needs to be completed prior to ISO 14001 certification.
ISO 14001 should be developed in conjunction with ISO 14004 Environmental management systems – General guidelines on principles, systems and support techniques. ISO 14004 provides further guidelines for the elements of an EMS and its implementation.
Organisations should identify whether they have the skills and resources to develop an ISO 14001 EMS internally or whether they should outsource its development. Often systems developed can be more complicated than they need to be, somewhat confusing and difficult to manage, as well as, not actually reducing environmental risk and improving performance. Engaging a Consultant should overcome this but remember not all Consultants have equal experience and qualifications, and unfortunately it's still quite common for Consultants to produce substandard EMSs. Engaging an Environmental Consultant which specialises in environmental risk management and EMSs as well as having adequate qualifications and experience could be considered.
Next page... read about ISO 14001 certification.