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Environmental Management System – Preparing for certification

Environmental Management System – Preparing for certification

Once you have set up your basic EMS you can start thinking about certification.

Check these 3 basic questions.

  1. Do I have an Environmental Officer/Champion/Expert?
  2. Do I have an EMS team, representing the main departments of my organisation?
  3. Do I have everything documented? Do we write what we do and do what we write?

If you have that in place, let us take it a couple of steps further.

Prepare yourself and your EMS team by learning the ISO 14000 or Green Globe standard
When you are starting to set up your Environmental Management System it is handy to know what standard you are actually going to compare yourself to. However, if you have not yet familiarized yourself with the standard, now is the time to do so. Thoroughly read the standard itself and read popular interpretations of it. You will have to pay for the ISO 14000 or the Green Globe standard, but there are many case studies on the Internet for free.

Completing your EMS documentation

If you want to get certified it means auditing.

An auditor, or maybe a team of auditors from a certification body is coming to inspect your organisation and see if everything is up to standard, whatever standard you have chosen. That is basically an alien invasion, albeit expected, and you need to be thoroughly prepared for it.

Most of my professional experience, both as auditor and consultant, has been with hotels worldwide, but I have also worked with manufacturing companies, construction companies and various other companies. Almost always, the documentation is showing gaps. Meetings which were supposedly held, but there are no agendas or minutes on record; decisions taken but not documented, complaints reacted to, but not actually written down. It is a pain in the behind but you have to check and document everything.

When you have a date for an audit, gather the EMS team, check back everything you have been documenting and fill any gaps. An auditor, contrary to the police, is not allowed to take any statement that was not previously written down as evidence that it actually did happen.

Energy and water conservation, recycling, environmental consciousness

An auditor will want to see what you have been doing about water and energy conservation, about recycling (both external, meaning what the country or community does, but also internal, meaning what you are recycling within your organisation itself) and about teaching your employees and other people about environmental conservation and nature. Every little thing helps, whether it is a special class one of your employees gives once a week on company time to the local school, a yearly recycling fair, or reusing printing paper in the offices. Auditors are interested both in the documentation and what you are actually doing within your limits.

Do you need an environmental consultant to get certified?

This is a difficult question since I am both a consultant and an auditor (though of course never for the same client, that would not be ethical). My honest answer would be: If you have a good Environmental Officer, who has both the knowledge and the available time (more important maybe), probably not. Please take one piece of advice if nothing else: whether you intend to get certified or not, whether you have an external consultant or not, find yourself an Environmental Officer. If not, your system will never be sustainable, and sustainability is what we are aiming for. However, a consultant can save you a lot of time and usually has profound knowledge both of documentation and of practical matters.

Environmentally Friendly Production Methods

Environmental sustainability is a key consideration for business operations in the 21st Century. The imposition of emission trading schemes or carbon taxes requires that companies review and streamline their business operations to ensure as little environmental impact. Consumers are also calling for greater environmental sustainability (Ipsos MORI Reputation Centre – Sustainability Issues in the Retail Sector).

Projects that companies can undertake to improve environmental impact outcomes include:

eliminating waste in production methods
implementation of lean production systems
development of new technologies to reduce impact
voluntary participation in carbon offsetting schemes

Eliminating Waste in Production Methods

When producing any good, waste may also be produced. This can be eliminated in simple measures through reducing the amount of packaging or providing opportunities for recycling of components not used.

Another way to eliminate waste in the production chain is to undertake a review of current production methods and supply chain solutions and benchmark findings against industry best practice.

Implementation of Lean Production Systems

Lean production systems, such as the Toyota Production System, aim to eliminate waste and improve quality. Efficiency is the key to a lean production system and implementation of a lean production system based on work teams can also improve employee engagement. Based on a concept of work flow and an ordered work environment, lean production systems can improve both quality and output of work.

Lean production systems were originally developed in the assembly line process of the Toyota car manufacturing plant in Japan, however the principles and methods have since been adapted to fit other manufacturing industries and service industries.

Development of New Technologies to Reduce Environmental Impact

Supporting the commercial development of new technologies to reduce environmental impact may be a suitable strategy for companies involved in natural resource intensive production activities, such as brewers, electricity providers and mining companies.

Options for supporting the development of new technologies to reduce environmental impact include

participating in venture capital partnerships where the company assists an innovator to bring a new technology to commercial development;
creating a working group of employees to research and develop environmentally sustainable practices and technologies; and
partnering with a community organisation working in the environmental sustainability field in order to support the work of the community organisation.

Participating in a community business partnership may bring an advantage in corporate social responsibility ratings to a company.

Voluntary Participation in Carbon Offsetting Schemes

Although many governments have imposed emissions trading schemes on companies in heavy industries, any company may voluntarily participate in carbon offsetting.

Carbon offsetting provides an opportunity for a company to reduce its environmental impact by purchasing carbon offsets from a provider. The money exchanged is then used by the carbon offset provider to undertake environmentally sustainable activities such as re-forestation, research and development of renewable energy sources and energy efficiency improvement projects.

There are many benefits for business in improving environmental sustainability practices including an improved corporate social responsibility rating and increased trust among consumers. There is also the opportunity to improve market share through advertising campaigns targeted at the green consumer.