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How Industry Is Responding To EMS

Graham A Brown

Graham A Brown & Associates.


Environmental management systems (EMS) became formalized only in the 1990’s, firstly with the publication of the British standard, BS7750 in 1992; then the European Community’s voluntary regulation, the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) in 1993, and the International Organisation for Standardisation’s ISO 14001:1996 Environmental management systems – specification with guidance for use. ISO 14001 has undergone its first review, which was republished in November 2004.

There has been a dramatic uptake of the ISO 14001 standard worldwide, with 129,031 organisations known to be certified as at January 2007, the last full count available. The question arises, if so many organisations around the world are certified to either ISO 14001, and probably many more than that are using ISO 14001 as a model but are not seeking certification, is there any evidence of benefits to the environment and to the organisations in return for the expense and effort of implementing an EMS?

A USA study concluded that there is substantial evidence to suggest that introduction of an EMS had little effect on regulatory compliance at the facility level on the whole, while another one concluded that EMS adoption positively affects environmental performance over time and across a variety of environmental indicators and business sectors. Anecdotal evidence suggests that many organisations benefit from implementing an EMS, however the few studies that have been conducted in the UK, Europe and America raise significant doubts.

Some industries are looking beyond certification of an EMS to ISO 14001, and have developed programs such as the chemical industry’s “Responsible Care RC-14001” which incorporates ISO 14001, and the Australian Minerals Council’s “Enduring Value” program, which incorporates health and safety, community consultation and other principles of good practice beyond the requirements of an EMS.

Globally, EMS will continue to grow in importance. However, it will be necessary for the long-term continuation of EMS as a viable management tool for positive benefits to be demonstrated, including improved environmental performance and regulatory compliance. Graham Brown will discuss these issues in his Keynote address.

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