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What does an EMS consist of? How are the elements linked together?
As mentioned earlier, your EMS should be built on the "Plan, Do, Check, Act" model to ensure that environmental matters are systematically identified, controlled, and monitored. Using this approach will help to ensure that performance of your EMS improves over time and that you meet your goals for implementing an EMS in the first place.
This section describes seventeen EMS elements that are common to most EMS models. This section also notes the key linkages among these elements. While there are several good EMS models available, this Guide generally uses the ISO 14001 Standard as a starting point for describing EMS elements. This has been done for several reasons:
Figure 3: EMS Model
- ISO 14001 is a widely accepted international standard for EMS that focuses on continual improvement;
- Companies may be asked to demonstrate conformance with ISO 14001 as a condition of doing business in some markets; and
- The Standard is consistent with the key elements found in many EMS models, including the European Union's Eco-Management and Audit Scheme, EPA's Performance Track and the Code of Environmental Management Principles for Federal Agencies, among others.
Key Elements of an EMS: A Snapshot
- Environmental policy – Develop a statement of your organization's commitment to the environment. Use this policy as a framework for planning and action.
- Environmental aspects – Identify environmental attributes of your products, activities and services. Determine those that could have significant impacts on the environment.
- Legal and other requirements – Identify and ensure access to relevant laws and regulations, as well as other requirements to which your organization adheres.
- Objectives and targets – Establish environmental goals for your organization, in line with your policy, environmental impacts, the views of interested parties and other factors.
- Environmental management program – Plan actions necessary to achieve your objectives and targets.
- Structure and responsibility – Establish roles and responsibilities for environmental management and provide appropriate resources.
- Training, awareness and competence – Ensure that your employees are trained and capable of carrying out their environmental responsibilities.
- Communication – Establish processes for internal and external communications on environmental management issues.
- EMS documentation – Maintain information on your EMS and related documents.
- Document control – Ensure effective management of procedures and other system documents.
- Operational control – Identify, plan and manage your operations and activities in line with your policy, objectives and targets.
- Emergency preparedness and response – Identify potential emergencies and develop procedures for preventing and responding to them.
- Monitoring and measurement – Monitor key activities and track performance. Conduct periodic assessments of compliance with legal requirements.
- Nonconformance and corrective and preventive action – Identify and correct problems and prevent their recurrence.
- Records – Maintain and manage records of EMS performance.
- EMS audit – Periodically verify that your EMS is operating as intended.
- Management review – Periodically review your EMS with an eye to continual improvement.
For more detail on each Key Element, the full version of this document can be found on Voluntary Environmental Management Systems/ISO 14001-Publications.