Environment Management System Standardization!
In 1990, the British Standards Institution (BSI) devised an environmental assessment standard based on the then existing quality standard BS 5750, now superseded by the ISO 9000 series of standards. After consulting industry, and following a 2-year pilot programme, in 1994, BSI launched the environmental standards BS 7750.
At the same time, the European Commission put forward a proposal for a scheme known as the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS). The objective was to place the emphasis on the management of environmental systems and not just on the system itself. EMAS was launched in 1995.
The BS 7750 and EMAS standards were very similar in environmental requirements for businesses. At that time, it was thought appropriate to make EMAS a mandatory standard for businesses. Strong industry lobby groups argued successfully, however, that a mandatory approach would be detrimental to industry and EMAS is now a voluntary scheme.
A brief introduction of both BS 7750 and EMAS is given below:
BS 7750 was the first UK national standard created for an environmental management system. Based on the BS 5750 quality system, the BS 7750 system was used to describe the company’s environmental management system, evaluate its performance and define policy, practices, objectives and targets. This provides a catalyst for continuous improvement.
The concept is similar to that of BS 5750 and ISO 9000 for quality systems, in which the methods to be used are open to definition by the company. The standard provides the framework for development and assessment of the BS 7750 environmental management system. BS 7750 was developed as a response to concern about environmental risks and damage (both real and potential).
Compliance with the standard is voluntary and complements the requirements for compliance with statutory legislation. As BS 5750 was the driver for ISO 9001, so BS 7750 led to the development of ISO 14001.
As its base, BS 7750 requires an environmental policy to exist within the company that is fully supported by senior management and that outlines the policies of the company not only to the staff but also to the public.
The policy needs to clarify compliance with environmental legislation that may affect the company and stress a commitment to continuous improvement. Emphasis has been placed on policy as this provides the direction for the remainder of the management system.
The preparatory review and definition of the organisation’s environmental effects is not part of a BS 7750 assessment, but examination of these data will provide an external auditor with a wealth of information on the methods adopted by the company. The preparatory review itself should be comprehensive in its consideration of input processes and output at the site.
It should also be designed to identify all relevant environmental aspects that may arise from the company works. These may relate to current or future operations, as well as to the activities performed on site in the past, e.g., contamination of land.
The Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) is similar in structure to ISO 14001. There are, however, two major differences between the standards. The first is that the whole company can be certified to ISO 14001, whereas EMAS is generally a site-based registration system.
The second is that, whereas any company from any business sector can use ISO 14001, EMAS is only available to those -companies operating in the industrial sector.
Within the UK, an extension to the EMAS scheme has been agreed for local government operations, which may also register their environmental management systems to the EMAS regulations.
In addition to a summary of the process, the statement requires quantifiable data on current emissions from the site and environmental effects, the amount and types of waste generated, raw materials utilised, energy and water resources consumed, and any other environmental aspects that may relate to operations of the site.
Pre-assessment is as much part of EMAS as it is of ISO 14001. The environmental audit must be comprehensive in consideration of input processes and output at the site. The procedure is designed to enable identification of all relevant environmental aspects that may arise from the site itself.
The pre-assessment will also include a wide-ranging consideration of the legislation that may affect the site, whether it is being compiled with currently, and perhaps even whether copies of the legislation are available.
Many of the environmental assessments undertaken have already highlighted the fact that companies are unaware of all the environmental legislation that affects them, and, being unaware, they are often found not to be meeting the requirements of that legislation.
Under the EMAS standard, the company will declare its primary environmental objectives, i.e., those that can have most environmental impact. In order to gain most benefit, these will become the primary areas of consideration within both the improvement process and the company’s environmental programme. The programme will be the plan used to achieve specific goals or targets along the route to a specific goal and will describe the real and achievable means to be used to reach those objectives.
As with ISO 14001, the EMAS standard requires a planned, comprehensive and periodic series of audits of the environmental management system to ensure that it is effective in operation, is meeting specified goals, and continues to perform in accordance with relevant regulations and standards.
In 1993, it was felt that an international standard was required for environmental management. Three years later, in 1996, from an idea based on BS 7750; the ISO 14001 standard was born. As BS 5750 had been withdrawn with the appearance of the ISO 9000 series, the outcome of the emergence of the international standard ISO 14001 meant that the national standard BS 7750—together with national standards in other EU countries—were, with common consent, also withdrawn.
The most recent project designed to assist SMEs to achieve ISO 14001 is a trial project called Acorn. This is a pilot project focused on introducing greater flexibility to those SMEs seeking to achieve the ISO 14001 standard.
Launched in the summer of 2000, Acorn is a joint Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and BSI pilot study to test a five-step model for SMEs to achieve ISO 14001.
The five steps are as follows:
Step 1 A commitment to the ISO 14001 standard.
Step 2 Compliance with legal and regulatory requirements.
Step 3 Identification of significant environmental aspects and impacts.
Step 4 Management of significant environmental aspects.
Step 5 Documentation and integration of environmental management system.
As major companies are coming under great pressures to ensure that their suppliers also have the ISO 14001 standard, the Acorn project is designed to assist SMEs in meeting major company environmental demands. SMEs do not necessarily have to achieve full certification before becoming part of a major supply chain. Stage 3 of the project is the first validation and audit point for the standard; for most major companies, those SMEs achieving this stage will be accepted as a supplier.
ISO 14001 Self-Assessment:
Before undertaking to adopt ISO 14001 environmental standard, it is necessary to know the present status as well as a fair understanding of the environmental terminology through a self-assessment questionnaire. Whichever assessment company you choose to achieve the environmental standard, the pre-assessment questionnaire should follow a similar format.
It will comprise a number of sections relating to your company and how it interacts with the environment. The following list indicates the areas to be assessed: the company air emissions water pollution solid and hazardous waste soil and groundwater protection noise control resource management systems other environmental impacts environmental exercise
This section requires you to supply general information about the company, e.g., name, address, number of employees and the nature of the business. State also the company’s main business activity. If the company has more than one site, provide the same details for each site. If your company is aiming for the ISI 14001 standard, all company sites must comply with the standard requirements.
This element asks you to consider which of your company’s processes or business activities produce emissions to air. Consider everything vented, from heating fumes to incinerator flue gases, and record it.
It is not necessary to be fully aware at this stage of the emissions being vented; this can be set down later by a third party if your company does not possess the expertise in house.
You should be aware that, within the pre-assessment questionnaire, your company will be asked to provide answers to simple questions such as, “do you monitor air emissions?”, “who is responsible for air emissions?”, “are they audited?” and “is there a site plan showing emission points?” These are general ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions that will provide the company and its assessor with the basic information needed to consider whether or not air emissions are to be an issue when going for full certification.
A business is likely to use a significant amount of water, in everything from toilets to cooling processes. Make a log of everything that uses water. Make special note of those processes or activities that discharge water to the foul sewer, soak ways, other drains or natural streams, etc.
With the same tick box ‘yes/’no’ response, questions will be asked about wastewater objectives and targets, e.g., “do you have documented procedures and is there a drainage plan of all water usage and flows?”
Solid and Hazardous Waste:
Your company also has a requirement to identify any waste that it produces. There are usually four main areas:
1. Solid waste—e.g., paper, plastic, metal, wood, etc.
2. Hazardous waste—e.g., sludge from paper manufacture, paint-spraying residues, etc.
3. special waste—this has a lengthy legal definition that you are directed to if you are unsure of your company’s waste classification, and will include chemicals and other substances that are highly flammable, irritant, harmful, toxic, carcinogenic or corrosive.
4. Clinical waste—again, you will need to reference a legal definition if your company produces clinical waste; put simply, this covers medical waste, including instruments and diseased waste.
Soil and Groundwater Protection:
If your company stores chemicals, solvents, paints, diesel, petrol, heating oil’s, etc., be aware of the consequences of any spillage. The emphasis here is on what the company stores and on where, and how, it is stored.
If spillage of hazardous materials occurs, you will need to know what has been spilt, the volume of the spillage, where the spillage will drain to or flow naturally, and where it is likely to end up.
A plan of the storage areas and directions of flows in the event of any spillage will be required. Any drainage plan will again be of assistance here.
If some water or land contamination does arise, you will need to identify the method you intend to use for remediation and methods for future protection. If your company currently uses waste contractors, they also need to be identified.
Check noise levels internally and externally. Most modern internally operated machinery generates excessive noise, even if it is only intermittent. External noise is also classified as pollution, and you can be sure that if your company is emitting excessive external noise, your neighbours, whoever they may be, will not be slow in telling you and the local authority and Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
List those processes or other business activities that emit noise and have them measured by a third party to check the limits.
A check on the acceptance threshold levels can be actioned through your company’s local environmental health department.
This is primarily a look at other resource-saving activities that may have been tested or implemented, e.g., to better manage fuel, energy and water consumption within the company. Take into consideration any waste or energy minimisation surveys that may have been undertaken directly by the company or indirectly by a consultant or other third party.
You will be asked whether your company has waste or energy minimisation objectives and targets, whether it has a responsible person monitoring energy use and whether it has any material recycling or reuse initiatives currently in operation. You will also be asked whether your company has considered other uses for the land it occupies.
You may surprise yourself in this section by ticking more ‘yes’ than ‘no’ boxes. Most companies tend to focus on various methods of corporate cost savings and most would acquit themselves better under this section than in others.
Other Environmental Impacts:
If you feel that previous sections have not really covered every activity that your company is involved in, this section allows you to consider the environmental impact that things such as odour, dust, vibration and visual impact may have on the environment.
Apart from the direct environmental impacts that your business activities may have on the environment, you will be asked to consider also the indirect impact. The indirect impact may be difficult to spot initially but can come in the form of, for example, product designs.
Better product design may result in energy savings or a greater percentage of the product being recyclable. Better design of some brands of motor car has enabled a greater proportion of the vehicle—up to 85 per cent in some cases—to be recycled or reused.
Another area to consider is the packaging of distributed goods. You will be asked whether your company reuses the packing materials saved from incoming goods and whether your company uses its own transport for delivery.
The use of a courier may be a worthwhile option with regard to reducing air emissions and fuel bills. One of the ways towards resolving a proportion of these indirect impacts is to ask your company’s suppliers and customers whether there are more environment friendly alternatives to existing practices.
Charter for Sustainable Development
The ultimate goal for corporate environmental management systems should be to achieve a situation where a company’s activities are in balance between continuous economic growth and caring for the environment.
The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) has developed a business charter for sustainable development. This effort has the support of many companies and is intended to identify areas for successful and continuous improvement.
The charter promotes environmental policy areas as follows:
The aim here is for environmental management to become one of the highest priorities for all companies. This should be demonstrated by the creation of policies, programmes, procedures and practices leading to environmentally sound operations for the company.
Full integration of environmental elements into the normal business operation of a company is essential to ensure that the management system functions as a coherent entity. The strength of this integrated approach can be demonstrated further by amalgamation of the management systems for environment, quality, customer satisfaction, and health and safety of staff. In effect, environmental management cannot be achieved by one person in a small office at the rear of the company.
Process of Improvement:
The process of continuous improvement, from a sustainable development viewpoint, requires more than the operations of a company to be environment-friendly. It requires consideration to be given to how the company responds to customer expectations, community expectations, legal regulations, development of tools and new techniques in order to improve continually the environmental performance of the organisation.
Staff Education and Training:
The development of a culture of continuous environmental education and training will provide greater awareness capability and motivation to employees and enable them to conduct their daily operational activities in an environmentally responsible manner. Such a programme can be a strong motivational tool and can bind employees closer to the company’s environmental ethics.
Products and Services:
The achievement of sustainability requires consideration of the life cycle of products and services (the term ‘cradle to grave’ is used extensively) to ensure that they have no undue environmental impact and are fit for their intended use, are efficient in their consumption of resources, and can be recycled, reused and disposed of safely.
Facilities and Operations:
Similar to the ‘cradle to grave’ concept for products and services, facilities and premises can be renewed, regenerated or upgraded. When looking at existing plant and facilities, a stronger emphasis can be placed on the promotion of renewable resources, minimisation of pollution, the generation of waste, and safe and responsible husbandry of the land resource.
Contractors and Suppliers:
The company should encourage contractors and suppliers to adopt sound environmental principles combined with a system of continuous improvement in line with or supported by its own system. Greening the supply chain ensures that the suppliers’ objectives become consistent with the aims of the company itself.
This also encourages the wider adoption of environmental improvement practices among suppliers and sub-contractors. The bigger the company, the easier and more readily this concept will be accepted by suppliers and sub-contractors.
Openness to Concerns:
Sustainable development requires a company to become more transparent in all its business operations. This open approach is designed to foster an open exchange of information and communication between the company and its employees, suppliers, stakeholders, etc.
Compliance and Reporting:
As part of a drive to be more transparent, a company pursuing sustainability will be required to measure and publicise environmental performance information. Following the publication of a company’s environmental aspects and impacts, measurements can be made to demonstrate stability or improvement, and to confirm compliance with company objectives and legal requirements. This information is produced annually to provide information to all stakeholders.
In 1992, Agenda 21 called for the establishment of indicators for sustainable development. Sustainability indicators, if they highlight the real underlying causes of environmental damage, will help prevent wasted efforts treating symptoms.
A number of measuring indexes have been developed for sustainable development, such as Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare, Net Primary Productivity, Environmental Space, Factor X Concept, Composite Index of Intensity of Environmental Exploitation, Indicators of Farm Level Sustainability, An Extension of the Human Development Index, eco-footprint, etc.
Environmental auditing, environmental accounting and eco-auditing as well as surveillance will help in developing an efficient environmental management system.