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Understanding resource management in the EMS

The ISO 14001 requirements for resource management are specified in two small sub-sections of the requirements under the section (also called a clause) on implementation and operation of the EMS. So, you may ask, “What does ISO 14001 say about resource management, and why is it important?” This small amount of text explaining resource management seems to understate the importance of resource management in the EMS. Here is what you need to know about the requirements:

Resources, roles, responsibility, and authority

Clause 4.4.1 of the standard concerns the requirements for resources, roles, responsibility, and authority. The standard requires that the organization make available the resources necessary to establish, implement, maintain, and improve the environmental management system (EMS). This sounds simple, but it means that the resources need to be made available so that you can set up the system rules on a permanent basis for the EMS (establish), put these rules in place such that they are known throughout the organization (implement), keep this process going (maintain), and make the system of rules better as you go along (improve). Depending on the size of the organization, this could be a lot of resources not just at the start of the EMS implementation, but ongoing.

The clause further identifies that resources include human resources and specialized skills, organizational infrastructure, technology, and financial resources.  Do you have the right people for your EMS? Do you have access to specialized skills such as the correct engineer for an environmental assessment? Do you have the structural and facility needs such as the buildings and power supplies to properly keep your EMS on track? Do you have adequate money budgeted to make all of this possible? These are the questions that you need to answer to properly assess the resources needed for your environmental management system.

The last part of clause 4.4.1 concerns specifying the roles, responsibilities, and authorities of the personnel involved, and making them known throughout the organization so that the environmental management system works effectively. This involves assigning a top management representative who ensures the environmental management system is established, implemented, and maintained; and further, that top management has reports on the EMS to review performance and act on needs for improvement. For more information on how to do this, see: Understanding Responsibility & Authority Identification in ISO 14001.

Competence, training, and awareness

Clause 4.4.2 further specifies what you need to identify when it comes to the human resources you are assigning to perform the tasks that can affect your environmental impact. You need to identify what competence is needed for any tasks with significant environmental aspects – aspects being the ways in which your organization can interact with the environment. After identifying what is needed to do the task successfully and efficiently, you need to make sure that the employees involved have these competencies through education, training, or experience; and if they do not, then you need to provide the training to complete the competence.

All of this activity relates to the requirements you have for the human resources identified above for the successful function of the environmental management system. Hand in hand with this activity are the efforts to promote awareness throughout the organization about the environmental management system and the company’s potential environmental impacts that are being monitored and controlled.

For more elaboration on the requirements of clause 4.4.2, see: ISO 14001 Competence, Training & Awareness: Why are they important for your EMS?

Resource Management: Crucial for the EMS

Just like the commitment of top management, if you do not have adequate resources for the processes of the environmental management system, then your whole management system is likely to fail. Even if you can successfully implement the processes needed to initially satisfy the requirements, you will still fail to satisfy the requirements to maintain and improve your environmental system without the proper resources applied.

It has been said that with a management system the implementation is not the hard part; it is in the improvement that companies struggle. Do yourself a favor and make sure you have identified the resources needed on an ongoing basis so that you can continue to succeed after the initial excitement is over; you will thank yourself later if you do.

Click here to see a free preview of the Environmental Manual that includes the rules for resource management.

Advisera Mark Hammar
Mark Hammar
Mark Hammar is a Certified Manager of Quality / Organizational Excellence through the American Society for Quality and has been a Quality Professional since 1994. Mark has experience in auditing, improving processes, and writing procedures for Quality, Environmental, and Occupational Health & Safety Management Systems, and is certified as a Lead Auditor for ISO 9001, AS9100, and ISO 14001.