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5 Tips to improve your environmental management system performance

When implementing ISO 14001, your organization will need to construct an environmental management system (EMS) that meets the specific clauses of the 14001 standard itself, and provides evidence of continual improvement on an ongoing basis. You will have established your targets, as we examined in the article entitled “How to write ISO 14001 environmental targets for your organization”, and you will have performed your management review, as discussed in the article “The importance of the management review in ISO 14001”. You will be aware of the “Plan, Do, Check, Act” cycle, which underpins the standard and should hopefully have plans to ensure that your objectives can be measured, met, and improved. So, here are some tips that may help you achieve and sustain the level of performance you need.

5 Tips for your EMS

If you have established your EMS, these tips may help you achieve an improved level of performance earlier in your “Plan, Do, Check, Act” cycle than otherwise.

1) Stakeholder engagement

Many organizations only look inwards when setting environmental objectives. Make sure you also look outwards, and consult stakeholders, whether they be the local community or simply the organizations you supply. A more rounded picture of the threats and opportunities that exist internally and externally will help you develop more rounded aspects and objectives. In addition, raising awareness of your forthcoming ISO 14001 accreditation and aspirations can only be positive news amongst your immediate community, and can lead to new business.

2) Forums and action groups

This is an excellent way of improving the performance of the EMS. Set up a group with regular members and perhaps some rotating members to try and ensure as many employees as possible are involved, depending on your organization size. Sharing of opinions, joint forming of methods to find improvement, and the improved communication that employee involvement brings will all be of major benefit to your EMS.

3) Employee incentives

The people closest to the process often have the best ideas, but many respond only when asked. Offering a simple incentive, a prize or a voucher, can encourage employees to volunteer information previously unavailable to your EMS. Reward positivity and suggestions that help to improve performance. Publicize the results and encourage involvement.

4) Be open and communicate

For example, many organizations only publish and communicate key performance indicator results, but not internal audit or risk management thought processes and outcomes. Where possible, make these available to your employees; employee involvement and empowerment will ensure that the flow of ideas and feeling of working collectively toward your targets will keep the EMS performance at the top of your employees’ consciousness, and facilitate improvement.

5) Celebrate your achievements

Vitally, make sure everyone knows when your EMS is performing well. Stop, take the time to enjoy the achievement, and make sure your employees recognize the importance of continually improving and achieving, given the benefit to both your organization and the environment.

So, what are our benefits?

None of the tips above, in isolation, will help you achieve ISO 14001 accreditation, but a combination of them all will help you build an efficient EMS without having to spend valuable time learning the lessons that they help to repair. Your benefits could be significant, as employee involvement can be the key to your workforce’s “buy in” to improving and sustaining the company’s environmental performance. The old proverb says that “many hands make light work,” and this can be true when it comes to a company’s EMS. Engaging as many of your employees as possible, and sharing information and opinions across your team, will help you build a strong EMS and ensure that the flow of data back and forth facilitates review, improvement, and achievement. In no time you may come to work daily to find a number of EMS improvement suggestions in your inbox. That helps your organization, helps your stakeholders, helps reduce your costs, and helps the environment. And, it gives your team the sense of achievement we all seek when we go to work.

To get started on your EMS, see our free guidelines on how to write an environmental policy.

Advisera John Nolan
John Nolan
John Nolan is a Fellow of the Institute of Leaders and Managers in the United Kingdom, and Prince 2 accredited with a background in Engineering and Electronics and Data Storage and Transfer. Having studied and qualified as both a Mechanical and Electronic Engineer, he has spent the last 15 years designing and delivering Quality Systems and projects across many sectors in the UK, including both national and local government.