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To what extent should top management be involved in your EMS after the implementation?

The ISO 14001:2015 standard saw increased and more specific leadership requirements, which we examined in the article How to demonstrate leadership according to ISO 14001:2015. However, most people who have responsibilities for the activities related to the EMS (Environmental Management System) will realize that there are differences between the reality and theory of management involvement – and there will be critical times where management involvement, input, and even just presence will make achieving objectives and projects related to the EMS much more successful. So, realistically, to what extent should the management team be involved in the EMS during its lifecycle?

Leadership requirements – What the standard requires

The ISO 14001:2015 standard states that leadership involvement is mandatory at certain parts of the EMS lifecycle:

  • Ensuring that the organization’s strategic plans and the objectives of the EMS are aligned within the context of the organization
  • Ensuring sufficient resources are available to meet objectives
  • Providing leadership to ensure that supporting roles can be performed correctly
  • Ensuring that continual improvement can be achieved
  • Taking responsibility for delegation of duties regarding the EMS
  • Ensuring communication is effective

So, as we can see, these requirements are not only mandatory, but exist mostly in the “setting up” stage of the EMS, where it is easy to understand that the gravitas that management presence and input brings can raise the importance and perception of environmental performance to the rest of your workforce. But, at what other parts of the EMS lifecycle can management involvement be beneficial to achieving your environmental objectives?

Management involvement – Where can it help?

There are definitive moments in the lifecycle of the EMS, outside of the mandatory requirements we examined above, where management presence and involvement can be of huge benefit to achieving long-term goals. Let’s look at them in some detail:

  • When new projects that are related to the EMS are established. Management involvement in most organizations will bring added focus and a sense of importance to the workforce’s perception of how much something matters, and if the workforce see that a project is important to the management team, it normally becomes important to them, too.
  • When there are major legislative changes. Again, management involvement can give extra impetus to changes that need to be implemented when legislation changes – especially when a failure to meet new legislation can not only mean non-conformance within your EMS, but possibly financial penalties, too.
  • When dealing with customers, potential customers, and business partners. Having your management team being evangelistic over the organization’s environmental performance not only makes your company more attractive to do business with, but demonstrates the true importance of maintaining excellent environmental credentials to your workforce, both from a moral and a business perspective.
  • When making regular business communications to the workforce. Reinforcing the importance of meeting environmental objectives, and ensuring the employees retain focus on that, can go a long way toward establishing the correct culture and attitude within an organization. And, the message that environmental performance is just as important as, and linked to, financial performance can be a critical one.
  • At induction sessions for the employees. The occasional presence of a member of the management team to communicate the importance of environmental matters can play a large part early in an employee’s time with an organization, and build a foundation for good practice in the future years.

So, we can imagine that intervention at these specific times can improve the status of an organization’s environmental objectives through increased focus from employees, so is that everything that our leaders can do to help?

Management – The real responsibility to the environment

Good managers and leaders should recognize that in order to boost the chances of an EMS in a successful manner, intervention at key times is critical. Objective setting and review of the results are the two elements that sit at either end of the EMS lifecycle, but it can be said that at all points between, management intervention can bring benefits to EMS performance. In the previous article How to define KPIs according to ISO 14001 we looked at how key performance indicators can be selected, and a good manager will use them, amongst other elements, to know when the time is right to get involved in matters that affect the EMS. However, an effective manager will understand that advertising the importance of the EMS to employees regularly – whether at communication sessions, inductions, or regular business reviews – will pay dividends in establishing a culture of environmental awareness, and ultimately, in improved results.

We have examined the relationship between achieving environmental objectives and the ensuring financial benefits to an organization in several previous articles, and a good manager will know exactly that. Improved financial performance and a benefit for the planet are therefore two of the linked benefits for an organization led by a management team that knows how and when to involve itself in activities inside an EMS, and that result is a benefit for all.

Use this free  Clause-by-clause explanation of ISO 14001:2015 to check what the standard requires from your top management.

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.