What is the job of the EMS manager?

Any organization that has an EMS (Environmental Management System) certified according to ISO 14001 will know that success or failure can greatly depend on how the EMS is managed on a day-to-day and week-to-week basis. In previous articles, such as Is the management representative still the best person to coordinate the EMS according to ISO 14001:2015, we considered  the best options for the day-to-day running of the EMS, but many larger organizations also choose to have an EMS manager with ultimate responsibility for the system and its results. So, what skills does the EMS manager require, and what tasks does he/she have to ensure are completed?

Managing the EMS – What is needed?

In previous articles, we considered ISO 14001 implementation – such as in the article How to choose a project manager for your ISO 14001 implementation, and also leadership requirements in the article What are the responsibilities of top management in the EMS according to ISO 14001:2015? while parts of these elements are relative to the overall management responsibility of the EMS, the position of EMS manager is unique, especially in light of the ISO 14001:2015 standard and some of the changes it brings. Let us consider some vital elements that need to be remembered when selecting the correct person to be EMS manager, and some of the responsibilities that position will include:

  • Context of the organization: The EMS and its objectives need to be aligned with this element to ensure all stakeholders, shareholders, and interested parties are considered. These considerations should be taken in the main by top management, but perhaps it is also advantageous to have the EMS managed by a top manager to ensure that these considerations – and changes to your business that may affect them – remain firmly at the forefront of your organization’s mind. It is the responsibility of the EMS manager to ensure that this happens, and the context of the organization needs to be considered in relation to every EMS.
  • Strategic direction: It must be ensured that the EMS and its objectives match the organization’s strategic aims. It can often be that the opinion of top management is required to ensure that this remains the case, as lower-level employees may not be aware of that vision itself. Again, this element is mandatory to every EMS as per the terms of the ISO 14001:2015 standard. Therefore, the EMS manager needs to consider this element and ensure that these two strands remain correctly aligned.
  • Bridging the gap between assessment of risk and opportunity: This is a critical part of the ISO 14001:2015 standard, and once again it is highly likely that the top management’s view of risk and opportunity is quite different from that held at a lower level. Mitigation of risk and realization of opportunity are critical to continual improvement of the EMS; therefore, the better your ability to recognize these key elements, the better your EMS will perform. It therefore stands to reason that having a senior manager as the EMS manager will ensure that this critical element is dealt with effectively.
  • Overall leadership requirements: This is another element that can make the difference between success and failure of your EMS objectives. Whether decision making, communicating vital EMS information, or demonstrating leadership itself, this element is critical to ensure that your organization meets the terms of the ISO 14001:2015 standard. It can be beneficial to the operation of the EMS if your system is managed by someone who has these leadership qualities to give your EMS, and any communication from it, the credibility it requires. Having a senior manager as the EMS manager ensures that all communication and consultation indeed has this credibility.

So, given these vital elements that need to be considered, who is the best person for the job of EMS manager?

Who is the best person for the job?

Obviously, there are many considerations within the operation of the EMS other than those mentioned above, such as dealing with legislation, measurement and analysis, and resource management, just to name a few. These requirements, along with all of those in the standard, are the responsibility of the EMS manager. What does seem obvious, however, is that the aims and operations of the EMS will be better served if managed by a member of top management who shares a strategic view of the company’s intended direction, is aware of all aspects of organizational context and risk, and has the credibility to communicate and consult with the workforce to produce the correct reaction and results. Obviously, every organization will make this decision based on its size and resources, but what is quite clear in light of the changes in the ISO 14001:2015 standard is this: the increased insistence on leadership, assessment of risk, context of the organization, and interested parties all point to one thing – that if your EMS is overseen and managed by a top manager, then your environmental performance can benefit.

Why not use our free  ISO 14001:2015 Foundations course to improve your knowledge of the standard and better manage your EMS?

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.