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Glossary of Environmental Management Words

Competence: The competence requirements of a job are the required employee skills needed to adequately perform the job. The competence of the employee is the ability of their known skills and experience to satisfy the requirements of the job. Where the abilities, skills, experience and education of an employee do not fully satisfy the needs required to perform a job, training can be applied to bridge the gap and provide the additional required skills and knowledge. For more detail see ISO 14001 Competence, Training & Awareness: What does it mean in your EMS?

Compliance: Compliance compares how well the processes of a company meet the legal requirements placed on the processes of an organization. For example if a company must recycle all paper and metal is separate containers, and this occurs, the processes are compliant to the legislation. To find out more see Demystification of legal requirements in ISO 14001.

Conformity / Nonconformity: Conformity is the ability of a process output to satisfy the requirements it is desired to meet. In environmental management this refers to the requirements related to the environmental aspects of a process. Conformity is when the output meets the requirements, and inversely nonconformity is when the output fails to meet one or more requirements. For more information see Environmental Nonconformity Management: How is ISO 14001 different from ISO 9001.

Correction: When a nonconformity occurs there are steps taken to correct the immediate problem. If a document is incorrect, an update is done on the document. If a chemical spill happens it is cleaned up. This addresses the immediate problem but not the root cause.

Corrective Action: When a nonconformity occurs that is systemic in nature, or deals with significant environmental aspects, it is important to correct not only the immediate problem, but to find what the root cause of the problem is and correct it. The actions taken to correct the root cause of a problem are called a corrective action. For more information see Corrective and Preventive Actions to Support Environmental Management

Effectiveness: A comparison of the actual results and the planned activities. The effectiveness is how well the activities met the plan. These activities can be for any plan, but is often used in an ISO 14001 EMS for assessing a corrective action or the effects of training.

Environment: The surroundings of an organizations facility, including flora, fauna, people, air, water, land and natural resources that are accessible to interact with the organization.

Environmental Aspect: Any element of the organization that can interact with the environment around it, either through the organizations activities, products or services. Some examples would be if you have a vented chemical area that causes air emissions, or the waste produced by your office area; see also Catalogue of environmental aspects.

Environmental Impact: Any change to the environment (positive or negative) brought on by the interactions of the companies environmental aspects, either wholly or in part. Impacts can include such things as how your processes use raw materials and natural resources or how your energy consumption can lead to environmental pollution due to the original energy creation.

Environmental Management System: An Environmental Management System, often called an EMS, is a set of internal rules which are defined by a collection of policies, processes, procedures and records. This system defines how a company will identify, monitor and control the interactions that it has with the environment around it. For more details see What is an Environmental Management System.

Environmental Objectives & Targets: Environmental objectives and targets are specific goals designed to support the overall Environmental Policy and are specified for relevant employees and departments throughout the organization. One example of an objective and target would be for an office which might have an objective to reduce the use of paper in the office environment with a target of 75% reduction (plans to reduce may include such things as printing double sided and encouraging people to read on the computer rather than printing).

Environmental Performance: The environmental performance is the measurable results of the management of the environmental aspects in the environmental management system. For example, if you are measuring your air emissions from a smoke stack, with a set expected level of chemical contaminants, the measured results can be acceptable to the limits or unacceptable.

Environmental Policy: The Environmental Policy is the overall goals, intentions and direction that the management of an organization has identified for the environmental management system.

Preventive Action: A preventive action takes the same steps as a corrective action in correcting the root cause of a problem. However, it does so when the problem is identified before it has occurred as nonconformity.

Prevention of Pollution: One of the commitments of the environmental policy; prevention of pollution is what is done by an organization to reduce or control the creation, emission and discharge of any waste or pollutant related to the environmental aspects.

Procedure: The way that is specified to perform an activity or process. A procedure is a list of steps to take to make a process work properly, but need not be documented unless required. Some procedures that may be required for an EMS could include a procedure on how you identify and maintain access to your legal requirements or a procedure for how you will prepare for and respond to a fire emergency to avoid or reduce negative environmental impacts. For a greater understanding of what needs to be documented take a look at Checklist of Mandatory Documentation Required by ISO 14001:2004.

Risk: The result of uncertainty, or the chance that an event will occur. Assessing what to do with a risk involves predicting the resulting outcome of the potential event and deciding what to do about it should it occur. In terms of environmental management this could mean assessing the chance that you will have a chemical spill, assessing how environmentally damaging the spill could be (this could depend on the chemical involved), and having a plan to deal with it should it happen.

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.