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ISO 14001: What is the Role of the Management Representative?

Author: Mark Hammar

What is the role of the management representative in the ISO 14001 environmental management system? What do they do? Why are they there? These questions are very often asked when implementing an environmental management system (EMS), mainly because the ISO 14001 standard does not include a lot of information on the role. The few requirements are included in section 4.4.1 on resources, roles, responsibility and authority, which I have talked about in a previous blog on Understanding Responsibility & Authority Identification in ISO 14001. This blog talked briefly about the role of the environmental management representative (often called the management rep), but here I wanted to expand on the explanation of what the role entails.

What is the reason ISO 14001 requires a management representative?

The first thing to look at is why an environmental management representative is required to begin with. This is a common element of the ISO management system standard, and basically entails that the management system has a specified manager who holds the overall responsibility and authority to make sure that the management system works. The management rep doesn’t need to do everything, but as the saying goes, “the buck stops here.”

The role of the management rep is defined in two parts in the ISO 14001 requirements. The first is to make sure that the environmental management system is in place and continues to work, and the second requirement is to ensure that top management knows what is happening with the management system so that they can reset priorities, adjust resources, and amend plans as necessary.

Ensure the EMS is established, implemented, and maintained

As stated above, the environmental management rep does not need to perform all the actions to set the management system in place and verify that it continues to function, but the management rep does need to make sure that people are assigned to the necessary tasks, and are performing the tasks appropriately. How does the management representative make sure this happens? Here are some ways that this can be done:

Established. All processes that have interactions with the environment (called environmental aspects) need to be identified, and a way to monitor the aspects needs to be in place. As the management rep, you can review the identification and classification of environmental aspects for all processes in the company to make sure they have been performed. For more information on this process, see Environmental aspect identification and classification. The second item to check is if all processes required by ISO 14001 are in place in your environmental management system. If all processes have been reviewed for environmental aspects, all ISO 14001 processes are in place, and the employees know how this affects them, then the environmental management system is established.

Implemented. The main element to ensure the management system is implemented is the first set of internal audits. When internal audits have checked all the processes that were established for the environmental management system, you will know if your implementation is known and done throughout the organization. Review of the internal audit results, including the response to any corrective actions, will give a good indication of how well your implementation is working. See also: Internal Audits in the EMS: Five Main Steps.

Maintained. Verifying maintenance of the management system is very important. Going through all the trouble of identifying the aspects, processes, and resources required to implement the system will be a waste of effort if you do not follow through with making sure the system stays relevant. The main element of doing this is the management review. In the management review you will look at the data from the system to make sure it is maintaining its effectiveness and improvements as expected.

Report how the EMS is performing

It is not enough for the environmental management rep to know how things are going; it is also important that the members of top management know what is expected of the environmental management system and how well it is meeting the targets for improvement. The main way of doing this is through the management review process identified in ISO 14001.

The management review includes review of data from the system, which includes:

  1. Results of internal audits and compliance audits
  2. Communication from outside parties
  3. Status of corrective and preventive actions
  4. Status of objectives and targets
  5. Improvement recommendations

From this review, which looks at the outputs of the environmental management system, top management can know how well or poorly the management system is performing, and can then decide what needs to be done so that resources are properly applied.

For more information on management review, see How can your EMS Management Review be more useful?

Why the management representative is crucial

For most companies, the members of top management cannot keep on top of every minute detail within the company, no matter how important those details may be. This is why they need a representative to ensure that these details are monitored and corrected where needed. With the environmental management rep taking this role, it can be assured that the environmental management system will be properly monitored, corrected, and maintained throughout the organization. When top management has expended the resources required to establish and implement a management system, having someone ensure it is maintained only makes sense.

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