It seems like there's a renewed push for organizations to develop and follow an Environmental Management System (EMS) more than ever. I feel like it's a good way for companies to really lock down their environmental program, and help segue way them into a brighter, more sustainable future. Here's the top 7 reasons why you should look into getting an EMS at your facility.
We've gotten some very serious inquiries lately about them. It seems like I am hearing more interest within the past few months than I have heard in the past few years! Maybe much of this may be driven by changes coming about in the updated ISO 14001 EMS standards and the potential interaction of these standards within the larger world of sustainability.
No matter what the cause, it’s nice to know that the environmental community doesn’t treat them as a passing fad, and they recognize the importance and usefulness of an EMS in today’s corporate world.
Do I need an environmental management system?
The answer is no, you don't need one. You also don't need to shave, or brush your teeth, or get a haircut. You'll do them to make yourself look and feel better, and to impress others, kind of like an EMS.
As an aside, there's a chance if you've gotten in trouble (and we've seen this dozens of times) you will have to develop an EMS as per the penalties or violations due to non-compliance issues.
But let's say you actually want one. Well, developing and implementing an EMS that can be certified to some body of standards can produce a nice public relations shot in the arm, and provide tangible proof to whoever cares that you are serious about your environmental performance. It shows that you have an organized plan to deal with environmental matters while reducing environmental impacts. And the best part, for many folks, is you can see a tangible ROI because of your actions. It's a win-win for everyone.
Sounds great, doesn’t it?
So the corporate world gets it, but do you? Do you know why YOU should have an EMS? Here are my top seven reasons why you need one:
- They aren't really that difficult to develop and implement. You can start slow, following your own guidelines. You don’t necessarily have to start out with the most comprehensive, documentation intensive guidelines out there. Why not look into some simpler standards, pick and choose a few things to develop and implement, and build as you go along? After all, not every mountain climber starts out by attempting Everest!
- They help you make order out of disorder. The “S” in EMS stands for “system”; in other words, an organized means of dealing with environmental compliance. This is often the complete opposite of how many companies deal with environmental matters, which are often addressed in a haphazard fashion resulting in missed deadlines, expired permits, overlooked requirements, untrained staffing, etc. An EMS can help you get a system going, building efficiency and effectiveness, and ultimately, keeping you out of trouble with regulators or 3rd party environmental groups.
- They pay dividends. I have yet to see anyone who really developed and implemented an a real, solid program (rather than just going through the motions) and come out the other side without being ecstatic about the cost efficiencies they found, very often unexpectedly! Things like reduced waste disposal fees, reduced energy use and costs, reduced environmental fees, etc. Yes, you will likely have to put some capital and effort into developing it up front, but if done right, you can almost guarantee that you will recover this investment quickly and many times over.
- There’s plenty of help out there. Not sure where to begin? There's industry specific programs, systems designed to be verified by 3rd parties, environmental management system training workshops, etc., all available to help you get started. There's a lot of information out there! Of course, you can always find a good consultant to help you get started with understanding why an EMS is right for you. And I'm not just talking about us. There are thousands of companies all over the world that can help you develop an environmental management system.
- There’s no time like now. I often hear companies say “we’re going to do one as soon as we clean up our act”. This makes no sense. After all, an EMS should be a tool to help you improve. Let it do its thing and help move you in the right direction. Everyone has something they can improve on, and an EMS will certainly help you move in the right direction!
- They deliver real, corporate benefits. You read what I said above. Seems like a day doesn’t go by anymore without hearing that the XYZ Corporation just developed a certified ISO 14001 environmental management system, or some other type of industry specific certification. The world likes this now: shareholders, stockholders, the public, media, neighbors, customers, etc. They'll all be impressed that you've recognized a formal system for handling your environmental matters. Your corporate image will skyrocket for becoming an environmentally conscious organization!
- It’s the right thing to do. There's a reason sustainability is catching on – corporate stewardship of the environment and its inhabitants (while still profiting) is the wave of the future. And a big part of that is having a demonstrated program for being above and beyond environmentally compliant, exactly what an EMS delivers. Forward thinking companies know this and are already embracing it.