Environmental management services is an industry that is relatively new, as it seeks to counter certain detrimental effects often associated with manufacturing processes. As legislative penalties for the improper disposal of waste become stricter, environmental management is becoming increasingly relevant for a wide array of industries. A solid environmental management plan and system seeks to accomplish several things: examine environmental risk and attempt to minimize such risks, in an effort to keep a given process or product clean, safe, and competitive.
Not all environmental management systems are the same. Over the years, several different systems have developed. The BS 7750, dates back to the early 90s and was the British Standard. However, that system has been mostly replaced by the ISO 14001, the international environmental management system, which is one of the most common systems in use today. The Eco-Management and Auditing System (EMAS) is similar to ISO 14001, but it requires that environmentally-related company data is released to the public. Both systems focus on managing environmental issues through creating objectives and instituting a process by which goals are met, and they are typically followed and applied across the company and its product.
To institute an environmental management plan within an existing plant or production process, there are several different areas that must be addressed. No plan can be implemented over-night, rather, integration of an environmental management system must occur in stages. Once a successful plan has been agreed upon and other basics are established (budget, appropriate management support, etc.), it’s time to begin following an environmental management integration plan. Perhaps the most important part of this process is the first stage: the environmental audit.
One of the first steps in integrating an environmental plan is to conduct an environmental audit. The results will display the current level of environmental risk present and the company’s overall standing in regards to said environmental risk. An environmental audit is key in establishing a course of action and goals, because it provides an honest appraisal of current risk factors and a basic sense of the steps necessary to correct the situation. There are four basic stages involved in an environmental audit: an internal audit, an external audit, understanding aspects and impacts of analysis, and creation of a register of legislation.
• Internal Audit
An internal audit examines internal company procedures—such as products, services, and what a company does—so that a comprehensive list of company activities (such as processes) that affect the environment can be put together. Once this list is created, each item must be quantified and ranked according to the level of impact the process or procedure has on the environment. Additionally, considering how essential each process of procedure is can be helpful when deciding how to confront hazardous procedures. Sometimes, the solution may be as simple as cutting the process in its entirety or replacing it with an environmentally-friendly alternative.
• External Audit
After conducting an internal audit, an external audit must be carried out. The point of the external audit is to consider the environmental issues that either already influence, or may at some point affect, the success of the business. Examining factors that may alter environmental management, such as the development of environmental legislation or large changes in the economy, is part of this process.
• Aspects and Impacts Analysis
In order to determine an appropriate approach to implementing an environmental management plant, a company should create an aspects and impacts analysis, that serves as a fundamental analysis of the data collected by the external and internal audit—the environmentally-relevant company procedures and processes. An aspects and impacts analysis provides a list of such processes’ environmental effects, and thus represents a starting point for monitoring and altering key operations.
• Register of Legislation
Directly related to the external audit, a register of legislation is created to enumerate all the possible laws (environmental and others) that may have an influence on company business or company procedures. The register serves as a way to prepare for some expected problems and difficulties, and can help in planning an environmental management plan that accounts for a degree of flexibility. Because items on the register of legislation may be prove problematic or may not arise at all, an environmental management plan must plan for all possible scenarios when determining the appropriate course of action and basic objectives.