Increasing air and environmental pollution, excessive consumption of resources or climate change are just some of the many reasons to include the topic of environmental protection in corporate planning. In addition to the idealistic values, a professional environmental management also offers economic advantages, through which you can expose and eliminate various weak points in your company. In order to put effective environmental management into practice, it is important to coordinate your measures. This is exactly what environmental management systems are for: To continuously and systematically improve environmental protection in your own company. In the following you will learn what exactly a professional environmental management system is, for whom certification is particularly worthwhile, which requirements you have to fulfill and how DQS can help you.

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What is an environmental management system? A definition

With a professional environmental management system (EMS), you define and consistently implement your company's environmental policy - from material procurement to waste disposal, distribution of tasks, organization of processes, employee training and behavior, and procedures for implementing the environmental policy. The focus of implementing an environmental management system is to continuously improve your environmental performance.

One proven environmental management system, for example, is the globally valid ISO 14001 standard, which enables you to implement comprehensive environmental management in all areas of your company and continuously develop your processes. ISO 14001 helps you to comply with regulations and to reduce environmental pollution, such as soil or air pollution, to a minimum by applying proven management tools. At the same time, various roles and responsibilities ensure efficient support and further development of the management system.

In this way, thousands of companies now succeed in making an active contribution to environmental protection by working sustainably and using resources responsibly.

In order to obtain certification of your environmental management system, an independent auditor regularly assesses compliance with the standard requirements, the implementation of the system and your environmental program. Only if you meet all the requirements will your company be certified.

Why does an environmental management system make sense?

The introduction of an environmental management system (EMS) is basically voluntary and not defined by law. But there are now many reasons for including environmental protection in everyday business activities. Because environmental protection, especially in conjunction with a professional environmental management system, makes sense in every respect.

 

Internal reasons

  • You promote corporate environmental protection
  • You have proof of the implementation of specifications
  • You improve your procedures and processes
  • The on-site audits show you which weak points and savings potentials your company still has
  • You recognize potential dangers at an early stage and can minimize them
  • You create internal transparency in terms of environmental management
  • You sensitize and motivate your employees
  • You promote communication among your employees
  • You reduce premiums in the area of environmental liability
  • You have advantages with financial service providers, as proven environmental protection is often associated with lower liability and credit risks

 

External reasons

  • You can systematically implement regulatory requirements for environmental protection with the help of an environmental management system and have them certified
  • You can provide evidence of compliance with laws and regulations
  • You gain more credibility towards customers and partners
  • You gain better communication skills towards customers and partners
  • You improve your image towards customers, the public and authorities
  • You have advantages over competitors, as environmental protection has become an important sales argument
  • You gain extensive knowledge about the environmental impact of products, services and processes
  • You can minimize your liability risks in the event of incidents

 

For which companies is a professional environmental management system particularly important?

The introduction of a professional environmental management system is generally not a must. However, there is no denying that industry and business are unfortunately largely responsible for the greenhouse effect, lack of resources and global warming - and companies therefore have a particular obligation to take countermeasures. In some areas, such as the handling of hazardous substances or simply waste separation, there are often regulations and measures in place that must be complied with by law. In other areas, much of what is actually possible without much effort is unfortunately still a "can" rather than a "must".

Fortunately, for many companies, environmental protection has long since ceased to be a mere chore and is now also a good way to strengthen their own image. In saturated markets in particular, corporate environmental management is a way of standing out from the competition.

For this reason, many companies are now going far beyond the legal requirements and developing their own environmental management step by step. They want to combine ecological and economic goals and rely on energy-efficient IT and production systems, for example, to reduce their CO2 emissions and save on energy costs.

To systematically implement company-wide climate and environmental protection measures, it is advisable to introduce a professional environmental management system. This enables you to systematically identify and eliminate environmentally relevant weak points in your company. It provides you with regulations for planning, execution and control and helps you to define responsibilities as well as behavior and procedures.

One way of introducing systematic environmental management is to use the globally recognized ISO 14001 standard, for example, which provides your company with a systematic framework to guide you in designing your environmental management system. The requirements of the standard are primarily aimed at reducing or avoiding environmental impacts, in connection with the life cycle, that can be traced back to your company's business activities. The emphasis is therefore on a more risk-based approach and strict adherence to binding commitments.

ISO 14001 certification enables your company to demonstrate at an international level that it has introduced an environmental management system and is thus practicing environmental protection at a high level. It doesn't matter whether you are a craft business, a service company, a medium-sized enterprise, a large corporation or a social institution. Every organization can benefit from a certified environmental management system.

Exciting topic? Read more about the German logistics service provider Hermes Germany's experience with ISO 14001.

Which environmental management systems are there?

The best-known environmental management systems in Europe are the international standard ISO 14001 and the European environmental management regulation EMAS (Eco-Management and Audit Scheme, Regulation (EU) 2017/1505 with Regulation (EC) No. 1221/2009). In Germany, around 8,000 companies and organizations are already certified to ISO 14001 and over 2,100 sites are registered to EMAS.

ISO 14001 - Sustainable environmental management

Certified environmental management system in accordance with recognized standard ★ Improve environmental performance and minimize risks ★ Responsible and sustainable management ★

But which management system is the right one for my company?

Certification of an EMS according to ISO 14001, as well as validation according to EMAS, each have specific characteristics and requirements that must be adapted to your company's needs. This is because every company is unique. Therefore, an environmental management system must always be tailored specifically to your particular organization and measures.

What is an environmental management system according to ISO 14001?

ISO 14001 is a globally accepted and applied standard for environmental management systems. It was first published in 1996. In June 2000, the first revision was adopted. The main goals were a reduction in complexity and greater compatibility with the ISO 9001 quality management standard.

In February 2012, international negotiations began on the second revision of ISO 14001, which was published in September 2015.

ISO 14001:2015-11 - Environmental management systems - Requirements with guidance for use
The standard is available from the ISO website.

With this latest revision, there was an increased focus on the importance of business processes and their impact on the environment. Furthermore, companies must be able to demonstrate optimized environmental performance in the form of measurable environmental indicators, in a reliable, reproducible and traceable manner.

According to ISO 14001, the following aspects, among others, must be regulated, determined or established:

  • Scope
  • Environmental policy
  • Objectives and measures to achieve them
  • Responsibilities and authorities
  • Planning of procedures and processes within the company
  • Measures for dealing with risks and opportunities
  • Environmental aspects
  • Binding obligations (legal and other obligations)
  • Required resources
  • Training of responsible persons
  • Communication within and outside the organization
  • Emergency preparedness and response
  • Documentation
  • Monitoring, measurement and evaluation
  • Internal audits and management review
  • Corrective action and continuous improvement

If your company or organization is seeking ISO 14001 certification, the environmental management system (EMS) must meet these standard requirements. To achieve environmental goals and continuous improvement of environmental performance, the standard also emphasizes the PDCA cycle.

What is the PDCA cycle?

In order to achieve the environmental performance targets set for your company, the ISO 14001 standard focuses on the continuous improvement process. This improvement process is based on the method "Plan, Do, Check, Act" (PDCA):

  • Plan: You first establish the processes to achieve the implementation of your environmental goals.
  • Execute: In this phase, the implementation of the processes takes place.
  • Control: You continuously monitor the processes with respect to legal and other requirements (binding obligations) as well as with respect to the goals set. If desired, you can publish your environmental performance.
  • Optimize: You may need to adjust the processes that have already been established.

In this way, your company can structure and implement your corporate environmental policy, environmental goals and an environmental program with relatively simple specifications.

 

What is the difference to EMAS?

The EMAS regulation (Eco-Management and Audit Scheme) was already established in 1993 by the European Community. It, too, serves as a system for systematic environmental management and for conducting environmental audits. In addition to the requirements that are also integrated in ISO 14001 for the structure and processes in the environmental management system, EMAS also contains a binding requirement for the preparation of an environmental statement. This must list the processes and activities that affect the environment as well as basic environmental data, for example resource consumption or the operational energy level.

Compared to ISO 14001, EMAS additionally includes:

  • The passing of an environmental audit, in which the current state of the company is scrutinized in detail.
  • You must submit a regularly updated environmental statement.
  • You must inform the public about your environmental efforts.

The decision as to which management system is right for your company cannot be answered in a general manner. To do so, you need to ask yourself what you want to achieve with the system and whether you want to communicate your efforts to the public. This is where the first major difference arises: According to the EMAS regulation, an environmental statement must be prepared and also published. The ISO standard only requires you to communicate information relevant to the environmental management system (EMS) externally.

So if your company generally has customers or partners who insist on an annually prepared environmental statement, this must be done under EMAS and can be done through the ISO standard.

The EMAS regulation as well as the ISO 14001 standard can be implemented in small companies without any problems. The EMAS regulation contains all the requirements that the ISO 14001 standard places on an environmental management system, plus additional requirements such as the necessary preparation of an environmental statement. Consequently, the implementation of an environmental management system according to ISO 14001 usually requires less work and time.

N.B. As a European regulation, EMAS may not be available in your country. Please contact us for more information.

 

How does the introduction of an environmental management system proceed?

The introduction of an environmental management system often poses a number of challenges for an organization, especially for the employees assigned to it. The effort is certainly not to be underestimated, because - as with any other management system - you must first familiarize yourself with the subject matter of an environmental management system in order to ultimately meet all the requirements of the standard, if you are really thinking about certification.

Here, above all, the recording, verification and evaluation of the binding obligations (legal and other requirements) take up a relatively large amount of time. However, you should avoid basic mistakes right from the start because they are difficult to correct in retrospect.

In general, a systematic approach with a clear assignment of responsibilities and fixed deadlines is recommended. Such a structure provides you with a guideline for implementing a lean, practical and beneficial environmental management system in your company.

Step 1

In any case, the first important step is support by top management because they make the decision of the introduction and implementation of an environmental management system. Without the commitment of top management, such a project is doomed to failure from the outset. Of course, it is also elementary to get all employees on board - i.e. not only those responsible, but everyone who can influence something in the company.

This is where you lay the foundation for your project. You determine what you want to achieve in terms of environmental management, plan the implementation and set about realizing it step by step.

Step 2

Now it is time for the concrete implementation. You create a draft of your environmental policy and place the measures in your corporate context. It is important to define the scope of your environmental management system. In doing so, you also determine the risks and opportunities as well as the measures to continuously improve and monitor your environmental management. This is therefore a matter of

  • Identifying the significant environmental aspects of your company
  • Identifying your binding commitments
  • Evaluating your compliance

Step 3

Once you have determined your direction, you can now define your communication strategy and set specific targets or a program. In this way, you will be able to monitor the steps and measure their success.

Step 4

You continuously steer your project towards success and design a contingency plan.

Step 5

You evaluate your environmental performance. To do this, you develop a process for recording, measuring and analyzing. Internal audits help to counteract if measures do not run as planned. In this way, you can further improve your processes.

As with any management system, such a step-by-step approach also offers some advantages in environmental management. For example, it's relatively easy to see how improving environmental performance helps reduce costs and helps improve your relationship with customers and partners. You can also see how ISO 14001 helps you demonstrate your binding commitments, and much more.

In this way, your company or organization can understand the benefits of the environmental management system at any point in time, while you implement and improve your concept step by step.

ISO 14001 - Sustainable Environmental Management

Certified environmental management system in accordance with recognized standard ★ Improve environmental performance and minimize risks * Responsible and sustainable management ★

The structural introduction of an environmental management system

There are three structural options when setting up a professional environmental management system:

  • You can carry out a single project that focuses on one or more environmental aspects. In this cautious approach, you slowly familiarize yourself with the elements of an environmental management system.
  • If you have already implemented an environmental project, you can adopt the proven and structured approach for managing further environmental projects. To track the development of individual elements, the use of defined steps has also proven to be effective.
  • You can select specific steps to be implemented consecutively or simultaneously. This selection is recommended when you want to address specific environmental aspects, such as meeting binding commitments or improving environmental performance. With this approach, the environmental management system can be developed very well at your own pace and within your available resources.

Step by step to success

A concrete plan for implementing your environmental management system (EMS) will help you determine the following:

  • How do you want to proceed in implementing your professional environmental management system?
  • In what time frame do you want each step to be achieved?
  • Who will assume what roles and responsibilities?
  • What information do you have to document?
  • How will progress be continuously monitored and measured?

Environmental management system: What do organizational structure and process organization mean?

In connection with the introduction of an environmental management system, you will repeatedly come across the terms organizational structure and process organization. In order to understand these, you should first be clear about what the term "environmental management system" means. The word is made up of the terms "environmental management" and "management system":

  • Environmental management: All measures to reduce negative environmental impacts or changes to the environment.
  • Management system: Instrument for the systematic, targeted and planned implementation of corporate policy and objectives. This involves the structuring, control and continuous improvement of company processes through the recording and description of structural and procedural organization.

An environmental management system thus serves to reduce and continuously improve negative environmental impacts by recording and describing the organizational structure and process organization.

The organizational structure determines who is responsible for which environmentally relevant activities in your company. The distribution of environmentally relevant tasks is an important success factor, as otherwise there is a risk that some activities will remain undone because no one feels responsible for them. For example, you can determine who in the company is responsible for waste separation. In this way, you can minimize negative environmental impacts step by step and it is possible to continuously correct and improve your measures.

With the help of the process organization, you determine how you want to carry out your environmentally relevant tasks. You define targeted specifications for the sequence of basic processes in order to achieve the company's goals and implement the company's environmental policy. Specifications are not necessary for all activities. However, you should definitely plan those processes that influence environmental protection and specify requirements so that you can actually reduce negative environmental impacts.

 

Environmental management system: The advantages at a glance

It is true that you will not introduce a professional environmental management system overnight. But there are many reasons to rely on a certified environmental management system:

  • Lower costs: Environmental management systems mean pro-active, forward-looking action and not just a mere reaction to legal requirements, but it also means you act with foresight and can thus save costs on resources. For example, an environmental management system helps you to use raw materials and energy more sparingly. Fewer raw materials are lost unused and the costs for waste disposal in your company are reduced.
  • Improved legal certainty: By systematically implementing the relevant legal regulations and establishing a systematic environmental management system with clear authorities and responsibilities, you are always on the safe side from a legal point of view. Optimized emergency preparedness also reduces the likelihood of compensation payments when it comes to environmental liability.
  • Better relationship with customers and partners: The expectation of customers and partners for sustainable work in your company is constantly increasing. Numerous customers, companies and entire industries (automotive industry) now require their suppliers to provide proof of environmental management.
  • Better relationship with authorities and the public: Through more readily available, up-to-date data as well as verifiable, credible environmental activities, you improved your image.
  • Contribution to sustainability: Lower resource consumption and minimized environmental impact increase the long-term future prospects of your company and the quality of life of future generations.
  • Better terms for loans and insurance: An environmental management system (EMS) is a form of risk management. Banks take your efforts into account when considering your creditworthiness. You will also receive discounted offers from insurance companies.
  • More innovative products: If you take environmental requirements into account during the development process, you may open up entirely new markets as far as the development of your products is concerned.
  • Employee motivation: Many employees are proud to work for companies that protect the environment. In some cases, they also benefit directly from improved working conditions, for example through reduced use of hazardous substances.

ISO 14001 - Sustainable environmental management

Certified environmental management system in accordance with recognized standard ★ Improve environmental performance and minimize risks * Responsible and sustainable management ★

DQS - Your reliable partner for environmental management systems

Today, economic success and the protection of our environment are equally important corporate goals and are now closely intertwined. A step-by-step approach is recommended to ensure that you can achieve this link smoothly. A systematic, professional environmental management system (EMS) in accordance with the internationally recognized ISO 14001 standard provides you with a guideline for sustainably pursuing your goals and continuously improving your company's environmental performance.

Certification by DQS documents your environmental efforts with an internationally recognized, accredited certificate.

How does DQS support you with ISO 14001 certification?

Already in the year of the first publication of ISO 14001, DQS received their accreditation for performing certification audits and issuing certificates. This means that DQS has more than twenty years of experience in ISO 14001 certification. Our core competencies lie in the performance of certification audits and assessments. This makes us one of the leading providers worldwide with the claim to set new benchmarks in reliability, quality, and customer orientation at all times.

Together with you we will set a date for the audit. The duration depends on the size and complexity of your company and your product groups. After a successful certification you will receive the EMS certificate with a validity of three years. To maintain certification, annual surveillance audits are required. These serve the overall objective of demonstrating effectiveness and conformity to the international standard ISO 14001.

The DQS certification audit is an effective tool for the further development of your management system. You will gain a deeper knowledge and understanding of your company or organization and will be able to develop and improve it in a targeted manner.

When it comes to ISO 14001 certification, you can rely on DQS's many years of experience and proven methods. Our experts are always available to answer your questions.

Who is DQS?

DQS is your competent partner when it comes to certification according to ISO 14001. With competent audit planning, professional auditors and meaningful audit reports, we guide you through the certification process.

We consider ourselves pioneers and innovators with the aim of maintaining, creating, and improving internationally comparable benchmarks. Products, processes or services thus become more secure and of higher quality worldwide. Our certifications simplify the global exchange between companies, regulatory agencies or organizations, and at the same time strengthen the trust of customers and consumers in products, services, and organizations. We therefore understand our work to be an important contribution to society.

In all DQS audits, an independent industry expert, i.e. your DQS auditor, takes an in-depth look at your management system and assesses to what extent these processes already meet environmental requirements, where your preferences lie and where potential can be leveraged. The focus is specifically on the "why", because we want to understand why you have chosen a certain path in implementing your environmental management system.

Together, we determine what expectations you have of the environmental management system. With this understanding, their industry knowledge and standards expertise, our auditors provide companies and organizations of all types and sizes with exactly the insights that are important for making the right decisions and implementing improvements.

All DQS auditors are trained specialists and managers with many years of professional experience and a high level of industry expertise. They represent all areas of industry and commerce, public administration and healthcare. They know your daily challenges and your business from their own experience, can assess your company processes, recognize strengths and point out weaknesses.

The auditors usually have in-depth knowledge of several standards. In this way, integrated management systems can be audited and improved across topics in a combined procedure.

We enter into an intensive, cooperative, but also demanding dialog with you. Our auditors hold discussions at eye level, take a close look at your systems and convince you with a holistic view of people, processes and results. They provide indications of potential for improvement and orientation for important decisions. Through valid feedback, they embody the external view that is so valuable for your organization.

DQS audits provide you with clarity. The holistic, neutral view from the outside on people, processes, systems and results shows how effective your management system is, how it is implemented and mastered. Our claim begins where audit checklists end.

Author
Altan Dayankac

DQS product manager and expert on numerous sustainability, climate, environmental and occupational safety topics. Altan Dayankac also contributes his expertise as an author and presenter on environmental and occupational health and safety committees and at numerous professional events.

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<p>DQS-Normexperte f&uuml;r Umweltmanagement und Arbeitssicherheit</p>