Giving a Green Light to the Environmental Management System

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), November 25, 2009 | Go to article overview
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Giving a Green Light to the Environmental Management System


It has become a cliche that environmental problems are substantial and that economic growth contributes to them.

A common response is stricter environmental regulation, which often inhibits growth. The result can be a trade-off between a healthy environment on the one hand and healthy growth on the other.

As a consequence, opportunities for business may be constrained. However, there are some forms of development that are environmentally and socially sustainable.

They lead not to a trade-off, but to an improved environment, together with development that does not draw down our environmental capital. This is what sustainable development is all about - a revolutionary change in the way we approach these issues.

Businesses and societies can find ways that will move towards all three goals - environmental protection, social wellbeing and economic development - at the same time.

Sustainable development is good business in itself. It creates opportunities for suppliers of 'green consumers', developers of environmentally safer materials and processes, firms that invest in eco-efficiency, and those that engage themselves in social well-being.

These enterprises will have a competitive edge. They will earn their local community's goodwill and see their efforts reflected in the bottom line.

At the Cardiff School of Management, we have been studying the issues raised by sustainability and the environment for many years. In particular, we have been concerned about the need for all organisations to adapt quickly and efficiently to the new realities posed by changes to our environment, and this supplement is part of a series of work that demonstrates UWIC's commitment to this goal.

The focus of this supplement is on a major way in which businesses - both large and small - can take the steps needed to adapt to these changes. It showcases firms that have started on the road towards an environmental management system or EMS.

Such a system can assist an organisation to meet the increasingly heavy burden of responsibility and in many cases the introduction of an environmental management system can also lead to cost savings and a reduction in environmental liability.

An EMS is similar to other management systems, such as those that manage quality or safety.

It assesses your strengths and weaknesses, helps you identify and manage significant impacts, can secure cost savings and internal efficiencies, provides benchmarks for improvements and intended benefits and helps you keep track of your progress. The idea is that it can be easily and practically integrated with other day-to-day processes such as health and safety management and quality assurance.

However, there are specific benefits to an EMS, including better resource management, improved credibility and reliability of environmental data and reduction of environmental and legal risks.

You can also prove to customers that you are committed to meeting your environmental responsibilities by getting your EMS certified, such as through ISO 14001, BS 8555, Green Dragon or the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS). Waste of resources and the creation of pollution are normally indications of areas for significant improvement. All of the EMS standards stress the need for continuous and never-ending improvement in striving to protect the environment, not only for ourselves but for future generations to come.

There are a variety of approaches you can use to plan and set up your EMS. The starting point is pretty universal and of course involves people.

In other words, to give an EMS the best chance of being efficient and successful, you need to ensure the management of your business is committed to improving and managing environmental issues.

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