Establishing the Value of ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY

By Tibert, Larry | Industrial Management, March/April 2008 | Go to article overview

Establishing the Value of ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY


Tibert, Larry, Industrial Management


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

There is little doubt that being green is here to stay. Every day the news is filled with dire forecasts of resource depletion and global warming. Whether organizations consider implementing strategies to address these concerns may go a long way in determining the long-term viability and profitability of the business. Ensuring the sustainability of the environment can be mandated as evidenced by the most recent presidential executive order requiring government to establish an environmental management system (EMS).

Organizations that proactively embrace and develop strategies can position themselves for future growth and receive the benefit of bottom line impact. Consider the following:

* The Big Three automakers have requested that all Tier 1 suppliers implement an environmental management system as a condition of continued supply chain requirements.

* Dell requires suppliers to comply with both standards ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001.

* ISO 14001 certifications have been growing at the rate of more than 20 percent since 1998.

* Current ISO 14001 certifications total more than 50,000 worldwide.

* The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is encouraging the use of an environmental management system such as ISO 14001.

What is an EMS?

An EMS is a collection of documented environmental operating procedures that are linked together into a management system. In its most simple form, an EMS is the vehicle that pulls together all of the existing programs you may have for environmental compliance, training, record keeping, and inspections into one organized system. To these existing systems, which are typical for regulatory compliance purposes, an internal audit and corrective action system would usually be added as well as goals to reduce environmental impact and improve performance.

Many organizations model their EMS on the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) requirements for 14001:2004. This standard provides a framework for an organization of any size and allows for flexibility in demonstrating conformance. The general requirements are listed in Figure 1.

These requirements are based on the plan, do, check, act (PDCA) cycle developed by quality guru W Edwards Deming. The "plan" phase involves a commitment by senior management to develop an environmental policy, develop an environmental plan (referred to as a documented management system), commit resources, and set environmental objectives and targets. In addition, the organization must review those aspects of its business that could cause the greatest impact on the environment. The "do" phase requires organizations to develop their EMS to conform to the requirements of 14001 and their own internal requirements of putting the system in place.

The "check" phase entails monitoring and measuring the progress against objectives, targets, and regulatory compliance, and seeking out opportunities for improvements by using internal and external audits and preventive action. Finally, the "act" phase requires corrective action to address nonconformities or system breakdowns - a review by senior management of the status, continuing suitability of the EMS, and recommending improvements or changes to enhance the EMS.

Goals and objectives

The goals of the EMS should be tied to the organizations overall business strategy. Historically, environmental management has not been part of senior management when setting a business plan. Senior managements interest heightened only after regulatory or contamination issues arose. Establishing objectives that are quantifiable and measurable drat challenge the organization is vital. Examples like product substitution, reengineering a process, energy conservation, and recycling have all been used to enhance an organization's EMS while contributing to bottom line profitability Many companies have significantly reduced their expenditure on materials.

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