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EMS in Government: Background and Overview
Table of Contents
Background and Overview
EMS P2 Design Tools
Case Studies
Reasons for Change
Where To Go for P2 Help
P2 Opportunities
Complete List of Links

What is the definition of an environmental management system (EMS)?

  • Serves as a tool to improve environmental performance;
  • Provides a systematic way of managing an organization's environmental affairs;
  • Serves as the aspect of the organization's overall management structure that addresses immediate and long-term impacts of its products, services and processes on the environment;
  • Gives order and consistency for organizations to address environmental concerns through the allocation of resources, assignment of responsibility, and ongoing evaluation of practices, procedures and processes; and
  • Focuses on continual improvement of the system.

What is the EMS Model?

An EMS follows a Plan-Do-Check-Act Cycle, or PDCA. The diagram below shows the process of first developing an environmental policy, planning the EMS, and then implementing it. The process also includes checking the system and acting on it. The model is continuous because an EMS is a process of continual improvement in which an organization constantly reviews and revises the system.

This model can be used by a wide range of organizations, from manufacturing facilities to service industries to government agencies.


EMS Model image







The following are excellent resources for background and overview information for public entities considering an EMS:

Executive Order 13148 of April 21, 2000-Greening the Government Through Leadership in Environmental Management
Federal agencies are required by Executive Order 13148 to implement an EMS at appropriate agencies. On Jan. 27, 2004, a memo was sent to federal agencies regarding the EMS Self-Declaration Protocol. The Interagency Environmental Management Workgroup developed the protocol as guidance to implementing the Executive Order. The protocol establishes a framework that agencies must use to self-declare compliance with the EMS requirements of the order. Agencies must implement the protocol by Dec. 31, 2004.

The PEER Center
The PEER Center is the Public Entity Environmental Management System Resource Center. A virtual clearinghouse, it is specifically designed to aid local, county and state governments that are considering implementing or have implemented an EMS and want to access the knowledge and field experience of other public entities that have done so. 

An Environmental Management System Troubleshooters' Guide to Local Governments

This handbook is designed to aid local government officials in developing an EMS from within the framework of a government organization. This document is not meant to stand alone, but be an aid in conjunction with other available guidance documents.

Implementing Environmental Management Systems (EMS) in Public Entities
The Global Environment and Technology Foundation (GETF) Web site on "EMS for Local Government Entities" initiatives was made possible through a cooperative agreement between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Offices of Water, Air and Radiation, Compliance, Solid Waste, and regional offices and GETF. Both completed initiatives tested the applicability and benefit of an EMS on environmental performance, pollution prevention, and stakeholder involvement in government operations. 

U.S. EPA Environmental Management System & ISO 14001 Information
The Office of Water has funded a number of projects, including EMS pilot projects with 10 states, and an EMS pilot project with municipalities nationwide; it is beginning new projects that focus on EMSs with the biosolids industry and a study of the EMS registration process in the United States.

EPA's EMS Publications Web Page

Getting Started

ISO 14001 Environmental Management System Self-Assessment Checklist
This checklist is based on the ISO 14001 standard and allows for a rapid self-assessment of an organization or facility to determine how closely existing management practices and procedures correspond to the elements of the standard. In addition to a brief guide to self-scoring, a fuller description of what is required by the standard's criteria is included in the appendix. Published by GEMI (Global Environmental Management Initiative), revised November 2000, 63 pages. 

Environmental Process Self-Survey
This survey incorporates the tenets of ISO 9000 and ISO 14000. Published by the Tennessee Valley Authority, 4 pages. 

Mini-Gap Analysis
This mini-gap analysis presents 16 statements based on the ISO 14001 Standard. By indicating your company's degree of compliance with each statement, an overall score, comment about status, and next steps are provided. The tool is an online series of questions that result in a printable final tally. Published by Transformation Strategies, 1999. 

EMS Sector-Specific Information - Public Agencies
This N.C. DPPEA site includes design tools, news, articles, reports and case studies, workshops, and links to EMS information for government entities. 

EMS-Plus: Environmental Management Systems Evaluation Tool
Developed by Research Triangle Institute in Research Triangle Park, N.C., EMS-Plus helps you evaluate your EMS based on whether it incorporates components known to promote environmental improvement. EMS-Plus leads you through a series of questions about your EMS, and then provides an assessment on whether the EMS is oriented towards regulatory compliance and control technologies, or whether it is more comprehensive and pollution prevention oriented. 

Campus Consortium for Environmental Excellence
This checklist was originally designed for use by a university or college environmental health and safety professional when reviewing an EMS to provide a rapid way to compare current practices and procedures to the elements of the EMS. Although designed for a university setting, the checklist is universally useful to anyone performing a self-assessment on an EMS.

Frequently Asked Questions

BSI Management System's ISO 14000 Frequently Asked Questions 

Local Government and Environmental Management Systems (EMS) Frequently Asked Questions

The Global Environment and Technology Foundation (GETF) Web site on "EMS for Local Government Entities" initiatives was made possible through a cooperative agreement between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Offices of Water, Air and Radiation, Compliance and Solid Waste, and regional offices.

Department of Energy's EMS Frequently Asked Questions


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Hub Last Updated: 7/9/2009