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EMS: Reasons for Change
Table of Contents
Background and Overview
Reasons for Change
P2 Opportunities
Where To Go for P2 Help
Complete List of Links

Why is an EMS important?

Several reasons exist that support the decision to carefully consider the value of an EMS. While one cannot assert that the following benefits will always result from an EMS implementation, sufficient experience has been documented to show that the potential for a well-implemented EMS to deliver the following does exist:

  • Improved environmental performance
  • Reduced waste and inefficiency
  • Satisfied customers
  • Improved relationship with environmental regulators
  • Improved management control and employee satisfaction
  • Support for other programs such as quality, health and safety

An EMS can improve profits as well as environmental performance.

The more systematic approach provided by an EMS can have both environmental and economic benefits. Assessments that identify root causes of waste can also highlight opportunities for efficient use of raw materials and pollution prevention, thereby leading to cost savings. For first-hand evidence how many leading international companies are implementing and benefiting from EMS, the Environmental Reporting Clearinghouse provides links to on-line corporate environmental reports that provide hard data about cost reductions and new business opportunities from EMS and other good environmental management strategies. Business interest groups such as the International Chamber of Commerce and the Global Environmental Management Initiative recognize the value of EMS to business financial and environmental performance.

An EMS may be required or suggested by customers.

Improved environmental management provided by and EMS is seen as a key source of competitive advantage for Small and Medium Enterprises (an SME is defined here as an manufacturer with fewer than 500 employees.). Many benefits can accrue from EMS-driven improvements, ranging from reduced waste management costs to improved community relations. An EMS can provide or enhance the framework needed for continuous improvement and proactive action. Organizations with higher expenses and exposure related to environmental management have a higher need for an EMS. Better environmental management and better management for these enterprises are the same thing: an organization that manages its impacts on the environment well is a well-managed organization. Ford, Inc. and a number of other major manufacturing companies are now requiring their supplier base to obtain certification of their ISO 14001 EMS. Use of an EMS is increasingly important for organizations concerned with green purchasing programs. A survey of UK companies suggests many leading firms are now using EMS criteria in evaluating potential suppliers.

An EMS may provide regulatory flexibility or may be suggested by regulators.

Business use of an EMS is becoming an important issue for environmental regulatory agencies, allowing them flexibility while providing the SME with a tool that helps to ensure compliance. The EMAS regulation in Europe actually requires an EMS for many facilities. In the USA, many government agencies are exploring ways to link EMS to regulation, perhaps in the form of providing reduced regulatory oversight to organizations with recognized EMS. At the state level, the Multi-State Working Group on Environmental Management Systems is a consortium that researches the appropriate role of an EMS in public policy and environmental regulation. The US EPA specifically includes EMS in the requirements of the voluntary National Environmental Performance Track program for regulated facilities. The US EPA may also require an EMS as part of an enforcement agreement [pdf]. At this time the potential exists for the EMS to provide the tool necessary to support a change in government-SME relationships to one of mutual support and partnership. At the least, many forms of public assistance are available to SMEs for moving to EMS implementation.

An EMS can integrate into other management programs.

The EMS Matrix is an excellent presentation showing the fundamental similarities of leading management models and includes case studies. Quality programs are particularly compatible with EMS. Most of the 50 states have their own version of the Baldridge National Quality Program. Some of these “Baby Baldridge” programs have incorporated environmental factors, most notably the Green Zia Environmental Excellence Program [pdf] in New Mexico. Many experts have long felt that an EMS simply applies Total Quality Management principles and tools to environmental problems; some feel that a TQM effort should precede an EMS effort. This Guide to Total Quality Management provides a browsable list of annotated links to many key resources on the topic.


The Topic Hub™ is a product of the Pollution Prevention Resource Exchange (P2Rx)

The EMS Topic Hub™ was developed by:

Southwest Network for Zero Waste
Southwest Network for Zero Waste
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Hub Last Updated: 3/14/2012