The World Bank

Environmental Management Systems and ISO 14000

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Courtesy of Courtesy of The World Bank

' Environmental management systems (EMS), such as ISO14000, are seen as mechanisms for achieving improvements in environmental performance and for supporting the trade prospects of 'clean' firms. The potential advantages of EMS are clear but the adoption of ISO14000 is very recent and practical issues are emerging, such as the need for an emphasis on performance improvement, simplification of certification, the potential for regulatory streamlining and understanding the trade consequences. This note outlines the key elements of an EMS and discusses these issues.'

Good Performance Relies on Good Operation and Management: The Benefits of an EMS

An environmental management system (EMS) is a structured program of continuous environmental improvement, following procedures drawn from established business management practices (see Box). The concept is straightforward and the principles can be easily applied provided that there is interest and support. There has been increasing interest in the potential value of EMS approaches, among which the recently released ISO14000 series is the most widely known.

The first steps in the control of industrial pollution have been the creation of the necessary regulatory frameworks and the specification and design of control equipment to reduce emissions. These efforts have been broadly successful in improving the performance of many polluters but in other cases, investments in pollution equipment are often wasted because the equipment is not operated properly. Attention, in the World Bank and elsewhere, is turning to supporting regulatory and end-of-pipe approaches with incentives, production efficiencies and management improvements -- a range of measures often grouped under the broad banner of cleaner production and ecoefficiency.

The potential benefits of ecoefficiency are unequivocal: good operational practices, supported by committed management, can achieve considerable improvements in environmental performance at low cost and can get the maximum benefits from investments in hardware. On the other hand, without management and worker support, the best equipment can be useless. The challenge is therefore to achieve long lasting improvements in performance: EMS is seen as one of the key tools in achieving this.

An important related issue, in a context of increasingly free trade, is the concern that environmental performance may become an important commercial factor, either as a positive attribute or as a potential trade barrier. The implementation of an EMS, and particularly the ISO14000 system, is seen as a way to demonstrate an acceptable level of environmental commitment.

A good EMS allows an enterprise to understand and track its environmental performance. It provides a framework for implementing improvements that may be desirable for financial or other corporate reasons, or that may be required to meet regulatory requirements. Ideally, it is build on an existing quality management system.

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