ICF International, Inc.

The Environmental Management Information System (EMIS) or The Intelligent Environmental Management System

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Courtesy of Courtesy of ICF International, Inc.

Substantial pressures are placed on organizations today to consider the preservation of the environment as one of their primary business strategies. Contributing factors include globalization of the marketplace, non-profit organizations, local legislation and global accords, a burgeoning green supply-chain, and a well-educated public, to name a few. Businesses, therefore, need to consider new approaches for implementation of environmental management systems if they wish to manage these pressures effectively.

In recent years there has been a proliferation of a new type of environmental management system (EMS), based on the international family of standards, ISO 14000. More than 18,000 sites around the globe were certified at the end of 2000 to ISO 14001, the only certifiable standard in the family. The amount of information this type of EMS must manage is quite vast. And unfortunately, managing such a system manually proves to be inefficient and creates the potential effect of substantially limiting the performance of the EMS. In fact, such a system may perhaps never meet the ever-growing information demands of environmental managers if managed manually.

In a world heavily focused on technology, environmental professionals must now turn their focus to computerized solutions that enable them to attain their information intensive management objectives. The EMIS (Environmental Management Informational or Intelligent System) therefore becomes a vital tool in a forward thinking environmental manager’s toolkit.

An environmental management information systems (EMIS) is an important component of environmental management that can assist both environmental and non-environmental managers fulfill their daily tasks. EMISs have been broadly defined as computer-based technologies that support environmental management systems. Tasks that EMISs support include tracking activities, tracking waste, monitoring emissions, scheduling tasks, coordinating permits and documentation, managing MSDSs, conducting cost/benefit analysis, and choosing alternative materials, to name a few. Many computerbased tools available on the market today are designed to support these types of tasks are labeled EMISs. However, they are typically unconnected and uncoordinated, stand-alone tools that are implemented in an ad hoc manner. This has created fragmented, confusing and conflicting perceptions of EMISs resulting in any software package that meets a singular or multiple needs of an environmental manager being called an EMIS. Ideally, an EMIS should be viewed more holistically. An EMIS should enhance the purpose of an EMS considerably and provide a transboundary medium that crosses boundaries of logistics, data, motivation, language, culture and intellect.

This document is intended for organizations that wish to effectively manage and improve their environmental performance intelligently by understanding the role of information technology during EMS implementation and maintenance. It demonstrates the importance of an EMIS by using a scenario of a company to illustrate EMIS as an effective technological approach that assures an environmental system’s optimal performance. It also demonstrates the benefits of moving from an ineffective, fragmented system to a proactive, holistic management framework.

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