Government officials have expressed disappointment that industry has not taken to environmental management systems in the same way it has adopted other voluntary standards encouraging good practice such as the Charter Mark and Investors in People.
In an effort to drum up support for the idea Defra has now taken the unusual step of publishing a position statement outlining the myriad benefits of an effective EMS.
It outlines how the Government thinks an EMS can not only help an organisation understand its impact on the environment but also stimulate sustainable practices and ensure they comply with legislation.
The statement recommends adopting a recognised national or international scheme such as ISO14001 and ensuring it is independently audited.
A good EMS, it says, can save a company money, leading to reduced fees and charges as well as potentially making further savings by cutting waste and improving energy efficiency.
While the UK performs well on global league tables - it comes fourth on the list of countries with the highest number of ISO14001 certificates - this showing is simply in line with its ranking as an economy and does little to aid Government aspirations of appearing an environmental leader.
'It is a major challenge for organisations of all sizes and in every sector to adopt a robust EMS certified to international and national standards, such as ISO 14001 and BS 8555,' said Environment Minister Elliot Morley.
'Adoption of other certified systems and standards, such as the Charter Mark, Investors in People and Quality Management, has grown much faster than take up of EMSs.
'I would like to see organisations make similar commitments to put in place an externally certified EMS.
'Robust EMSs provide organisations with a powerful and practical tool that can help them reduce their environmental impacts systematically, be more efficient in the way that they use natural resources, and manage their supply chain more effectively.
'There are bottom line business opportunities too including cost savings, and access to new markets.
'For example, in future, companies that operate an effective environmental management system may have more procurement opportunities, as the public sector and others move to source materials and services from companies that take their impacts on the environment seriously.'
By Sam Bond