Environmental management systems: A step by step approach

Environmental management systems are an internal system of procedures and reviews that seek to identify and minimise the impacts of port operations. In some cases environmental management systems have been developed through an informal process simply to provide a more strategic approach to ports’ existing management procedures, in other cases they have been developed to meet the International Standards for environmental management systems ISO14001 or the European Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS). At present EMAS registration is restricted to companies in the mining, manufacturing, utility or waste sectors, although it is due for revision for implementation in the year 2000. The specifications of EMAS are changing to a more user-friendly format based on ISO 14001 management systems. If a regulatory regime comes into force then EMAS will be central to it, and any voluntary system must achieve or approach EMAS certification to be regarded as acceptable (Meacher 1998).

For a company to be a registered EMAS site a number of steps need to be implemented to create an audit cycle (IEA 1998):

  • Environmental Policy

The company must have an overall corporate environmental policy, this must be adopted and reviewed at the highest level. It must contain two central elements; a commitment to compliance with all relevant environmental regulations; and to continuous improvement of environmental performance. The policy should be written down, and be readily available to both staff and public.

  • Environmental Review

The next step is to identify all the existing environmental impacts, and determine how these measure up to your stated policy and to environmental regulations, to see which areas need improvement. Following this, there needs to be specific targets included in the environmental policy and prioritised.

  • Environmental Programme

The environmental programme exists to put the policy into practice. Once the priorities have been set, the programme has to be implemented, with a description at every stage.

  • Environmental Management System

The programme must be properly defined, and document the responsibilities of everyone on the project and the interrelations between key personnel. It must be fully integrated into the company’s existing management structure, and a senior manager must maintain and implement the management system.

  • The Environmental Audit

The programme’s progress must be audited at regular intervals, some activities will need to be audited more often than others, in the case of treatment of effluents. The audits must be objective, systematic and fully documented, and executed according to the relevant parts of the ISO 14011 international standard.

  • Environmental Statement

EMAS requires the company to issue a public statement linked to the audit, outlining in clear and concise language exactly how they have met their stated objectives. The statement must include significant changes since the last statement, a deadline for the next validated statement and identification of accredited verifier

  • Validation

Before publication, an accredited verifier who is independent of the site’s auditor must validate the environmental statement.

The cyclic process shown in the figure overleaf will be repeated at suitable intervals, the intention at all times is to maintain a continuous improvement of environmental performance (IEA 1998)

The European Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) (Taken from: EMAS – An introductory guide for industry. Department of the Environment, 1995).

PIANC has set up a Working Group to develop a generic framework, which can be used as a guide to implementing environmental management in ports and related industries. The PIANC proposed EMF (Environmental Management Framework) has four main components; policy, plan, act and continual improvement and is shown in the figure overleaf (PIANC in prep).

Environmental management systems can be modified to incorporate other action plans important when dealing with the marine environment, such as biodiversity action plans. The main elements of the environmental management system are shown in the figure below, namely environmental policy, planning, implementation and operation, checking and corrective action, and management review. There are five main steps to follow during the planning, and implementation and operation phases, which apply to all environment and business considerations, not just biodiversity planning. The first three steps improve understanding of the important issues and the last two steps help formulate a decision for action. It is important that there is a clear chain of accountability and responsibility for environmental matters throughout any business (Earthwatch, 1998).

Taken from: Business and Biodiversity, Earthwatch 1998.

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