Environmental Management Systems

Environmental Management Systems (EMSs) came on the environmental scene in the mid-nineties. These “systems” (actually sub-systems designed to be incorporated into an organization’s overall management system) were created to add structure, predictability and reliability to organizations’ efforts to maintain compliance, to minimize risks, and to develop a corporate culture of continuous awareness and environmental stewardship. The most prominent of the EMS standards was and continues to be the International Organization for Standardization’s ISO-14001, Environmental Management Systems – Requirements with Guidance for Use (14001). Some 250,000 users worldwide have implemented the 14001 system elements and achieved third-party certifications for their systems’ conformity to those elements. Many more others have implemented without obtaining third-party certification.

The driving motivation for EMSs came from the private sector in the early nineties with the goal to create a framework to minimize organizational risks and to improve performance in line with organizations’ own environmental policy and with their own objectives to optimize operations and maximize efficiencies. The creation of EMS consensus standards brought together materially interested parties from many nations including government regulators and environmentalists and despite understandable differences in emphasis, a workable and broadly accepted standard was published in 1996 with a similarly successful revision published in 2004. (The next revised version is scheduled to be published in 2015.)

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gave the 14001 its imprimatur when the standard was featured as the base requirement in EPA’s Performance Track initiative launched on June 26, 2000. With that launch, EMS had “arrived” in the U.S. and with it, the understanding that EPA had recognized its value for energizing national environmental advancement through an alternate, non-regulatory strategy.

In promoting non-regulatory strategies for managing the environmental footprint of organizations, EEMI will place a significant focus on consensus standards and specifically on the ISO 14000 series which has played a major role in international adoption of environmental management systems since the mid-nineties

Focal area lead: Professor Jonathan P. Deason, PhD – Lead Professor, Environmental and Energy Management Program, Department of Engineering Management and Systems Engineering, SEAS, GW