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Out of the dark

An Environmental Management System is a seldom understood setup that could help commercial property owners immeasurably. Tim Gardner sheds some light on them


Environmental management is a phrase used to describe good operational controls, pollution prevention and legislative compliance to environmental regulations. Landlords and property agents are now very aware of the demand for a green public image, which in part can be achieved by implementing an Environmental Management System (or EMS).

An EMS is a system put into place that is responsible for managing an organisation’s environmental impact, any relevant legislation that must be adhered to, and environmental risk and liability. It provides a logical and systematic approach to identifying areas for improvement, setting targets, applying a strategy to meet those targets and then reviewing progress. Throughout the whole process, a good EMS will include a high level of staff involvement by raising awareness of the environmental risk issues that are identified, and training staff  on how to deal with them.

So why adopt an EMS? First and perhaps most importantly, it can save money, via the introduction of operational and process controls such as energy monitoring, waste minimisation and optimising variables such as temperature in buildings. Secondly, it improves your image – consumers are being more and more conscientious when it comes to environmental issues, corporations are increasingly asking for green credentials from suppliers via competitive tenders and at PQQ stages.

The standards
The first step along the road to a good EMS is an environmental policy. This is a short document that states your stance towards your operational environment and establishes your commitments to managing your environmental impact such as managing waste or reducing your carbon footprint. The Environmental Policy represents the cornerstone of your future efforts to implement an EMS. The best environmental policies are specific, contain measurable targets, are attainable and realistic, and state the time frame that the objectives are to be achieved by. The policy usually commits the organisation to comply with the law, prevent pollution and to demonstrate continuous improvement of its environmental performance.

The next step could then involve the application of a standard. This is a highly structured way to involve direction and focus, since standards are best practice guidelines that have been laid out by organisations such as BSi and ISO, and can provide the framework for your EMS. The most relevant standards include:
- BS EN 8555:2003 – This is a guide to the phased implementation of an Environmental Management System. It is a six-phase scheme that guides an organisation through the process of EMS formulation, implementation and review. This standard can be used as a route to ISO 14001, since it is essentially a phased version of it. The Institute for Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA) offer an Acorn scheme that allows an organisation that is working on 8555 to receive UKAS (UK Accreditation Service) accredited recognition for their efforts. This entails regular audits at the different phases of BS 8555:2003.
- BS 8900 Series – This series concerns sustainability, and the various standards within the series give greater specificity into individual sectors and issues (for example, BS 8901:2009 is related to sustainable event management, BS 8902:2009 relates to major construction projects)
- BS EN 16001:2009 – Concerns energy management systems, this includes steps such as developing an energy policy, monitoring and measurement of energy use and internal auditing. While the scope of this standard is relatively narrow, it may be worth considering involving it in an EMS. A similar international standard (draft ISO 50001) is currently in development and due for publication this year, tailored to allow compatibility with BS EN 16001:2009.
- ISO 14000 Series – This is the internationally recognised standard series for environmental issues. The most prominent and relevant standard of this series is ISO 14001:2004 (on environmental management systems), under which an organisation can be audited and receive internationally recognised accreditation. This standard requires a large amount of commitment and a comprehensive investment in terms of time and money.
- ISO 26000 – This is social responsibility guidance that establishes a far wider framework based around corporate social responsibility in a holistic sense, it is broken down into seven categories. Namely human rights, labour practices, the environment, fair operating practices, consumer issues, and community involvement and development. This standard is worth considering by organisations that wish to take a more comprehensive approach to their CSR management strategies.
- Other Standards – An organisation may want to consider other options such as the Carbon Action Standard, which are focused on specific issues such as carbon management, and are less exhaustive than the BS and ISO series. These standards offer a greater level of flexibility, and often require a proportionally smaller investment of time and money.
- Standards in Development – BSI are currently developing a sustainable facilities management standard. This is currently in early development stages and will be designed to supplement BS 8536:2010 (Facility Management Briefing: Code of Practice), which includes an informative annex on environmental assessment.

The good news is that these standards can be ‘mix-and-matched’ according to the goals that an organisation has in mind. In this way, an EMS can be tailored to whatever scope and scale is desired. If a small- scale landlord or property agent wishes to develop a relatively low scope environmental management system but wishes to receive recognition for this, they may decide to enforce the Carbon Action Standard, or BSi’s Kitemark scheme. A large-scale property developer could take a different approach, perhaps opting for ISO 14001 certification to give a competitive advantage and improve public image at the same time.

Managing the future
The more substantial and extensive your EMS is, the better your image will be, and the more attractive your organisation will seem to potential shareholders, customers, clients and business associates that weigh environmental management/risk prevention as a selection criteria.

When deciding to execute an EMS, an organisation would be at a disadvantage if it chose not to involve a standard to at least some degree since the standards provide a framework to work to, and also carry a good degree of credibility. The highest end of the scale is independent accreditation to standards such as ISO 14001:2004.

Increasingly, businesses are working towards a holistic CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) scheme that addresses all ethical, social, environmental and economic issues, risks and liabilities that an organisation may be faced with – from energy use to sustainable procurement. This allows an organisation to maintain a good public image through the management of all the ethical aspects of the environment that it operates in.

The starting point of this journey is often the implementation of an environmental management system, which grows more sophisticated over time to include broader CSR issues.

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