Environmental Studies Essays - Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development

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Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development

A small manufacturing company is keen to promote its activitiesas being sustainable. As part of this process, the management has decided toimplement an EMS with a view to obtaining ISO 14001 certification. Withspecific reference to issues that are likely to be relevant to a smallmanufacturing company, discuss the role of the environmental management toolswe considered in workbook 2 and explain how these environmental managementtools are interrelated in terms of both data inputs/outputs and methodologies.Also, describe to what extent the EMS and the use of management tools could beseen as contributing to sustainable developments.

Interest in environmental protection and sustainable development has beenincreasing year by year. To meet the challenges, an Environmental ManagementSystem (EMS) is implemented. An EMS is a continuous cycle of planning,implementing, reviewing and improving the processes and actions that anorganisation undertakes to meet its environmental obligations. The world's firststandard for environmental management systems (EMS) BS 7750 was developed andpublished by the British Standards Institution (BSI) in 1992.

This later formed the basis for the ISO 14000, which was developed by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO). In 1996, ISO 14001 which establishes the requirements for an EMS was finalised. Implementation of an EMS can improve environmental performance, reduced liability, competitive advantage, reduced costs, fewer accidents, employee involvement, compliance performance, enhance management confidence, increase efficiency, improve public image, enhance customer trust, meet customer requirements and growth management.

Thekey to effective environmental management is the use of a systematic approachto planning, controlling, measuring and improving an organisation'senvironmental performance. Common aspects of an EMS are environmental policy,adequate resources, responsibilities and authorities, training, systemdocumentation, operational controls, document control, system audits andmanagement review. Most EMS models are based on the concept of Plan, Do,Check, Act model introduced by Shewart and Deming which emphasises the conceptof continual improvement.

Someof the important EMS elements in common EMS models are discussed in detail.Most of the EMS components are inter-related (given in fig 1). The firstelement is the environmental policy, which is the top management'sdeclaration of its commitment to the environment. The environmental policy servesas a foundation and vision of environmental concern by the entire organisation.The policy should relate to the company's products and services, be simple,understandable, and explicit enough to be audited. The policy is relevant tocontinual improvement, pollution prevention and compliance with relevant lawsand regulations.

Thesecond element is the identification of environmental aspects which arethe organisation's activities, products, or services that can interact with theenvironment. These environmental aspects , which are called as significantenvironmental aspects, determine the environment objectives to beestablished and operational controls and actions defined later. Theenvironmental aspects are essential to establish positive impacts on thebottom line and providing environmental improvements.

Legal and other requirements of the EMS may include federalrequirements, state and local requirements, standards in locations in which thecompany's products/services are sold and permit conditions. These requirementsshould be factored into the organisation's management efforts to avoidpotential costs as non-compliance can cause possible damage to the environment,revenue loss and impact on public image.

Objectives and targets establish environmental goals for theorganisation in line with company policy, environmental policy, environmentalimpacts, the views of interested parties and other factors. This is essentialto help an organisation translate purpose into action. Various EMS implementationprojects for small and medium-sized companies indicate that it is best to startwith a limited number of objectives and expand the list over time. Measurementof progress of achieving targets should be determined.

An Environmental Management Program is developed byplanning to achieve objectives. Targets should be set by definingresponsibilities for achieving goals and means and time frame for achievingthem. Therefore, an Environmental Management Program acts as a road map/actionplan for achieving environmental goals. Re-evaluation of the action plan andfocus in continual improvement should be made.

Structureand responsibility defines effective roles and responsibilities and ensuresthat the top management provide resources including human resources,specialised skills, technology, and financial resources. Small and medium-sizedorganisations may have advantages over large ones in structuring theirresources for environmental management as resource being limited; people haveexperience in performing multiple functions. Structure and responsibility isneeded for an EMS to live up to its full potential.

Training,awareness and competency are important for awareness, motivation,commitment, skills/capability, compliance and performance as every employee canhave potential impacts on the environment by generating good ideas forimprovement. Training should be conducted and tracked and its effectivenessevaluated.

Establishment of internal and external communications onenvironmental management issues for neighbours, community groups, otherinterest groups, local officials, regulatory agencies and emergency respondersshould be effected to maintain the flow of useful and required information.Effective communication can help to motivate workforce, gain acceptance for thecompany's plans and efforts, explain the company's environmental policy, ensureunderstanding of roles and expectations, demonstrate management commitment,monitor and evaluate performance and identify potential system improvements.

EMSdocumentation by maintaining information on EMS and related documentsshould be done to provide adequate information to the people involved in thesetting up of the EMS and also to external parties like customers, regulators,lending institutions, registrars and the public for better understanding.

Documentcontrol is a mechanism providing up-to-date procedures, instructions andother documents to ensure effective management of procedures and other systemdocuments . It ensures that people are consistently performing in the rightway. It is linked with EMS documentation, operational control and records.

Operationalcontrol is effected by identifying, planning and managing operations andactivities in line with company policy, objectives and targets which includedocumented procedures to manage environmental policy, significant environmentalaspects, objectives and targets and legal and other requirements. It ensuresthat the commitments of the environmental policy is satisfied and preventdeviations from the policy. Operational control is also needed to managesignificant aspects or legal requirements.

Emergency preparedness and response is to be maintained to reduceinjuries, prevent or minimize environmental impacts, protect employees andneighbours, reduce asset losses and minimize downtime. It serves as a tool todetermine whether more training and revision of emergency plans and proceduresis needed.

Monitoringand measurement of key activities and performance is essential to evaluateenvironmental performance, analyse root causes of problems, assess compliancewith legal requirements, identify areas requiring corrective action, improveperformance and increase efficiency. In general, is serves as an assessment ofhow well the system is performing and helps to manage the organisation better.Monitoring is done effectively when current and reliable data is available byproper EMS documentation and Document control.

Non-conformance and corrective and preventive action is essentialto identify and investigate problems, identify root causes, identify andimplement corrective and preventive actions and make sure actions are trackedand their effectiveness verified. Most EMS problems are identified by internalauditors by accessing information from operation control and monitoring andmeasurement.

Records are essential to demonstrate the actual implementation ofthe EMS designed. Records have value internally as well as over time when thereis a need to provide evidence to external parties such as customers, aregistrar or the public. Accurate records is also essential for a system tooperate consistently. Virtually every element of the EMS can result in thegeneration of records as it is inter-linked.

An EMS audit is a systematic and documented verification processof objectively obtaining and evaluating evidence to confirm whether anorganisation's environmental management system conforms to the environmentalmanagement system audit criteria set by the organisation. In a smallerorganisation, periodic audits can be particularly valuable as managers close tothe work may not often see the problems or insufficient procedures that have beendeveloped.

Management review is the key to continual improvement and forensuring that the EMS will continue to meet the organisation's needs over time.They also offer a great opportunity to keep the EMS efficient and costeffective. Smaller organisations often favour employee experience over writtenprocedures and documented systems. However, personnel turnover withoutdocumented systems can stall progress. On establishment of an EMS, it isessential to evaluate how useful it is to relate to the company's policytowards sustainable development.

For any company, economic growth has been considered as a major indicatorof a healthy society, but lately, the environmental cost has been recognised bythe society. So there is a need to develop sustainable development a meansof satisfying present needs without compromising the ability of the futuregenerations to meet theirs. The implementation of sustainable managementinitiatives has been mainly a reaction to environmental pressures, legalobligations, risk management, customer demands and competition. This has leadto a change in the stakeholders interpretation of sustainable developmentthrough constraints of politics, economics, science, culture and religion.

The intent of an EMS is to facilitate a voluntary implementation of aneffective management system for both sound environmental performance and alsoparticipation in environmental schemes. The design principle of an EMS is notto be a regulatory device as such, but as a regulatory device with the objectiveof sustainable development. To evaluate their role in sustainable development,in their current form, EMS only functions for continual improvement onenvironmental objectives and targets after considering regulations, effects ofthe products on the environment, organisational goals and views of concernedparties.

Implementing an EMS does not alter the basic obligation to comply with applicable requirements or the requirements themselves. Through compliance, they provide ways to make achievement of that end more sustainable and predictable. So EMS has emerged as a important tool in improving performance above legal minimums and widely accepted.


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