The field of environmental management has changed rapidly in the last 20 years. Not only do you have to keep up with ever-changing regulations, but you're also responsible for making sure your facility is producing optimally while staying under limits.
An environmental management system can help you standardize your regulatory compliance and strategically improve your environmental performance.
This page is an overview of environmental management systems. Read along, download it for later, or jump to a section.
Table of Contents:
- What is an environmental management system (EMS)?
- Do you need an environmental management system?
- Benefits of an EMS
- Environmental management system standards
- PCDA model
- Tips for implementing an EMS
- Environmental management software
- Common misconceptions about environmental management systems
- How do I evaluate which EMS software is best for me?
- How Perillon can make environmental management easier
(If you want to learn more about our environmental software solutions, visit our environmental management system software page.)
What is an environmental management system?
An environmental management system is a framework of processes, procedures, and resources that enable an organization to achieve its environmental performance objectives.
An environmental management system is known by many names — EMS, environmental management information system, or regulatory compliance system, to name a few.
It typically includes air, GHG, water, waste, and energy management. Increasingly, climate risk management is included in environmental management systems.
Read on to learn who should consider an environmental management system, and how it can help you.
Do you need an environmental management system?
There are many reasons an organization might implement an environmental management system. In some cases, an EMS might be required after a violation or non-conformance. Sometimes it's stipulated as part of a contract. Or, it can be part of a voluntary environmental program.
The questions below will help you determine if an environmental management system is right for you:
- Are you required to comply with federal, state, local, or contractual environmental regulations?
- Is improving environmental performance a goal of your organization?
- Are you short on time and resources to keep up with your environmental responsibilities?
- Do you experience problems like missed deadlines, expired permits, and untrained staff?
- Do you struggle with reporting on your environmental performance?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, an environmental management system can help.
Benefits of an environmental management system (EMS)
The importance of environmental management can't be overstated. Here are just a few of the benefits of having an EMS:
Improve environmental performance
An EMS can help identify the root cause of violations or non-conformance and identify ways to improve. Improving metrics like water usage or electricity consumption can help you ensure your operations are performing optimally.
The costs of not having an EMS are staggering. At best, companies without a formal EMS waste time and resources reacting to regulatory changes. At worst, you risk costly fines and permanent damage to your reputation.
Having a structured environmental management system in place allows you to involve staff across your organization in environmental monitoring and compliance. An EMS also makes it easier to train new hires, since you'll already have formal procedures in place.
Boost corporate image
Today's consumers expect corporations to be good stewards of the environment. An environmental management system is one way to demonstrate and report on your organization's environmental performance.
Environmental management system standards
As we mentioned before, environmental management systems can look dramatically different from one organization to the next.
There's no one-size-fits all solution when it comes to improving your environmental performance. However, there are several environmental management system standards that can guide you as you decide how to structure your EMS.
ISO 14001 is an international standard that outlines requirements for an environmental management system. It provides businesses with a framework to continually improve their environmental performance in order to cut costs, reduce waste, and show management and stakeholders that they are growing sustainably. It's one of the most popular environmental management standards, with over 346,000 companies certified worldwide and thousands more who use it.
>>> To learn more about the ISO 14001 standard, visit our page on ISO 14001 Environmental Management.
While ISO 9001 is not specifically an environmental management system standard, it can help organizations improve their environmental performance. The standard provides businesses with a framework to develop a quality management system to satisfy customer requirements, comply with regulations, and meet environmental objectives. The standard is used in 81 countries worldwide, with over 13,000 registered companies in North America.
In addition to the ISO family of international standards, many countries or private organizations have their own environmental management standards. A few of these are:
BS7750, which has been superseded by BS EN ISO 14001:2015,
total quality environmental management, which is part of the US' global environmental management initiative,
the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES) principles,
The PDCA model
An EMS follows a Plan > Do > Check > Act (PDCA) cycle. As you can see from the diagram below, PDCA is a model for continuous improvement. It can be used by small or large organizations in any industry, from utilities to automotive manufacturers to food processing companies.
- Plan: Develop a high level understanding of key environmental issues and stakeholder needs, then plan actions to address risks and opportunities.
- Do: Test the plan and track performance indicators.
- Check: Perform internal audits to assess the effectiveness of the system.
- Act: Address any issues found in your audits. Use what you learned to plan new improvements as the cycle starts again.
5 tips for implementing an EMS
Implementing an EMS will look different for every organization, but there are a few tips that can help ensure your success:
- Appoint 'green champions'. These are people within your organization who are passionate and informed about your environmental efforts and will drive your project forward.
- Clearly outline responsibilities to create a sense of ownership and get employees across your organization involved in improving environmental performance.
- Train specific groups of employees on their specific responsibilities within the EMS.
- Go for "quick wins" to build confidence and demonstrate that your EMS is working.
- Communicate frequently with both management and employees.
Environmental management software
Today, many organizations are moving away from traditional pencil-and-paper systems in favor of modern environmental management software.
Environmental management software can help you monitor, measure, and report on the performance of your environmental management system.
Environmental management software keeps track of your air, GHG, water, and waste data in one central location. It allows you to automate reminders, perform day-to-day tracking tasks, and create reports to show managers the “big picture”.
National Grid shows us why environmental management software is so valuable.
National Grid is an electricity and natural gas delivery company that connects nearly 7 million customers to vital energy sources. Before implementing Perillon environmental management software, National Grid managed its EMS using an internally built system. However, the aging system made it difficult to adjust to changing requirements, create reports, and get insights into deeper questions.
Since implementing the Perillon system, the company has progressed toward its goal of zero incidents. Says Michael Tucker, National Grid's manager of environmental programs, "National Grid's motto is 'trusted to do the right thing' and Perillon's properly implemented environmental management system allows me to know where I stand every day, with surety."
5 common environmental management system misconceptions
Myth 1: Spreadsheets are adequate for managing environmental data
Research shows that 88% of spreadsheets contain significant errors, putting you at risk for a non-compliance event. Emailing spreadsheets back and forth makes collaboration difficult. And creating a formatted regulatory report for each agency or permit can take days or weeks.
Myth 2: We have a compliance program in place, so we don't need an EMS
An EMS can make it easier for you to comply with regulations consistently and efficiently. It can also help you identify opportunities to go beyond the minimum standard and reduce costs, grow your business, and manage risks.
Myth 3: All environmental management systems are the same
Not all companies face the same regulations or permit requirements, which means the development and implementation process can look dramatically different from one organization to another.
Myth 4: All environmental management software companies are the same
Environmental management software companies can vary as widely as environmental management systems. One of the biggest reasons software implementations fail is because the software is too complex to implement and too expensive to maintain. It's important to look for a company that offers a flexible, standardized system.
Perillon's software is organized in modules, which can be rolled out individually and functioning in a matter of days. The system is highly configurable, and there are many options for getting data out of the system easily for both management reports and external regulatory reporting.
Myth 5: Only large organizations need an environmental management system
Organizations of all sizes can benefit from an environmental management system. In fact, small business often face greater environmental risks due to lack of time and resources, which makes them ideal candidates for a structured environmental management system.
How do I evaluate environmental management software?
Before you begin discussing solutions with different software providers, here are some questions to consider with your team:
- What problem are we trying to solve? (Reduce incidents, minimize risk, increase transparency, etc.)
- Which processes are the most time-consuming?
- Who will use this software, and what day-to-day tasks do they need to accomplish?
- What is our budget for this project?
>>> Download the whitepaper: 6 Easy Steps to Purchasing the Right EHS System
Custom vs. off-the-shelf
The question about investing in custom software is a common yet difficult one. While customization might seem like a great idea at first, it can also make it extremely difficult to scale. Unfortunately, many organizations outgrow their custom software before they see a return on their investment. In fact, research from Standish Group shows that 80% of custom software projects cost more than they return.
In terms of cost, features, and long term ROI, an off-the-shelf system like Perillon is almost always the best bet for growing businesses and global enterprises. For more information, download our guide "Homegrown vs. Off-the-Shelf EHS Software: Pros, Cons, and Finding the Right Fit".
Now you are ready to ask the software companies some questions:
- How long will it take to create formulated regulatory reports?
- How long will it take to change calculations when regulatory requirements change?
- Can this system integrate with our data collection tools, like Continuous Emissions Monitoring (CEMS)?
- Does this system integrate with regulatory content databases to provide real-time visibility of regulations?
- What kind of mobile capabilities does this software have?
- Can this system handle our other EHS needs, like heath and safety management?
- How long will it take to implement this system? Can the modules be rolled out individually so we can get up and running quickly?
- What kind of training and support will you provide? Will we have a dedicated service account manager?
- Can this system scale to our needs?
- What is the cost of ownership over 3 years? Are there any charges for upgrades, configuration, maintenance, additional users or features, or other fees?
- What can I expect for ROI/payback period?
- How will you make sure our information stays secure?
How Perillon can make environmental management easier
If you're ready to move beyond paper and spreadsheets, Perillon is the next step when it comes to environmental management tools.
Let's look at some of the ways Perillon helps EHS teams manage their environmental responsibilities and improve compliance.
Track deadlines, tasks, and documents: Perillon provides a centralized database to store all your air, waste, water, and GHG information and relevant documents. Our centralized calendar lets you track and manage your environmental permit requirements to ensure compliance.
Get alerts, triggers, and notifications: Perillon automatically notifies you of regulatory deadlines and other actions, alerts you when permit limits or other thresholds are exceeded, and even automatically assigns corrective actions based on conditions you set.
Dashboards and reports: Instead of manually compiling reports from spreadsheets, EHS leaders can use Perillon to create complex environmental reports in minutes.
These are just a few of the ways companies choose to get started with Perillon's environmental management software in as little as two weeks.
The great news is that Perillon is designed to grow with you, so you can explore our other features and capabilities when you're ready:
Audits and inspections: Standardize your compliance audits, risk assessments, quality checks, and more.
Automated sustainability data management: Track, report, and manage energy and water usage, waste, carbon emissions, and other resources in order to drive more sustainable consumption.
Air emissions tracking: Measure data from various sources to meet mandatory and voluntary reporting standards efficiently.
Incident management: Manage any safety or environmental issue and drive actions to reduce the risk of future occurrence.
Mobile EHS apps: Capture observations on-the-go, even offline.
Integrations: Integrate with your existing systems (like CEMs) to leverage data captured at the source.
Data warehouse: Create fully formatted custom reports for water, waste, air, or GHG emissions permit requirements.
With rapidly changing regulations and EHS professionals juggling more demands than ever, there's no denying the need for an environmental management system. It's a systematic way to keep up with new environmental regulations, standardize compliance, and manage your environmental performance.
The thought of building an EMS from scratch might seem intimidating at first, but the right tips and tools can make it easier.
Now that you've seen the ways Perillon can help you improve your environmental management system, you might be ready to learn more about some of the solutions that are available.
Perillon is a simple, affordable EHS management software that centralizes all your regulatory compliance, enterprise risk, and corporate sustainability data and activities. So you can save time, reduce risk, and prevent unwanted events.
Next, you might want to check out some of our product videos to see Perillon in action. Our video center will walk you through some of Perillon's most useful features, including our environmental management tools.
Want to see how EHS managers like you are using Perillon? Check out our success stories to see how customers like you describe their experience with Perillon.
At Perillon, we spend a lot of time listening to our customers' feedback and making improvements.Visit our product updates page to check out some of our newest features.
Of course, the best way to get to know Perillon is by scheduling a free customized demo. Our solutions team will walk you through the features you need to get the results you want.
Download this free guide to keep on your desk (or desktop) for quick reference.