Environmental Management Systems

Why consider the environment at all?

Would you ask a car mechanic to fix your teeth? Or perhaps you may ask a doctor to landscape your garden?
The answer to both of these questions is no as the skills or knowledge required for dentistry are not the same as the skills required to fix a car! Similarly, a doctor may be able to use a lawnmower to cut the grass but does he know and understand the best place to plant a tree fern? Likewise, if you want to take account of environmental interactions and minimize the impacts on the environment, it is advisable to ask a qualified and experienced environmentalist to assist in managing your company operations.

You may be thinking: 'We have fallen on hard times, the environment is the last thing I will focus my concerns on! Surviving the downturn is more important to my family!' Understandably, however during the downturn it has been the companies that considered environmental factors that have survived and even prospered! You only have to look at the trading prices on the stock market to know which companies investors still have confidence in!

The problem lies with the explanation of an Environmental Management System or indeed just simply, environmental issues!
An 'EMS' sounds like a concept that you bolt on to existing systems to declare to the world that you have considered fluffy, cute mammals that live in the woods nearby to your house.

How could an EMS help you to increase your profits?
What are the phases of an EMS?
How much would an EMS cost to implement into the company?
What will happen if I do not go through this route?
In every company there are aspects of it that affect the environment:
Waste – You may say: Well I pay for the waste to be taken away and after that, it is someone else's problem!
No, this is not the case:

Problem: - Legislation

Legislation states that all waste producers have to show that they have considered waste according to the waste hierarchy before releasing it to a waste carrier.
Waste continues to be the producer's responsibility right through to final disposal and if it is found in a place that is not regulated, it is still your responsibility and you could be fined!
If a skip is filled with non-hazardous waste and one item in it is hazardous, the full skip will be charged at hazardous waste prices which, is a great deal more expensive than the non-hazardous waste.

Problem: - Science

Waste to landfill is detrimental to the environment as the waste produces methane gas which is 27times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Leachate, a dangerous liquid, is also produced containing heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury. Leachate can seep through to the ground water and contaminate drinking water sources.

Problem: - Physicality

So, as a waste producer you choose to pay for the waste to be sent to landfill and do not care about damage to the environment. Eventually the limited amount of land we have in the UK will be filled with waste, damaging the aesthetic appeal, water sources, air quality and ecosystems. Unfortunately, we as humans are not separated from other animals in the environment: Land in Wales contaminated during the Chernobyl nuclear accident is still potentially harmful to us through sheep and cows grazing on the land. The animals from the area are still tested to detect caesium levels.

So you believe that the amount of waste deposited into the sea and rivers is negligible compared with the vast expanse of water. There must be places that we can deposit our waste which will not affect us?
Well, the problem with living organisms is that they accumulate (bioaccumulate) small quantities of harmful substances and it is stored within our bodies until it reaches a quantity when it begins to affect us.
We may eat creatures that have bioaccumulated harmful substances and then we retain what they retained through their lives.

Also, no organism is independent and humans are no different: We rely on organisms to undertake certain activities such as Bees and pollination. If those organisms that we rely on, die, we are risking our own mortality.

Either way, we will be affected indirectly by all of our actions, the answer?..

Analyze your waste:

Is there a method that can be used to reduce waste being produced in the first place?
Can items be reused?
Substitute items for reusable supplies
Change methods of working: using both sides of paper
Clean items and store
Insulate to prevent waste heat escaping to air
Scrubbing waste gases
Use two skips and separate your waste into hazardous and non-hazardous
Deliberate waste during procurement by buying supplies that are less wasteful; can be reused; can be recycled; contain less harmful substances etc.
Industrial symbiosis – consider your neighbours: do they have waste and if so, would it be less expensive to share a skip?

As part of the ISI14001 EMS, your company aspects would be evaluated and an EMS would be structured around your business requirements. After evaluation, measures would be suggested that would reduce your economic impacts; environmental impacts and social impacts. This will aid your company to become more sustainable in today's economic climate and future environments.