Tim's Blog

Secret to a good Environmental Management System


The secret to a good environmental management system (EMS) is efficient, well-structured documents that help staff do their job.  Each piece of documentation should have a purpose and be easily accessible to those who need to use it.


The essential document types in an EMS are procedures, registers, schedules, logs & other records, and forms. Environmental procedures and registers are perhaps the most troublesome documentation, so I will focus my attention on these.



Environmental procedures


Environmental procedures are controlled documents that set out a clear sequence of actions to maintain one element of your environmental management system.


Environmental procedures should:


  • clearly lay out processes for complying with each compliance obligation of ISO 14001,
  • be well-written using active language,
  • provide a clear work-flow that’s easy to follow, and
  • only contain necessary details.


For more tips on how to write quality environmental system procedures, read my post – Creating effective system procedures.





Environmental registers


Environmental registers are structured lists of data which are modified over time, and are used in conjunction with one or more environmental procedures. Environmental registers support the procedures by recording output information or by providing a checklist for use in the procedure.


For example, the Environmental Aspects Register is used to record the environmental aspects and other information “discovered” in the procedure covering section 6.1.2 of ISO 14001. The register is then used as a checklist, for example, in determining the organisation’s compliance obligations (in section 6.1.3).


While restricting write-access to registers is important, they should not be “controlled documents” in the formal sense because changes will be made fairly frequently and formal approval for these changes is not required.


Environmental registers can be used to store the following information (each in its own register):


  • Environmental aspects and impacts: including risk assessment outcomes and controls
  • Interested parties: including their needs and expectations
  • Environmental objectives: including targets, indicators and improvement programmes
  • Emergency situations: including environmental impacts, controls, emergency procedures
  • EMS documents and records: including location and responsibilities
  • EMS roles, responsibilities and competencies: if not included in role descriptions
  • EMS implementation issues: to capture EMS issues, concerns, improvement ideas for later consideration.





Environmental management system schedules, logs & records and forms


Environmental management system schedules are used to effectively manage all periodic actions needed within the system, such as audits, reviews and training.


System logs and records are notes which show an action was completed, often with the details of what was considered and the outcome of the task. This information can be used to fulfil a compliance obligation or as audit evidence.


Forms are used within environmental procedures for the efficient creation of records or documents. Forms should only request information that is needed, and they should be easy to understand and fill out.



Need extra help with your environmental management system’s documentation?


Part of our Environmental Management consulting service is helping organisations strengthen their existing EMS documentation. We provide assistance and training in creating clear and purposeful documents that help your employees comply with your environmental system requirements.


Please get in touch to find out more.