Environmental Management Systems (EMS)
Getting Familiar with EMS
Forest Service and EMS
Links: USDA, Other Federal Agencies, and Related Links
What is an Environmental Management System?
An Environmental Management System (EMS) is a globally embraced organizational management practice that allows an organization to strategically address its environmental issues and well as related health and safety matters. EMS implementation reflects accepted quality management principles based on the “Plan, Do, Check, Act,” model using a standard process to identify current activities, establish goals, implement plans to meet the goals, determine progress, and make improvements to ensure continual improvement. Implementation of an EMS begins with a comprehensive evaluation of an organization’s operations and activities to determine how they can or do impact the environment. The EMS process then establishes goals and programs to address those impacts and improve efficiencies in the environmental footprint of the organization. The resulting plans are deployed throughout the organization, usually through existing management mechanisms. As the system evolves, it is evaluated to determine whether the goals are being met and, if necessary, plans are amended to achieve the intended goals and continue the improvement process. Each of these elements also serves to make the organization more efficient and prepared to focus on its mission.
To some degree, all organizations consider environmental issues in their overall management processes. For some, it means dealing with a problem when a compliance issue is raised by an internal audit of compliance with environmental regulations. Alternatively, environmental considerations may take a commanding role in decision making due to the organization’s policies. Each of these approaches can be considered the existing environmental management system for those organizations, but they do not provide the benefits associated with a more formal approach.
The goal of implementation of an EMS framework is to ensure that the approach taken is the most effective in order to enhance the capabilities of the organization to pursue its mission. Successful EMS implementation helps organizations avoid problems and improve efficiency by increasing awareness of the role that environmental issues play in supporting the mission of the organization.
EMS and Executive Orders
Federal agencies were first directed to develop and implement environmental management systems (EMS) by Executive Order 13148—Greening the Government Through Leadership in Environmental Management. This order was signed by President William J. Clinton on April 21, 2000.
This was superceded by Executive Order 13423—Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management, which was signed by signed by President George W. Bush on January 24, 2007. It set the “policy of the United States that Federal agencies conduct their environmental, transportation, and energy-related activities under the law in support of their respective missions in an environmentally, economically and fiscally sound, integrated, continuously improving, efficient, and sustainable manner.” It set a variety of goals for Federal agencies to reduce energy consumption, increase the use of renewable energy, reduce water consumption, use sustainable environmental practices, reduce the purchase and use of toxic and hazardous materials, follow sustainable practices in building construction, reduce fleet consumption of petroleum-based fuel, and purchase electronically efficient equipment. Agencies were directed to use environmental management systems (EMS) to manage their environmental operations and activities and to ensure implementation of this executive order.
For further information on the Forest Service’s efforts to meet the goals of EO 13423, visit the Forest Service Sustainable Operations website.
Forest Service Environmental Policy
As defined in ISO 14001, the environmental policy sets the overall intentions and direction of an organization related to its environmental performance as formally expressed by top management.
The Chief of the Forest Service has stated the agency’s environmental policy as:
In conjunction with its mission (FSM 1020.21), vision
(FSM 1020.22), and guiding principles (FSM 1021) the Forest Service is committed to complying with applicable legal and other requirements, pollution prevention, and continual environmental improvement.
Forest Service EMS Directives (FSM 1331)
The Forest Service directives for EMS are found in Forest Service Manual Chapter 1330—Management Systems. More specifically, they are in FSM 1331. EMS manual direction was initiated in 2005 and amended in 2008 to update various references and make improvements based on agency learning that occurred during the pilot phase of EMS development. As with all manual direction, this sets the policy for the agency. It will continue to be evaluated regularly to see if any further refinement is needed.