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Sophie-Laurence H. Lauzon

Environmental management beyond compliance

Since the beginning of the twenty-first century, the Canadian, Mexican and American governments have shown, through the intervention of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC), their desire to further promote the rational use of the Environmental Management System (EMS). They want all organizations to put in place environmental management systems that not only ensure environmental compliance with legislations, but also help them improve their environmental performance. Compliance with laws and regulations pertaining to the environment is one thing, but surpassing the requirements is another. An improved environmental performance at all levels cannot be achieved only by complying with current requirements.

Issue

Organizations have moral responsibilities towards society and the environment that go beyond legislative compliance. From this perspective, it is important for organizations to develop a much larger vision about what really is environment management and innovate accordingly. To that end, a structured and rigorous approach for the establishment of an EMS that aims at achieving ambitious objectives is necessary.

Solution

The EMS model promoted by the ISO 14001 standard is internationally recognized. However, until recently the standard did not necessarily guarantee environmental performance nor target a standard level of performance. The 2004 version of the ISO 14001 standard offered tools to construct and improve the EMS itself, while encouraging results that are consistent with the policy of the organization. The organization had great leeway as the standard did not dictate norms that needed to be observed. On the other hand, the ISO 14001 : 2015 standard lays emphasis on the fact that processes should allow the monitoring of performance and accountability, in addition to promoting administrative practices that help to formally establish objectives that go beyond the regulations. The required results should therefore include the improvement of environmental performance that is supported by a strong commitment for proactive environmental initiatives.

The commitment of conforming to laws and regulations should, in return, be reinforced by the promise of improving environmental performance through voluntary measures. Organizations should develop and demonstrate a new environmental leadership. Commitments have to be made and measures have to be put in place in order to reduce the negative impact of activities on the receiving environments.

In that respect, the indicators of environmental performance allow an organization to evaluate its performance by measuring and highlighting the change in its results. In fact, these results are a strong indicator of the management of significant environmental aspects of the organization. These indicators are usually divided into two sub-categories namely indicators of the management’s performance (IMP) and indicators of operational performance (IOP). An organization wishing to increase its environmental performance will base its analysis on these indicators that will allow it to evolve.

Tools for computerized management

Most EHS software equip companies that help them to better comply with laws and regulations. However, do they really distinguish themselves through an improved environmental performance?

An environmental management system devoted to exceed regulatory requirements should enable operational as well as strategic management. CONFORMiT offers precisely an EHS computerized management that includes both these stages. An efficient EHS software, in terms of performance, it particularly gives organizations the possibility to analyze their ways of functioning and the environmental risks that are associated with them. It also helps to elaborate a course of action and allows to monitor in real time their progress and the achievement of goals. Rigorous monitoring of actions and precise results are often key elements of a management system that aims to achieve environmental performance. Admittedly, the solution offered by CONFORMiT aims to equip organizations with the power to help them establish good practices that respect environmental integrity.

Advantages

There are many advantages of environmental performance:

  • Prevent and reduce pollution;
  • Preserve resources;
  • Make the employees more aware of the environmental issues and increase their environmental responsibilities;
  • Make savings thanks to improved efficiency;
  • Improve the competitiveness of the company;
  • Look for new consumers and markets;
  • Increase the confidence of the people;
  • Improve the company’s image in the eyes of the public, the investors, the clients and potential partners.

In conclusion, organizations that show concern to improve their environmental performance over and above regulatory compliance are often led to rethink their ways of functioning. It is with the idea of reducing the negative impact of their operations as well as promoting positive results for the environment, that they establish environmental management systems that encourage voluntary action.

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