Since the 1970s, there have been significant advancements in environmental policy and regulations from the EPA and States. These policies and regulations have set a minimal standard for pollution prevention including waste management and improving air and water quality.
In 1996, the ISO 14001 Environmental Management Standard (EMS) was first published, setting the framework and foundation for companies that wanted to go beyond just meeting regulatory requirements.
Benefits of a successful EMS include:
- A benchmark for environmental improvement
- Effective control of processes by management
- Self-evaluation by the organization
- Reduce operating costs and liabilities
- Identify weaker areas of the environmental system for improvement
- Employee involvement and ownership of processes
- Employees are proven competent in their tasks
- Increased customer and community confidence
- Drives continual improvement of technology
Places all legal requirements under an operating management system. Specific to Wisconsin, the Green Tier law was originally signed into legislation in 2004. The purpose of the Green Tier law was to provide companies the opportunity to go beyond compliance and pursue environmental initiatives that are not possible under traditional regulations. Companies participating in Wisconsin’s Green Tier program build a EMS following the clauses within ISO 14001; however, are not required to become an ISO 14001-certified company.
Environmental Management Systems, either certified through ISO 14001 or under Wisconsin’s Green Tier program, make good business sense for most companies. Resulting benefits include meeting customer directives, employee participation, streamlining compliance, and continuous improvements. Information on Wisconsin’s Green Tier program can be found at http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/greentier/.
The framework of an EMS is built on the Plan, Do, Check, Act Cycle. Elements of the program include developing Environmental Policy, identifying Environmental Aspects, setting Objectives & Targets, evaluation of program (audits), continuous improvement, communication and management support.