5 Benefits of Integrating Environmental Management Systems With Your Quality Management Systems

Integrating Environmental Management

Unseasonable weather fluctuations, rising CO2 emissions, the COVID-19 crisis, pollution, faulty supply chains, and inflation are just a few of the effects of sustainable inaction that seem to have finally gotten people’s attention to take action.

Global businesses and governments have been focused on driving positive environmental outcomes by developing new legislation, products, and technology that will help set precedence in creating sustainable change.

The growing awareness of environmental issues is a key driver of growth in the environmental technology market. People are recognizing the need to reduce the negative impact of human activity on the environment and promote sustainable development. This has led to an increased demand for environmental technologies that can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, conserve natural resources, and minimize waste.

Helping to drive that demand is a solution called environmental management systems (EMS). It’s an efficient framework designed to lower companies’ environmental footprint, increase operating efficiency, and help integrate green improvement initiatives into business operations. Currently, there are more than 300,000 EMS certifications to ISO 14001 in 171 countries around the world.1

Let’s begin with what exactly an EMS is and how integrating with a quality management system (QMS) solution can help your organization achieve its goals and objectives.

What is an environmental management system (EMS)?

An EMS is a set of processes and practices that enable your company to reduce its environmental impact and increase operating efficiency through consistent review, evaluation, and improvement of its environmental performance. The assumption is consistent review and evaluation will identify opportunities for improving and implementing the environmental performance of the organization.

This proactive approach can help reduce the risk of noncompliance and improve health and safety practices for employees and the public. In addition, an EMS can also help address nonregulated issues, such as energy conservation, and can promote stronger operational control and employee stewardship.

The database or software used to handle those procedures is also referred to as an EMS. Sometimes both processes and software are referred to as “EMS” in the same sentence.

5 Benefits of Having an EMS

1. Improve environmental performance

Identify the root cause of violations or nonconformance and strategize ways to improve.

2. Save money

The costs of not having an EMS are incredible as many businesses are discovering that without a formal EMS they are losing time and resources responding to legislative changes.

3. Engage employees

A structured EMS in place allows you to involve staff across your company in environmental monitoring and compliance. An EMS also makes it easier to train new hires since you’ll already have formal procedures in place.

4. Boost corporate image

Consumers expect corporations to be good stewards of the environment. An EMS is one way to demonstrate and report on your company’s environmental performance.

5. Meet investor demands

Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues can have a significant impact on a company’s financial metrics as well as an investor’s own financial risk profile.

How does EMS work?

The system encourages companies to continuously improve their environmental performance by following a repeating cycle.

  • A company first commits to an environmental policy and then uses its policy as a basis for establishing a plan, which sets objectives and targets for improving environmental performance.
  • The next step is implementation.
  • The company evaluates its environmental performance to see whether the objectives and targets are met.
    • If targets are not being met, corrective action is taken. The evaluation results are reviewed by management to see if the EMS is working.
    • Management revisits the environmental policy and sets new targets in a revised plan.
    • The company then implements the revised plan.
    • The cycle repeats, and continuous improvement occurs.

Repeating Cycle Flow of an EMS

Repeating Cycle Flow of an EMS

Structural layout for EMS

The ISO created the structure for the EMS that is most frequently used for the ISO 14001 standard. Established in 1996, this framework is the official international standard for an EMS which is based on the Plan-Do-Check-Act methodology.

The 5 Main Stages of an EMS as Defined by the ISO 14001 Standard Are:

1. Commitment and Policy

Management commits to environmental improvement and establishes the company’s environmental policy. The policy becomes the foundation of the EMS.

2. Planning

The company first identifies environmental aspects of its operations such as air pollutants or hazardous waste that can have negative impacts on people and/or the environment.

The company then selects the criteria it believes are most important, determining which features are crucial. For example, a company may choose worker health and safety, environmental compliance, and cost as its criteria.

Once significant environmental aspects are determined, management sets objectives and targets.

  • An objective is an overall environmental goal (e.g., minimizing the use of a particular chemical).
  • A target is a detailed, quantified requirement that arises from the objectives (e.g., reduce the use of a certain chemical(s) by 25% by September 2030).

The final part of the planning stage is devising an action plan for meeting the targets. This includes designating responsibilities, establishing a schedule, and outlining clearly defined steps to meet the targets.

3. Implementation

The company follows through with the action plan using the necessary resources (human, financial, etc.). Other steps in the implementation stage include documentation, following operating procedures, and setting up internal and external communication lines.

4. Evaluation

Management keeps an eye on its activities to determine whether goals and targets are being met. If not, corrective action is taken.

5. Review

Management reviews the evaluation results to see if the EMS is working and determines whether the original environmental policy is consistent with the company’s values. The plan is revised to optimize the effectiveness of the EMS. The review stage creates a loop of continuous improvement.


What is a quality management system (QMS)?

A quality management system provides a formalized system of documenting responsibilities, processes, and procedures to develop products that meet customer requirements as well as compliance with regulatory standards. QMS and EMS are both necessary for companies looking to improve product quality and customer satisfaction and establish sustainable business practices.

Model of a Process-Based QMS

Model of Process-Based QMS

How QMS helps your business

Implementing a QMS affects every aspect of a company’s performance including:

  • Improved quality
    Helps improve the quality of a business’s products or services, leading to greater customer satisfaction and loyalty.
  • Increased efficiency
    Businesses can streamline their processes, reduce waste, and optimize their resources, increasing efficiency and profitability.
  • Better risk management
    Identifies and helps businesses manage risks associated with their products or services to avoid costly quality issues or recalls.
  • Compliance
    Helps businesses comply with regulatory requirements and industry standards to help them avoid penalties and legal issues.
  • Continual improvement
    Allows companies to identify areas for improvement and implement changes to enhance their operations and products or services.

Integration with sustainability, the road to better environmental management

The urgency to develop sustainable products and services continues to escalate as more unpredictable climate changes and extreme events continue. With more companies focusing on developing sustainable environmental products and services, environmental management systems can help organizations standardize their regulatory compliance and strategically improve their environmental performance.

While EMS integration with QMS and other management standards such as ISO is not a one-size-fits-all process, it is a methodical, tailored approach to manage your environmental and quality performance, standardize compliance, and keep up with changing environmental requirements.