How does it work?

Becoming an environmental leader and achieving continuous improvement through EMAS is easy, thanks to ten steps and four key principles: Plan-Do-Check-Act!

Select each step:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10


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Step 3: Structure your Environmental Management System (EMS) by defining an environmental policy and an environmental programme.

An environmental management system is built upon a set of environmental actions and management tools. Those actions depend on each other to achieve a clearly defined goal: improving environmental performance. An EMS establishes a continual cycle of planning, implementing, reviewing and improving the environmental performance of an organisation. In practice, the role of an EMS is to ensure the successful implementation of the environmental policy and programme. As such, an essential part of developing an EMS is to clearly define its scope.

The environmental policy is a public document prepared by your organisation, which describes your commitments to the environment and specifies your organisation's overall intentions and direction in terms of environmental performance. It also provides a framework for setting objectives and targets. An environmental policy should be adopted at the highest managerial level, be revised periodically and specify: compliance with legal requirements and beyond, commitment to continuous improvement in environmental performance and engagement in preventing pollution.

The environmental programme is an action plan that translates your organisation’s environmental policy into specific objectives – overall environmental goals directly arising from environmental policy – and targets – performance requirements that emerge from these objectives). The SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound) criteria can help you formulate these objectives and targets. Your environmental programme should contain concrete measures that designate responsibilities and identify the means to achieve the defined environmental objectives and targets, as well as to meet deadlines. The programme integrates improvements in environmental performance into the day-to-day operations of the organisation – it leads to activities that promote better environmental performance. As such, it can be seen as a driver for continuous improvement. To help you identify relevant environmental aspects, best practices and indicators that should be part of your environmental programme, please refer to the Sectoral Reference Documents, which are available for specific sectors.

As part of EMAS, your organisation’s top management also needs to demonstrate leadership and commitment to the EMS. . For example, the top management has to take accountability for the effectiveness of the environmental management system, ensure that the environmental policy and environmental objectives are established and see that the requirements of the EMS are integrated into the organisation’s business processes.

Note:The tools previously introduced can further help you at this stage. We encourage you to download them from the page EMAS Implementation tools of the website.