Monthly Archives: March 2012

Environmental Key Performance Indicators

The definition of environmental performance indicators (EPIs)  as stated in the international standard ISO 14031 is:

 “A specific expression that provides information about an organisation’s environmental performance.”

They are environmental KPIs (key performance indicators). KPIs are commonly used in many areas of business such as occupational health and safety, finance and quality management. If environmental performance indicators are measured that relate to the key environmental aspects and impacts and they are tracked, they will give an understanding of the overall environmental performance of the organisation. Examples of environmental performance indicators that could be measured include:

  • waste produced per tonne of product
  • amount of energy used per square metre of floor space
  • average water use per member of staff
  • average fuel consumption per vehicle.

ISO 14031

ISO 14031: Guidelines for Environmental Performance Evaluation is the international standard that covers environmental performance indicators. It is a little known standard in comparison to its big brother ISO 14001, but provides an outline of environmental performance indicators and how they can be used. Those that are relevant directly to business are split into two categories:

  • Management performance indicators – measures of how well an organisations environmental impacts are being managed, and
  • Operational performance indicators – specifically cover the environmental performance of operations.

You can see examples of these two types of indicators in the table below:

Operational Performance Indicators (OPI)Management Performance Indicators (MPI)
Amount of energy used per tonne of product producedNumber of achieved objectives and targets
Quantity of recycled materials used per tonne of productPercentage of staff trained in environmental awareness
Average fuel consumption per vehicleCosts associated with services environmental aspects and impacts
Amount of waste recycled per yearNumber of complaints regarding noise from a site per year
Quantity of carbon dioxide released per tonne of productNumber of community environmental schemes completed per month

The standard also discusses  environmental condition indicators (ECIs). These are indicators that can be set for the condition of the environment – they are a measures of some part of the actual environment itself rather than environmental aspects directly related to business. Examples of ECIs include:

  • number of plant species in a defined area
  • average global temperature
  • dissolved oxygen level in a a river etc.

ECIs are more commonly used by governments and researchers rather than businesses.

How Can You Use EPIs?

We have established what environmental performance indicators are, lets now take a look at how they can be used:

  • Significant environmental aspects and impacts – if you select at least one  indicator that is relevant to each of your significant environmental aspects and impacts then this will usually give you a good understanding of environmental performance.  For example if a significant aspect is water use then measure the amount of water used per day/week/month, if spillage of oil is a significant environmental aspect then define an indicator such as number of spillages per month.
  • Environmental Objectives  – you could also use environmental performance indicators to tell you how well you are doing with regard to your environmental objectives. For example if you set an objective to reduce energy consumption in the office then you could set an environmental performance indicator that covers the amount of electricity used in the office per month. Simple!
  • Operational controls – you might also associate an environmental performance indicator with an operational control, to keep a check on its effectiveness. For example if you have a waste management procedure then you could set an EPI that covers how often recyclable waste is placed in the general waste skip.

Top Tips for Developing Environmental KPIs

Hopefully this all make sense just to finish please consider the following tips from my experience:

  • Be careful not to develop too many EPIs as collecting monitoring information becomes a burden, pick out important ones that are relevant to your organisations environmental performance.
  • Most indicators are developed such that they are quantified and relate to a fixed feature such as tonne of product or area of floor space. This allows for comparison when something changes within the organisation.
  • Consider not just reactive indicators (lagging indicators) such as spillage or complaints but proactive indicators (leading indicators) as well such as the number of completed actions or inspections completed.
  • Information collected (monitoring data) used to track an environmental performance indicator should be accurate.

I hope this has given you some ideas about how you can use environmental performance indicators in your organisation.  They are an important part of effective environmental management.

Where to Start When Implementing ISO 14001

When developing an environmental  management system to ISO 14001  the first thing you should do is an initial environmental review (IER). In this post I will attempt to give you an understanding of the purpose of an initial environmental review and how you might complete one.

The initial environmental review is not a mandatory requirement of ISO 14001, but is a very important process. It tells us where the organisation is now from an EMS point of view. It also looks for compliance and gaps against the ISO 14001 standard.

The key purpose of such a review is to help understand relevant EMS requirements which need to be put in place in order gain certification to the ISO 14001 standard.

Undertaking an initial environmental review

An initial environmental review consist of collecting and analysing information. There is no standard approach to completing one but the following is logical:

  1. Selection of the review team.
  2. Review Preparation.
  3. Site Review.
  4. Reporting.

1. Review Team Selection

In an ideal world a team should be developed that has the required knowledge, skills and experience to carry out the review. Such team members should have a good knowledge of the organisation but will also have some knowledge of environmental management. In reality however the review is often left to one person.

If there is distinct lack of experience in the organisation then the use of an environmental consultant should be considered. However, be careful – make sure that you retain ownership of the process.

2. Initial Environmental Review Preparation

As with most things in life preparation is key! You should organise a meeting of the review team with the following agenda:

  • Project outline.
  • Initial review team responsibilities.
  • Initial review methodology.
  • Collection of information.
  • Communication.
  • Establishing a work plan.

The methodology for the review is particularly important and the following should be determined:

  • What methods for collecting data will be used – e.g. interviews, document review and observations.
  • What the report will look like.
  • How the report will be communicated.

The types of document that are considered during a review include:

  • Site permits, consents or other legal documents.
  • Financial records such as energy or water bills.
  • Correspondence with members of the public, regulators and other external bodies.

An initial environmental review questionnaire should be developed at this stage. The environmental review questionnaire should acts as a prompt for collection of information. A common approach is to identify the parts of ISO 14001 in the first column followed by  spaces  in the next column for collection of  compliance information found during the review.

3. Site Review

This phase involves observations, interviews and  review of relevant documents of both internal and external parts of the organisation. You would approach this in a similar way to an audit. Make sure that you:

  • Use you questionnaire as a guide to interview relevant people.
  • Walk around the site and observe what is happening.
  • Look at relevant documents such as policies, legal documents and records.
  • Develop a basic process flow diagram for the organisation and consider the inputs and outputs for each stage of the process.

A key part of this stage is to consider what gaps are present between what you find in your organisation and what is required by the ISO 14001 standard.

4. Write a report

A report should now be prepared that covers the

  • Existing environmental performance.
  • Parts of the EMS that are and are not presently in place.

A report summary could  simply be a landscape table with the ISO 14001 requirement in the first column and a description of the findings in the next. Here at EHS Response we also tend to use a traffic light system to sum up the findings of the initial review.

Once a report has been prepared it would be a good idea to formally present it to senior management.

I hope this helps get you started in your quest to implement an ISO 14001 EMS.

Environmental Objectives for ISO 14001

ISO 14001 requires that organisations develop environmental objectives. Objectives and targets tend to be set after the environmental policy is completed. In fact it is very important they are completed at this stage as they must be based on policy commitments.

In practice,  environmental objectives can be at many levels, they can be:

  • High level objectives – these directly link to a policy commitment and are broad goals that usually do not consist of a quantity or a timescale.
  • Low level objectives (sometimes known as targets) – these directly link to an high level objectives and are commonly SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timebound).

Each policy commitment is generally supported by at least one environmental objective. There is no specific number of objectives and targets required for an organisation to be successfully certified to ISO 14001.

ISO 14001 Objectives Requirements

It is a requirement of ISO 14001 that environmental objectives:

  • Align with the environmental policy
  • Are measurable (if practicable)
  • must be able to be monitored
  • are communicated, and
  • reviewed and updated as necessary.

There must also be plans in place to achieve objectives that cover what needs to be undertaken, resources required, responsibilities, completion dates and evaluation of results.

Although there is no set requirements on the areas with which objectives should be set it, they are commonly developed for:

  • Environmental compliance obligations
  • Significant environmental aspects
  • Technological option
  • Financial operational and business requirements
  • Views of interested parties (stakeholders).

Types of Objectives

Objectives can be broadly classed as one of the following:

Monitoring objective – these are set where the management of a significant environmental impact could be improved and financial resources are limited or where not enough information is known about the impact. Environmental objectives can therefore be set to monitor (so enabling quantification).

Management objective – where a significant environmental impact is being well managed  management objectives will be set so as to continue the effective management, for example ensuring that an environmental training programme is continued.

Improvement objectives – these are associated directly with improvement and will always be required if the organisation is to demonstrate continual improvement.

General Rules

The following can be applied when an organisation is developing objectives and targets:

  • If a significant environmental impact is well managed then it can be linked to a management objective.
  • If a significant environmental impact is poorly controlled then an improvement objective should be set.
  • If an environmental impact could be better controlled then an improvement or monitoring objective should be set depending on resources and ability to control.
  • If an environmental impact results in unnecessary financial cost (e.g. energy use, waste production) then an improvement or monitoring objective would be appropriate.

Action plans

Environmental action plans provides a great deal of detail on how an organisation is going to improve. They are developed to achieve stated high level environmental objectives and as a minimum will usually identify:

  • task to be carried out,
  • who is responsible for carrying out the task and
  • time frame for carrying out the task.

Take a look at the following basic environmental action plan sample to give you an idea.

TaskResponsibilityCompletion Date
Monitor electricity consumption to determine baseline.Facilities ManagerMonthly (on-going)
Change lighting in office to compact fluorescent (energy saving) typesFacilities ManagerJan 2021
Promote switch off programme for computer monitors.Office ManagerMarch 2021
Implement purchasing system that takes into account energy consumption of computer equipment.Human ResourcesSeptember 2021

Action plans are key elements for the successful implementation of an EMS providing specific information on how improvements are to be achieved. It is important that an action plan is:

  • dynamic
  • monitored for progress
  • revised on a regular basis to reflect change.

It should be noted that an environmental action plans can be divided into more detailed programmes if required.

Beginners Guide to Environmental Management Systems

Environmental management systems offer a framework for managing significant environmental aspects and impacts. 

A good place to start would be what management systems actually are.An effective management system is built on Total Quality Management concepts.  In order to improve environmental management within an organisation focus should be on not just what things happen but also on the reason they happen.  Over time, this constant identification and correction of system weaknesses leads to better environmental (and overall business) performance.

Management system models (including the environmental management system standard ISO 14001 and the health and safety ISO 45001 standard) are constructed on the  simple but effective“Plan, Do, Check, Act” model introduced by Shewart and Deming.  This model is based upon the concept of continual improvement.

  • Plan– how you intend to make changes.
  • Do– implement what you have planned in the previous step.
  • Check– part of good planning is to decide how you will check whether your plans are working. But then you need to make those checks and see whether you are achieving what you wanted to.
  • Act– on the outcomes of previous steps by taking appropriate action or standardising the improvement. This will close the loop and is the essential step for continual improvement.

Continual improvement is an integral part of ISO 14001 standard and is defined as the process of enhancing the management system to achieve improvements in overall performance in line with the organisation’s environmental policy. It means that an organisation must be constantly improving its performance.


What are Environmental Management Systems?

Environmental Management Systems provide a structured framework for delivering continual improvement in environmental performance.  They are voluntary schemes and provide the framework in which companies can adopt a systematic approach to managing the environmental impacts of their business activities.

Companies can seek assessment and certification to environmental management system standards such as ISO 14001 in order to publicly demonstrate their environmental commitment and excellence to their suppliers, customers, shareholders and investors and the general public at large.

ISO 14001 is a stand-alone, auditable environmental management system standard for certification.  A general management framework approach is applied, and there are clear similarities with HSG65, ISO 9001 and ISO 45001.


Does an EMS have to be externally certified?

An organisation can demonstrate its commitment to proactive environmental management to its stakeholders and other interested parties in two ways.

An organisation can have its management system (e.g. ISO 14001) audited and registered by an independent 3rd party. These are known as certification bodies (such as BSI or LRQA). This is the option that most organisations choose . 

You should make sure that the certification body you choose is accredited. For example in the United Kingdom the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) checks that certification bodies are of a high quality themselves. I would not recommend using a non UKAS accredited certification body to audit your environmental management system particularly if  your organisation is based in the UK. 

Another option is for an organisation to make an internal determination and self-declaration of conformance to an environmental management system standard, although this is rare.

The benefits of environmental management system certification and cost vary significantly among organisations depending on the size of and the number of facilities/divisions they choose to certify. 

Although there is no set time frame as to how long it takes to implement an ISO 14001  environmental management system, as it is dependent on the resources an organisation can provide for the project, it commonly take around nine to eighteen months. You should be aware it is more than just filling in a form.


Components of an environmental management system 

The key components of an ISO 14001:2015 environmental management system are:

  • Context of the organisation
  • Leadership
  • Planning
  • Support
  • Operation
  • Performance evaluation, and
  • Improvement.

A logical approach to developing an EMS is to undertake the following activities:

1.Environmental review – this gives a broad view of the environmental performance of your organisation. This is recommended but is not needed to satisfy the ISO 14001 standard (and as such is not included in the outline of the standard above). This review is only carried out once.

2.An environmental policy should be established, stating a strategic goal and sense of direction for the organisation. It must comply with the specific requirements of the ISO 14001 standard.

3.A plan should be formulated by the organisation stating how it will reach the aims stated in the environmental policy. The plan should be broken down into a number of elements:

  • Assessment of environmental aspects of the organisation and evaluation of their associated environmental impacts . This is a process that is basically picking out the key environmental issues of the organisation.
  • Understanding the relevant environmental compliance obligations to which the organisation subscribes (compliance obligations are legal and other requirements (such as guidelines, international standards and client requirements)).
  • Determination of environmental objectives that are consistent with the environmental policy. These provide more information on how the organisation is going to improve than stated in the policy.
  • Determination of how environmental objectives will be achieved. These generally take the form of an environmental action plans – task, date of completion and responsibility being the minimum requirements.

4.The next stage is to operate the system. This will involve the following stages:

  • Establishment of an organised environmental management structure, including the appointment of a specific management representative who will be responsible for managing the environmental management system.
  • Training including the identification of environmental training needs and the undertaking of environmental training of those persons within the organisation who have undertake tasks, which have a significant impact on the environment.
  • A system of communication should be developed for both internal (mainly staff) and external (such as complaints or enquires from regulators) communications with the organisation.
  • The environmental management system must be documented, either in paper or electronic form. This usually takes the form of an environmental manual, environmental procedures and other associated documents.
  • Operations associated with the identified significant environmental aspects and impact must be controlled. This operational control is often attained by the implementation of procedures. This generally results in the  procedures covering high risk actives such as the operation of an effluent treatment plant or waste management. 
  • Emergency plans must also be prepared, maintained and tested (where appropriate).


5.The next stage is performance evaluation this will involve the following:

  • Operational activities must be monitored and measured  that have a significant impact on the environment. This might include hard monitoring (e.g. sampling liquid effluent prior to discharge or monitoring emissions from chimneys (stacks) or soft monitoring (undertaking inspections of the organisation).
  • In order to determine whether the environmental management system complies with the requirements of the standard environmental audit programmes and procedures should be established and maintained. Internal audits are a key part of determining whether the system is actually working.
  • Management review of the  environmental management system  should be undertaken in order to determine the continuing suitability and effectiveness of the system. The review in most organisations generally takes the form of a meeting of top management with the environmental manager (or similar) undertaking a presentation regarding the organisations  environmental management system . The review must be documented. It happens usually about once a year.

6. The next and final stage is improvement. This involves developing a formal process to deal with weakness identified by performance evaluation. It ensure that such weakness are dealt with and is often termed ‘corrective and preventative actions’.

I hope the above helped you gain a basic understanding of  environmental management systems. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions.