C2.11 EMS and the Supply Chain


When an organisation implements an Environmental Management System (EMS) it has do more than simply look at the activities that it conducts itself – the Direct Impacts. It must also address the Indirect Impacts, those which indirectly result from its activities.

For example, you purchase a Television…

The direct impacts might include:

  • Your use of petrol to drive to and from the shop.
  • Your use of electricity when you plug it in and watch it.


The indirect impacts might include the environmental impact of:

  • Manufacturing the plastic for the casing.
  • Manufacturing the cardboard for the packaging.
  • The inks used in printing the instruction manual.
  • The energy for heating and lighting the distribution centre where it was stored.
  • The transportation method to get it from the distribution centre to the shop.
  • The waste disposal at the end of its life.


Your control over the direct impacts is quite straightforward. You can reduce these by not making a special journey to the shop, but combining it with another visit to that particular area (I will not suggest public transport as an option for collecting a new TV). You can select an energy efficient model and ensure that you turn it off when it is not in use.

How would you be expected to control the direct impacts? You can ensure that the TV is disposed of properly, but you have no control over who the TV manufacturer uses to make the packaging or how they do it. You have no control over how the distribution centre operates and how the TV is transported.

You do however, have influence over these things.

As a consumer, by selecting environmentally favourable options, such as energy efficient items or products that do not have excessive packaging, you are sending a clear message to the supplier: As their customer, you expect then to operate with consideration to the environment.