C2.7 Why have standards?


A Standard for an Environmental Management System (EMS) allows organisations to use a standard framework. This can focus the implementation phase of the EMS.

Once the EMS has been developed and implemented, verification against a set standard, whether European or International, demonstrates that the EMS meets recognised criteria.

It should create a level playing field, in the sense that all companies with a certain standard have similar environmental performance. In reality that may not be the case, as unfortunately some companies do pay lip service to the process without realising the full benefits. Complying with the specification of ISO 14001, EMAS or BS 8555 is one thing, complying with the intended spirit (to strive for a high level of environmental performance and to continually improve it) is quite another.

It is important to remember that within the UK we have set expectations of how an organisation should behave with regards to the environment. These expectations will differ between country and continent. A set EMS standard that is accepted across different countries will help to ensure that more standardised environmental performance, as everyone is working to the same framework.

Several years ago, before the introduction of Environmental Standards, there were Quality standards. The uptake of these predominantly grew from larger organisations requiring the organisations in their supply chain to obtain a recognised Quality Management System (QMS) Standard. In many areas it is a pre-requisite to conduct business, that you have a certified QMS. It is now becoming increasingly common that certification to a recognised EMS is now also a pre-requisite for business.