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The Case for Software-Driven Environmental Management Systems

March 29th, 2017 by Jay Finegan, CHMM Industry News

The Case for Software-Driven Environmental Management Systems

Defendant shall … develop a compliance-based Environmental Management System.” With words like these, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) frequently mandates that organizations implement an Environmental Management System (EMS) to promote regulatory compliance and curb future environmental impact.

The late, great Taiichi Ohno, father of the Toyota Production System (from which the lean manufacturing method derives), stated that “[i]mproving efficiency makes sense only when it is tied to cost reduction." While organizational benefits are not a primary concern for EPA, the agency recognizes that its own interests are best served when overtly integrated with organizational interests. To this end, EPA contends that identifying and eliminating the causes of environmental problems help the organization to achieve its own economic objectives.

The fundamental principle underlying all management systems is that understanding how the system’s processes interact with each other to produce results enables the organization to both optimize and improve system performance. An Environmental Management System is merely that part of the management system used to manage environmental aspects, fulfill environmental compliance obligations, and address environmental risks and opportunities.

While many environmental regulations delineate complex and detailed compliance requirements, ISO 14001 provides an aspirational framework intended to balance environmental protection with socio-economic needs. For example, ISO 14001 mandates that an organization must systematically evaluate how well it is fulfilling its compliance obligations, but offers only superficial suggestions (through a companion guidance document) regarding how the organization might actually accomplish this evaluation, e.g., by gathering information and data through facility inspections and reviewing legally required documents and records.

Of course, no EMS in and of itself can guarantee that an organization will achieve its environmental goals, especially absolute compliance with all applicable requirements. While some might suggest that underperformance invalidates the underlying principles of an EMS, proponents of managements systems, including the EPA, would contend that underperformance is more appropriately a symptom of a management system that is not effectively implemented.


In The Case for Software-Driven Environmental Management Systems, a new White Paper from Dakota Software, we explore EPA’s commitment to EMS, describes the essential elements, and explore the importance of computerized information systems in implementing and maintaining an EMS. It references 16 independent research studies that support the business needs for effective Environmental Management Systems.

Jay Finegan, CHMM

Jay Finegan, CHMM

Compliance Services Leader

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