Environmental management

Environmental Management for Office Based Organisations

All organisations have some impact on the environment. Office-based organisations use considerable amounts of paper and office consumables; consume large amounts of electricity and gas for lighting, heating and cooling and travel many kilometres by road and air.

Many businesses and government agencies are now beginning to examine the impacts that their day to day operations have on the environment and identify ways to reduce these impacts.

The current Australian Government policy on the usage of environmental management systems is that government agencies are encouraged to develop and implement an environmental management system for at least one of their sites.

Environmental Management Systems

An Environmental Management System (EMS) is a structured system or management tool designed to help an organisation to reduce its negative impacts on the environment and improve its environmental performance. The system can also provide a methodical approach to planning, implementing and reviewing an organisation's environmental management.

Implementation of an EMS involves an organisation taking the following steps:

  • devise a policy that articulates the organisations environmental commitments
  • appoint an environmental manager or management team responsible for the ongoing coordination of the EMS
  • identify the organisation's significant environmental aspects
  • identify legislative and regulative requirements relevant to the organisations environmental aspects
  • establish environmental objectives and targets
  • implement programs to achieve those objectives and targets
  • monitor and measure progress towards achieving those objectives and targets
  • take steps to continually improve the effectiveness and efficiency of environmental management and
  • strategically review the continuing effectiveness of environmental management within the organisation.

Standards Australia has adopted the International Standards for Environmental Management Systems (ISO14001 and ISO14004) for use by Australian organisations. These are known within Australia (and New Zealand) as:

  • AS/NZS ISO 14001:2004 Environmental Management Systems - requirements with guidance for use
  • AS/NZS ISO 14004:2004 Environmental Management Systems - general guidelines on principles, systems and support techniques

These standards provide a helpful framework for organisations wishing to develop a high quality EMS, regardless of whether or not they intend to achieve certification to the EMS standard.

Assistance with Environmental Management

Organisations looking to begin reducing their environmental impact for the first time may benefit from undertaking an initial environmental review of their operations. Whilst an environmental review is not required when implementing an EMS, it can provide a starting point for an organisation to identify any environmental management activities, controls or procedures already existing within the organisation. A basic Initial Environmental Review template is provided separately from the EMS Tool as an example for office based organisations who may wish to conduct such a review.

The EMS Tool includes a generic internal audit checklist which may assist organisations to self-evaluate their EMS once established. There are also professional environmental management consultants who are able to assist organisations in the initial stages of developing an EMS.

Organisations may wish to apply for independent certification of their EMS. A list of certifying bodies is maintained on the Joint Accreditation System of Australia and New Zealand (JAS-ANZ) website. More information about independent EMS certification is contained in the guidance notes of the EMS Tool.

Government Agency Environmental Network (GAEN)

A useful contact point for Commonwealth government agencies that are working to improve their environmental performance through establishing an environmental management system is the Government Agency Environmental Network (GAEN). Members of GAEN are often able to benefit from the experiences and ideas of other participating agencies. Direct enquires to GAENadmin@environment.gov.au

GAEN's objective is to 'drive environmental performance improvement within public agencies'. It works towards achieving this objective by:

  • Sharing best practice ideas on environmental management
  • Initiating best practice activities for public agencies
  • Facilitating uptake of ideas within our agencies