Companies in the plastics industry that have implemented an Environmental Management System (EMS) achieve cost savings and improve their environmental performance. Implementing an EMS will help your business to identify, assess and manage the environmental consequences of your operations.


A sound, well-conceived EMS is a practical management tool that can help your company to:

  • Reduce waste and operating costs
  • Gain a competitive advantage
  • Establish and show a system for continual environmental improvement
  • Demonstrate compliance with its legal obligations
  • Effectively manage health and safety
  • Improve its public image

What is an Environmental Management System (EMS)?

An Environmental Management System (EMS) is a continual cycle of planning, implementing, reviewing and improving the processes and actions that an organisation undertakes to meet its business and environmental goals. An effective EMS is built on Total Quality Management (TQM) concepts. To improve environmental management, an organisation needs to focus not only on what things happen but also on why they happen. Over time, the systematic identification and correction of system deficiencies leads to better environmental (and overall organisational) performance.

Why have an EMS?


An EMS allows an organisation to systematically manage its environmental and health and safety matters. An EMS can result in both business and environmental benefits.

Key EMS Elements


For effective implementation of an EMS, the following are critical:

  • Active commitment from senior management
  • A clearly defined and understood environmental policy
  • A clearly defined environmental management structure
  • Established systems of documentation recording and reporting
  • Documented and measureable environmental objectives and targets
  • Systematic identification of environmental aspects and impacts and regulatory requirements
  • Properly established and periodically reviewed operating procedures

How to implement a recognised Environmental Management System



There are recognised national and international standards that provide accreditation and external recognition of the standards achieved. The purpose of these standards is to provide industry with a model framework for the implementation of an effective system for the management of health, safety and environmental issues. The choice of EMS standard depends on what is right for your company. In New Zealand there are two main choices. The most commonly referenced EMS standard is the international ISO 14001 and the other option is the Enviro Mark system.

What is an ISO 14001:2004-based EMS?


The ISO 14000 family addresses various aspects of environmental management. The very first two standards, ISO 14001:2004 and ISO 14004:2004 deal with environmental management systems. ISO 14001:2004 provides the requirements for an EMS and ISO 14004:2004 gives general EMS guidelines.

An environmental management system meeting the requirements of ISO 14001:2004 is a management tool enabling an organisation of any size or type to control the environmental impact of its activities, products or services, and to improve its environmental performance continually. An environmental management system makes possible a structured approach to setting environmental objectives and targets, to achieving these and to demonstrating that they have been achieved.

How does ISO 14001:2004 work?


ISO 14001:2004 gives the generic requirements for an environmental management system. The underlying philosophy is that whatever your business, the requirements of an effective EMS are the same. This has the effect of establishing a common language or framework for communicating about environmental management issues between organisations and their customers, regulators, the public and other stakeholders. Another point is that because ISO 14001:2004 does not lay down levels of environmental performance, the standard can be implemented by a wide variety of organisations, whatever their current level of environmental maturity. However, a commitment to compliance with applicable environmental legislation and regulations is required, along with a commitment to continuous improvement - for which the environmental management system provides the framework.

What is the scope of ISO 14001:2004 certification?


Certification is not compulsory. You can implement ISO 9001:2000 or ISO 14001:2004 without seeking to have your management system audited and certified as conforming to the standards by an independent, external certification body. Like all ISO standards, ISO 9001:2000 and ISO 14001:2004 are voluntary standards. Deciding to have an independent audit of your system to confirm that it conforms to the standard is a decision to be taken on business grounds.

Publicising your certification


If your business or organisation has invested time, energy and money to obtain an ISO 9001:2000 or ISO 14001:2004 certificate, you will understandably wish to publicise your achievement.

To help you to do so, ISO provides advice at ISO Certification

What is Enviro-Mark?


Enviro-Mark®NZ is an environmental management certification programme. Five levels of certification enable systems to be developed in stages. It was originally developed in England for major multinational corporations as a tool to help their multi-site businesses, to train staff and manage progress. It is now operating in several countries and has been adapted for New Zealand conditions and legislation by Landcare Research.

It is suitable both as an entry-level tool and for those heading for ISO 14001 or higher. There are five levels of certification, bronze, silver, gold, platinum, and diamond. Businesses can work through the successive levels at their own pace and stop at whichever level is the most appropriate for their needs. It differs from other environmental management systems in that the first stage requires compliance with health and safety as well as environmental legislation. Enviro-Mark®NZ contains all the components of ISO 14001 and once companies have reached the fifth level, diamond they are deemed to be ISO 14001 ready. To achieve bronze, silver, gold, platinum, or diamond certification, each organisation is third party audited by approved Enviro-Mark®NZ auditors.

Envrionmental Policy - what is the best format and style?


There is no standard format for writing an environmental policy, but the style should reflect your organisation's culture. A good starting point is to collect and review examples of policies written by other organisations and select the format and style most appropriate to your own organisation.

There are a few basic rules to follow to ensure the policy is clearly written and concise:

  • Keep the statement short - if it's longer than a sheet of A4, then it's probably too long
  • Remember the statement is meant for everyone to see, so make sure it's easy to read and understand
  • The statement must be realistic, achievable and relevant to your organisation's activities and practices
  • Demonstrate commitment to making the policy work and get the statement signed, dated and endorsed by the MD, Chief Executive or other senior manager.

What should environmental policy contain?



There is no standard content for an environmental policy, although policies normally contain the same themes, including those listed below.

As a general rule, the policy should contain statements on the following criteria:

  • A commitment to continuous improvement
  • Recognition of compliance with relevant environmental legislation as a minimum level of performance
  • The education and training of employees in environmental issues and the environmental effects of their activities
  • The monitoring of progress and review of environmental performance on a regular basis (usually annually).


Additional issues relevant to your organisation, and which you may wish to address in your environmental policy, could include:

  • Transport
  • Recovering materials from the waste stream eg recycling packaging materials
  • Minimising waste – reducing it at source
  • Design for the environment
  • Extended producer responsibility/product stewardship
  • Efficient use of water and energy
  • Use of biodegradable chemicals
  • Minimising use of solvents and lead-based paints
  • Use of timber from sustainable (managed) forests
  • Procedures to minimise noise disturbance to neighbours
  • Phasing out of CFCs and ozone-depleting substances.


If your business is linked closely to key customers through the supply chain, obtain a copy of their environmental policy, so that your statements can reflect their requirements and needs.

Can I follow a checklist of statements to help me draft my company's envrionmental policy?


The checklist below may help you to draft a policy appropriate to your business. Choose examples of the statements that would apply to your business and make the statements as specific as possible for your operations:

  • Comply with the requirements of environmental legislation and approved codes of practice
  • Assess the environmental impact of all historic, current and likely future operations
  • Continuously seek to improve environmental performance
  • Reduce pollution, emissions and waste
  • Reduce the use of all raw materials, energy and supplies
  • Raise awareness, encourage participation and train employees in environmental matters
  • Expect similar environmental standards from all suppliers and contractors
  • Assist customers to use products and services in an environmentally-sensitive way
  • Liaise with the local community
  • Participate in discussions about environmental issues

EMS Case Studies

[there are a lot of case studies here that look quite dated – consider cutting down and redesigning]