17 December 2009
Organisations in Northern Ireland would benefit from a better understanding of environmental risks, such as waste and pollution, according to a recent study by international consultancy, WYG Ireland.
The study, commissioned by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) as part of its “Better Regulation” initiative, was designed to assess the effectiveness of Environmental Management Systems (EMS) as a means to improve environmental performance and legal compliance.
Only 2.7% of organisations surveyed across the public and private sectors have a formal Environmental Management System (EMS) in place to help them actively reduce their impact on the environment and improve efficiencies.
Noel Bell from NIEA said: “The Better Regulation initiatives aim to modernise and simplify regulation for organisations in Northern Ireland through more accessible guidance, streamlined, risk-based permitting and inspections, and consistent and proportionate enforcement.
“NIEA has embarked on the development of a Risk Assessment Model which will be used to inform the regulatory approach taken by NIEA. The model assesses five attributes associated with a business, these are; location, complexity, compliance history, emissions and operator management systems, of which EMS is one. Up until now there has been no quantification of the effectiveness of EMS and this study aimed to address that.”
The study showed a strong correlation between a formal EMS and improved environmental performance and that organisations with an EMS are more aware of legislation, and are more able to manage the risks associated with the impacts of their activities; however, three key barriers to the implementation of environmental procedures were identified.
Currently, 37% of organisations without an EMS perceived no value in implementing one and almost 60% cited either a lack of resources or knowledge as barriers to implementing processes to help them deliver on environmental obligations.
This latter point suggests the need to improve guidance and clarity around the value of EMS to businesses.
WYG were subcontracted by NIEA to carry out the EMS Effectiveness study and the final report included a number of recommendations to assist on delivery of the Better Regulation agenda in relation to EMS implementation.
Sam McCloskey, Regional Director, WYG Ireland, said: “A formal EMS can not only improve environmental performance and contribute positively to the environment, but can also help organisations to improve efficiencies and reduce costs, which is vital in the current economic climate. With such a small proportion of businesses in Northern Ireland implementing these processes at present, our study has shown that there is clear scope for helping local companies to better understand the benefits of an EMS to their organisation and support them through the implementation process.”
In practice, WYG has helped many clients to improve their environmental, health and safety and quality procedures through the design and implementation of bespoke management systems for their business.
Gerard McClelland, Contracts Manager at Glasgiven Contracts, said: “WYG’s Management Systems team helped us to analyse and monitor our quality and environmental systems in our journey towards ISO9001 and ISO14001 accreditation. Their knowledge of the systems ensured our compliance with current legislation both in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. This accreditation has led to a much more streamlined management system where quality is paramount and costs are greatly reduced through reduction in waste. Ultimately this will lead to greater opportunities for our company at a time when the procurement of construction projects is much more competitive.”
The full study is available to download at: