The students of the University of Cape Town (UCT) returned to their residence on Sunday 18 April after a wildfire tore through the Table Mountain National Park, Rhodes Memorial, and UCT campus. A man was arrested in connection with the arson and charged with contravening the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA).
What is the role of NEMA?
The National Environmental Management Act 107 of 1998 intends to provide cooperative environmental governance by establishing conventions for decision-making where matters of the environment are concerned. Ultimately NEMA monitors the actions of businesses to protect the environment and all businesses are expected to comply with it.
What can be done to comply with NEMA?
An environmental Management System (EMS) like ISO 14001:2015 can be implemented. This EMS can help an organisation with consistent evaluation, review, and improvement to help it achieve its environmental goals and performance objectives. Each EMS is tailored to accommodate the organisation’s targets and objectives. This consistent review will help any organisation to identify opportunities for improvement and optimise its environmental performance. The assumption is that evaluation and consistent review will identify gaps, and therefore opportunities, for improving the environmental performance of an organisation.
Elements of the EMS include:
- Analysing the organisation’s environmental objectives, aspects, and impacts.
- Evaluating legal requirements and compliance obligations.
- Establishing and implementing programs to meet targets and objectives.
- Monitoring and measuring the progress achieved in reaching objectives and mitigating impacts.
- Ensuring employees are competent and knowledgeable in environmental management.
- Reviewing and improving the progress of the EMS.
What is the difference between NEMA and ISO 14001:2015?
There are similarities and differences between NEMA and ISO 14001:2015 and some of them are included in the table below:
Environmental performance is monitored by assessing environmental indicators.
Both support the continual improvement of environmental performance.
Both provide the requirements for environmental management.
A South African Act of Parliament.
Issued by the Organisation for Standardisation.
An initial comprehensive environmental review of processes is required.
Requires the identification of environmental aspects and impacts.
External review is required, and this is based on the needs of external parties like legal bodies.
Requires internal reporting through a regularly reviewed environmental statement.
Compliance is compulsory.
Compliance is voluntary.
An EMS under ISO 14001:2015
Where environmental performance is concerned, an organisation is encouraged to continuously improve. The EMS follows a repeating cycle as seen in Figure 1.
Figure 1: The continuous improvement cycle
There are five main stages of an EMS which are defined in the ISO 14001:2015 standard. They are elaborated on as follows:
- Commitment and Policy: This commitment to an adequate environmental policy must come from top management. This policy then becomes the foundation of the EMS.
- Planning: The planning phase requires the organisation to identify the environmental aspects of its operations such as air pollutants and toxic waste that harm the environment. Once these are identified, objectives must be set to combat any negative effects. It is then the responsibility of management to devise an action plan for meeting targets including designating responsibilities, outlining clearly defined steps, and establishing a schedule to meet targets.
- Implementation: This is where resources are used to execute the relevant action plan. An essential part of implementation is staff awareness and training. Another essential part of implementation includes documentation, setting up external and internal communication lines as well as following operating procedures.
- Evaluation: This process is implemented to see if targets are being met. If not, it is in this stage where the company takes corrective action.
- Review: This is the final stage of an EMS. Top management reviews the results of the evaluation to determine the consistency and appropriacy of the plan with the company values. This review stage creates a loop of continuous improvement for the organisation.
Why do Organisations require an EMS?
Organisations can benefit from an EMS in the following ways:
- Enhanced legal compliance
- Prevention of pollution
- Conservation of resources
- Tapping into new markets and acquiring new customers
- Reduced costs and increased efficiency
- Improved environmental performance
- Enhanced employee morale
- Enhanced brand image
Mandatory documents and records:
- Scope of the EMS (clause 4.3)
- Environmental Policy (clause 5.2)
- Risk and Opportunities to be Addressed and Processes Needed (clause 6.1.1)
- Criteria for Evaluation of Significant Environmental Aspects (clause 6.1.2)
- Environmental Aspects with Associated Environmental Impacts (clause 6.1.2)
- Significant Environmental Aspects (clause 6.1.2)
- Compliance Obligations Document (clause 6.1.3)
- Environmental Objectives and Plans for Achieving Them (clause 6.2)
- Operational Control (clause 8.1)
- Emergency Preparedness and Response (clause 8.2)
The process of attaining certification
To prepare for ISO 14001:2015, an organisation has to achieve several requirements:
- Leadership involvement.
- Gap Analysis.
- Identification of various legal requirements.
- Creating the environmental management scope.
- Defining the relevant procedures and processes.
- Implementation of these procedures and processes.
- Awareness training.
- EMS management and record-keeping.
- Internal auditing.
- Management reviews.
- Corrective actions with regards to problems identified.
- Certification audits.
We can assist with the preparation needed to implement ISO 14001:2015 into your business. For more information on how we can assist you contact WWISE today on 08610 99473 or 021 525 9159 (Cape Town) or visit our website www.wwise.co.za