What Happens in Practice?

The best known, internationally recognized model for an environmental management system (EMS) is likely ISO 14001. It provides concrete details as to how to implement the system in an organization. However, the simplicity of a model development by the Canadian Standards Association allows us to grasp the essential elements of an EMS or a SMS (sustainability management system), which includes the social dimension as well.

The sustainability management system contains four separate but related processes: purpose, commitment, capability, and learning.

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Purpose signifies that the organization must flesh out its vision, mission, objectives, and policy. It must also outline a plan to implement its sustainability direction by assessing the risk, developing timelines, and setting targets.

º Flesh out vision mission, objectives, and policy
º Outline a plan and assess risk
º Develop timelines and set targets
Commitment must come from all employees and not just upper management. Everyone from the CEO to the operations personnel, to the cleaning personnel must be committed to the purpose. All employees should comprehend the sustainability direction of the organization. Supervisors should integrate responsibility and accountability for various aspects of the sustainability plan into the job duties of subordinates. They should also reward employees on their sustainability accomplishments.

º Comprehend the sustainability direction
º Integrate accountability and responsibility
º Reward on sustainability accomplishments
Ensuring Capability means that employees are provided training, appropriate budgets, and essential information for fulfilling their sustainability responsibilities.

º Provide training
º Create appropriate budgets
º Make available essential information
Learning is the process most closely related to sustainability reporting. It involves measuring and monitoring the organization’s various activities to determine their progress against the objectives and targets. Audits and management reviews help to identify weaknesses and shortcomings for improvement and to learn from accomplishments and successes. The information is then communicated to employees for continuous improvement.

º Measure and monitor progress
º Perform audits and reviews
º Communicate progress to employees

– Source: EMS Model adapted from CSA(1994), Illustration by Leah Stobbe