An environmental management system or EMS refers to a system used in managing environmental programs of organizations in a comprehensive, systematic, planned and documented way. An environmental management system contains the structure, resources as well as planning for the development, implementation and maintenance policy for the protection of the environment. An Environmental Management System operates as a means for enhancing the environmental performance (Boiral, 2007).
Environmental management system is developed following comprehensive assessment of the impact of an activity on the environment. Development of environmental management system is a way of ensuring that the environmental impact of an activity like coal mining is assessed and kept on check (Franks, Brereton and Moran, 2010). Aspects and impacts of coal mining and export are considered for legislative requirements, operational activities and the views of the internal and external stakeholders. The identification of the main aspects and elements is done during the assessment. The purpose of the assessment process is the identification of important community and environment aspects and impacts across the exporting organization, as well as the risks that are posed to the controls and operations required to manage them effectively. The management of aspects is possible in accordance to the degree of risk assigned to each aspect. With the use of an environmental management plan, it is possible to identify the aspects, impacts as well as risks and management (Hill, 2000).
According to Macías, Caraballo and Nieto (2012) the main purpose of the assessment is identification of the important aspects and impacts of the coal mining process, from the site level, to transportation and exportation. Management controls developed are identified as a way of reducing the risk posed by the impacts, both on the environment and to the community. The approval of the international organizations concerned with the environmental matter depends with the availability of environmental management system by the organization concerned with the mining as well as the transportation of coal (Franks, Brereton and Moran, 2010).
Boiral (2007) posits that the environmental management system is even more valuable to the organization at a local and international level if it is ISO accredited. The most commonly used framework for Environmental Management System is the one that is created by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) for the ISO 14001 standard. It is beneficial for an organization dealing with coal to have an Environment Management System which is accredited. This is because such an organization would add value to the organization and also positively impact on its operations. Additionally, a more thorough approach to environmental management makes it easier to deal with the implications which are outside the local scope. This is because of its operations being on an international level. Use of certified environmental management plan is evidence of commitment to protection of the environment as well as sustainable development, aspects which are closely watched by the international community (Eccleston and March 2010).
In summary, environmental management system is the overall management structure of an organization which addresses short-term and long-term effects of its products, services, and process on the environment. It provides order and consistency for the organization in dealing with environmental issues through effective allocation of resources, assignment of duties and continuing evaluation of procedures, practices and processes. Some of its benefits include: improvement of environmental performance; improved compliance; prevention of pollution; resource conservation; enhanced efficiency and reduced cost; improvement of the morale of the employees; improved image with regulators, public, lenders, and investors; and enhanced awareness of the environmental responsibilities and issues among employees. These are all very important in revealing commitment for an organization with operations at the international level (Hill, 2000).
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