Environmental management: how to approach it?

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The ISO 14001 environmental standard defines a framework for companies wishing to control their environmental impacts. It is part of a logic of sustainable development and is based on a voluntary approach of continuous improvement.

The monitoring of high-impact activities is one of the requirements of the standard (chapter 9), through the establishment of monitoring plans. But which elements should be addressed as a priority in an environmental approach?

Find out the answers in this article.


Waste management


A number of precautions are necessary to ensure effective waste management, including collection, transport, recovery and disposal. Your waste has recovery potential and can be worth its weight in gold! It can be sold and bought (see article on waste management). 


This involves separating your different types of waste according to their classification and nomenclature, defining their internal storage conditions according to the type of container (bin, skip, canister, etc.), and specifying the storage capacity. You will also be able to record the outcome for the waste, specifying whether it will be recovered or not, while defining which organization will be in charge of this elimination.


Water monitoring 

Depending on the companies concerned (wastewater treatment plant, nearby watercourses) it may be necessary to monitor the water based on different analyses (in mg/L): Nickel (Ni), Copper (Cu), Iron (Fe), Cyanide Ion (CN), etc. The aim is to define a sampling date/time and to set critical limits according to the standards applied for each analysis. 


A pH measurement is often necessary: if the pH is above 7, the water is said to be basic/alkaline, while if it is below 7, the water is considered acidic. When coupled with the pH, the temperature is measured very regularly because it changes with it. On pH analyzers, there is therefore always a temperature probe, either separate or combined.


Greenhouse Gas Emissions Balance Sheet (GHGEBS)

The GHGEBS establishes the volume of greenhouse gases (GHG) emitted annually into the atmosphere by the activities of the legal person on the national territory. It makes it possible to prioritise the weight of these emissions according to the company's activities and the sources in question.


After defining the year of study in question, it is a matter of identifying the main sources of GHG emissions in your company.


3 categories of emissions : 

  • direct emissions: refrigeration, air conditioning, stationary sources
  • Indirect energy-related emissions: electricity, manufacture of fuels consumed
  • other indirect emissions: waste treatment, miscellaneous travel, transport of goods, purchase of product/service, capitalisation of goods.


GHG includes: water vapour (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), ozone (O3), fluorinated gases (CFCs, HCFCs, PFCs, NF3).


The data resulting from the analysis of the identified emission items are processed and the actions to be implemented to reduce the most significant emissions are prioritized.


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The energy balance sheet 


This balance sheet, expressed in kilowatt hours (KWH) per year, makes it possible to carry out a quantitative study of a company's total energy consumption. Energy management can be implemented on purpose, in particular via the ISO 50001 standard "Energy management system: requirements and recommendations for implementation". The study covers primary energies (fuel oil, gas, electricity) as well as other fluids that convey energy (steam, compressed air, water).


The first step is to define the scope of the study:

  •  Which buildings are affected?
  • What equipment?


You will then perform an analysis based on data such as equipment characteristics or energy bills. Make sure you also take into account the measurements taken (flow/temperature measurements, etc.). The next step is to identify the most important energy consumption according to the items or activities. Compare these consumptions with known data in a sector of activity similar to yours. 


A piece of advice: make two campaigns, one in summer and one in winter, in order to optimize your study to the maximum.


What option(s) to reduce energy consumption?


  • Work may be required to improve insulation to reduce heat loss through the roof, windows or walls.
  • You may also choose to install systems such as wind turbines or solar panels, which are more economical and environmentally friendly.
  • The best weapon you have as an OHS Manager (and the cheapest) is staff awareness! So make sure you communicate well with your employees so that they understand what is at stake.


What if digital could help with that?

Nowadays, there are various systems available that can help you save your time, such as automatic sensors and probes. These devices allow you to carry out measurements in real time, whether it is your water analyses or your atmospheric measurements. The information from the field is automatically passed on to your employees in all departments. You can thus react immediately if one of your measurements is non-compliant.


If you do not have this type of sensor/probe, there are tools that allow you to inform all your different controls directly in the field.


It is even possible to organize "environmental visits" by integrating digital forms on the digital solution where you will be able to fill in the different fields according to your observations.


Due to a lack of resources or manpower, it is not always easy to organize an environmental management system. However, this approach is likely to develop further in companies in the years to come. So we might as well start thinking about it!



EHSQ Managers