Urban Environmental Management
Cities, EMS and Everything
Putting up a Green Front
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Why an EMS is a Good Idea...

All municipalities have a variety of direct impacts on the environment as a result of day-to-day operations. For example:

  • They may operate and maintain fleets of vehicles, which produce air pollution as well as soil and water pollution from motor oil, etc.

  • They usually operate and maintain buildings used to house municipal offices and services, typically using electricity for heating or cooling, lighting and operating machinery and equipment. They also supply water to municipal workers and produce wastewater.

  • They collect and dispose of solid waste, such as paper, food refuse from cafeterias, used furniture, and broken equipment.

  • They may buy a wide variety of chemicals, including cleaning compounds, weed-killer, chlorine, and pest control products.

An EMS is a systematic method of looking into all major aspects of municipal operations to:

  • guard against death and injury of residents and municipal workers;
  • guard against loss of health and livelihoods caused by municipal operations;
  • reduce waste, make money from appropriate operations and achieve self-financing savings;
  • avoid lawsuits and complaints from residents;
  • increase local attractiveness to investors;
  • increase local attractiveness to tourists and visitors.
  • improve employee morale and sense of contributing to the benefit of their city.

Formal Elements of an EMS

These elements are outlined in a document prepared by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), called "ISO 14001".

An EMS is to be established and maintained according to the requirements set out below as a whole.

An effective EMS is driven by senior-level commitment to an Environmental Policy.

An EMS is usually developed in a PLANNING EXERCISE that identifies:

  • significant environmental impacts of the organization; and
  • legal and other requirements;

and generates:

  • objectives and targets for environmental performance; and
  • environmental management programs/plans for delivering the environmental policy.


  • Structure and responsibility;
  • Training, awareness, and competence;
  • External & internal communication;
  • EMS documentation;
  • Document control;
  • Operational control; and
  • Emergency preparedness and response.

Performance is assured through CHECKING & CORRECTIVE ACTION, including:

  • Monitoring & measurement;
  • Correction of non-conformance, & preventative action;
  • Appropriate maintenance of records; and
  • EMS auditing.

The ongoing relevance and continual improvement of the EMS is a function of the MANAGEMENT REVIEW.

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Contact: Hari Srinivas - hsrinivas@gdrc.org