Urban Environmental Management
Cities, EMS and Everything
Putting up a Green Front
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EMS: Three important things to remember

The benefits and advantages of developing/implementing a cohesive and comprehensive environmental management system has been touted for long, but there are three important things to remember with respect to EMSs.
EMS is not new
Managing the environment, and taking steps to protect it, per se, is not new. A number of actions have been taken at different levels of governance, from households and communities, to business, industries, and cities, all the way to national and global levels. These actions have been both curative and preventive in nature, focusing on the natural as well as man-made environments.

EMSs are therefore not new, but it is unique in that it is a management system for the environment, and brings together the different environmental actions and actors within a common umbrella: the management system itself.

EMS is more than just about the environment
  Yes, an EMS primarily targets environment issues. But clearly it goes beyond that to create a management system that enables incorporation of a range of issues such as communications, awareness, decision-making, governance, subsidiarity, monitoring/evaluation etc. within the management system, besides environmental issues.

The PDCA cycle - of planning, doing, checking and acting - enables not only tackling environmental problems, but also increases work efficiency, improves staff morale, and saves costs. In the process of reducing the impact of an organization on the environment, an EMS also provides several such 'side effects' that we have to keep in mind.

EMS is not enough
  While the advantages and benefits of a good EMS is well understood, we do have to remember that it is not enough. Having an EMS in place provides a number of advantages as outlined above - both environmental benefits, and others related to social and economic issues too. Indeed, broader sustainability issues can be tackled with a comprehensive EMS. An EMS is an umbrella initiative, a framework within which a number of initiatives and policies/programmes/projects can be incorporated to achieve set goals and objectives. It also enables the collaborative partnerships between different actors to achieve such goals.

But an EMS is not enough. The success of an EMS depends on a number of provisions and preconditions that need to be satisfied before an EMS is developed and/or implemented. Key among them is political will and top management support to go ahead with an EMS. Success of an EMS is not necessarily immediate, and is in most cases long-term. This may affect committment and participation in the EMS processes, if results are not visible regularly.

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Contact: Hari Srinivas - hsrinivas@gdrc.org