Urban Environmental Management
Cities, EMS and Everything
Putting up a Green Front
Return to the main ISO 14001 page
Return to
List of Info Sheets

The relationship between EMS and LA21

There are significant relationships between EMSs and an LA21 - and this relationship has often caused confusion as to the similarities and differences between a Local Agenda 21 (LA21) and an EMS.

An LA21 is the mandate to local governments to translate the United Nations Action Plan for the 21st century (Agenda 21) to the local level. Safeguarding the environment is a key feature of Agenda 21, including issues such as pollution, waste management and the protection of the oceans and freshwater resources.

An EMS is a process used by an organization to implement its environmental policy, assess whether desired outcomes are achieved, review whether changes are required to policy direction, and to provide for continual improvement in terms of environmental performance. An organization establishes an EMS as part of its overall corporate management system. An EMS addresses corporate structure, corporate planning activities, and responsibilities, operations, practices, programs, written procedures, processes and resources.

An EMS process therefore is used to minimize the environmental risks and impacts of a local government's own corporate operations. The EMS does not guide what can be done by the local government in partnership with the community and other interests to achieve environmental and sustainability outcomes in the local area. In simple terms an EMS is focused on the internal operations of a local government and an LA21 is focused on a geographical area and what the local government and community identify as priority issues and desired future outcomes for this area.

An LA21 and EMS are however intimately linked when a local government is undertaking both processes. Quite clearly, an EMS process can be used as a system to implement the relevant operational elements of a LA21. In this model LA21 is the umbrella framework that identifies priority environmental and/or sustainability issues from a local government and community perspective. The LA21 program develops policies, strategies and actions that can be taken by the local government and the community and other parties with an interest in the future of the local area.

Linking EMS and LA 21
Preparing a LA21 Plan involves the development of an environmental management strategy and action plan based on the principals of sustainable development and community participation. This is where an EMS comes in! The principles of sustainable development lie at the core of an EMS E
Local Agenda 21 is the process that aims to involve local people and communities in the design of a way of life that can be sustained and thus protect the quality of life for future generations. Components and implementation of an EMS enables these processes
LA21 requires all of us to consider the effects - on the local economy, the local environment and the local community - of every policy and project and then to seek a solution that achieves a realistic balance. An EMS provides us with a framework to develop this balance E
Local Agenda 21 is a highly democratic, consensus-building and empowering process. It seeks to strengthen the role of all major groups in society, including children, youth and women. An EMS requires that all stakeholders actively participate in its development and implementation E
LA 21 plans are operationalized by keywords such as Representation, Participation , Awareness-building , Assistance , Advocacy , Networking These keywords also help in developing an effective and comprehensive EMS!

Return to the ISO 14001 Homepage
Return to Info Sheet Contents
Contact: Hari Srinivas - hsrinivas@gdrc.org