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Course 790 - Environmental Management Systems (EMS)

Safety guides and audits to make your job as a safety professional easier

Planning – Aspects, Impacts, Objectives and Targets


Risks and Opportunities

Every organization engages in activities which produce various products or services that interact with the physical environment. These activities or "aspects" of doing business may affect or "impact" the environment in a positive, neutral or negative way. Also, it's important to know that the aspects of doing business may change the environment locally, regionally, or even globally.

Within the EMS, environmental aspects and impacts should be analyzed for the risks and opportunities they present. In this course, we will focus on designing an EMS that helps employers reduce risks and take advantage of opportunities that benefit the company and the environment.

It's also important to determine which aspects of the business that affect the environment are significant, and to prioritize them to identify those aspects to address first. So, let's take a closer look at two very important concepts: Aspects and Impacts.

Environmental Aspects

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Some people have a difficult time understanding what environmental aspects are. Simply put, they are the “cause” of the changes in the environment. As a part of the PDCA planning phase, identifying your organization’s aspects is very important. You'll need to decide if you can control the aspect. For an EMS, only focus on those aspects you can control. For example:

  • You can't control everything about how raw materials are made, but you do have control over who you purchase from, which materials you use, and how you manage those materials during our production process.
  • Although you may not always have control over how electricity is generated at the power plant from which you purchase electricity, you can exercise some control over how much electricity you use.
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After you identify environmental aspects you can control, rank them using a predetermined set of criteria. Each company or facility should develop criteria that are important to achieving its specific environmental and business goals and meeting its environmental policy commitments.

Let’s look at examples of possible ranking criteria that is used at various types of facilities:

  • actual or potential environmental impact
  • costs associated with addressing the aspect or potential impact
  • potential savings from addressing the aspect
  • NASA
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  • pollution prevention potential from addressing an aspect or impact
  • risk of noncompliance associated with an aspect
  • community concerns associated with an aspect

The National Air and Space Administration (NASA) has an excellent process for identifying and prioritizing environmental aspects to determine significant aspects. Take a look at this process to the right. You can also download the NASA Procedural Requirement (NPR) as a model EMS program.

What company's strategy to mitigate that impact of plastic water bottles.

Environmental Impacts

Impacts are the “effects” on the environment caused by the environmental aspects. Another way to say it is that environmental impacts are the way(s) the aspects affect the environment. Any impact or change to the environment whether adverse or beneficial, wholly or partially resulting from an organization’s activities, products, or services need to be analyzed to determine what can be done to improve those impacts. At a minimum, your EMS should include a list of the facility’s most significant environmental impacts.

Bottom Line: It’s simple cause and effect: Aspects are the causes and impacts are the effects.

Environmental Objectives and Targets


Environmental Objectives are overall environmental goals, arising from EMS policy, that the organization sets to achieve. The objectives should be quantifiable whenever practicable.

Objectives and targets are linked directly to specific aspects and impacts. Each objective will include two components:

  1. A goal component that states the general goal, such as to "reduce the amount of fuel use."
  2. A target component that states a quantifiable change, such as "by 5% in two years."

The point is that objectives and targets are designed to decrease negative aspects and impacts or increase positive impacts. In other words, objectives and associated targets are established to measure progress.

haz waste

Here’s another example. Let’s say your facility currently generates hazardous waste from various processes. You plan to reduce hazardous waste generation at the plant; this is an objective. The quantifiable target for that is to "reduce hazardous waste generation by 10 percent by the year 2017" using hazardous waste generation in 2015 as a baseline.

Here's still another example (We want to make sure you get this): if the objective is to "Reduce the amount of paper used by 10% by 2018."

  • The goal component would be to reduce the amount of paper used.
  • The target component would be a 10% reduction by 2018.

Therefore, if the current (baseline) amount of paper used by the company in 2 years is 10 tons, the target reduction would be 1 ton.

When you set objectives and targets, it is important to make sure you're able to track and measure (quantify) your performance or progress. Then, during other stages of the EMS process, you can report on progress toward achieving the objectives and targets you set.

Ideally, the most significant aspects will be assigned an Objective or goal. Task strategies can then be identified to meet the Objective.

Environmental Task Strategies and Tactics


To reduce the negative impacts of the various aspects of an organization’s activities, products or services, and to achieve the environmental objectives set for the organization, you should develop EMS task strategies and tactics. Usually, task strategies and tactics describe changes in work requirements and tasks performed during normal operations.

Here are some examples of task strategies and tactics:

Task strategies – things you require everyone to do as a general rule. Weighing the amount of recycle waste is required; only biodegradable cleaning products are approved for cleaning personal work areas.

Task tactics – things you do with your hands to comply with task strategy requirements. Each worker throws all paper, plastic and metal into recycle containers; workers use reusable cups and mugs for drinks; employees use biodegradable products for cleaning their work area.


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It's so important for you to understand these basic EMS concepts that we're going to take a look at some examples of environmental aspects in the next few sections. We'll describe the impacts they may have on the environment, the objectives to improve the impacts, and finally, the associated task strategies and tactics to achieve each objective:

  1. Aspect: Transportation and vehicle use (including agency employee commuting methods and patterns, agency employee travel).
  • Impacts: Air emissions and resource depletion.
  • Objective: Reduce fuel consumption by 5% in 2 years.
  • Task Strategies and Tactics: Requirements and tasks that can reduce impacts include:
    • Determine current fuel consumption to establish baseline data.
    • Devise a system to track fuel consumption and progress.
    • Encourage the use of public transportation.
    • Allow telecommuting.
    • Encourage the use of alternative fuels.
    • Encourage walking or biking to work.
    • Purchase fuel-efficient vehicles for the fleet.


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  1. Aspect: Energy consumption (use of office lights, computers, printers, copiers, other electronic devices and other equipment).
  • Impacts: Resource depletion and air emissions.
  • Objective: Reduce energy consumption by 5% in 2 years.
  • Tasks Strategies and Tactics: Requirements and tasks that can reduce impacts include:
    • Establish baseline data on energy consumption.
    • Use Energy Star equipment.
    • Retrofit efficient lighting.
    • Develop policies for turning off lights, computers and other electronics that are not in use.
    • Purchase electricity from renewable sources.


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  1. Aspect: Water use (in restrooms, showers, water fountains and other facilities).
  • Impacts: Resource depletion and water quality.
  • Objective: Reduce water consumption by 5% in 2 years
  • Tasks: Tasks that can reduce impacts include:
    • Establish baseline for water consumption
    • Use non-potable water where applicable
    • Capture rain water for landscaping needs
    • Install low flow fixtures and faucets
    • Raise awareness of water conservation efforts


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  1. Aspect: Procurement (types and quantities of materials purchased by the agency).
  • Impacts: Solid waste, hazardous waste and landfill space.
  • Objective: Establish a ‘Green Purchasing’ policy.
  • Task Strategies and Tactics: Requirements and tasks that can reduce impacts include:
    • Establish and implement a process for purchasing environmentally preferable products. Purchasing considerations may include:
      • Toxicity
      • Longevity
      • Reduced packaging
      • Ability to be recycled
      • Ability to be maintained
      • Energy efficiency
      • Recycled content
      • Materials from renewable resources

Before you take the quiz, check out the EPA’s “Widget Manufacturing Co.” website to learn more about ways to reduce waste.


Before beginning this quiz, we highly recommend you review the module material. This quiz is designed to allow you to self-check your comprehension of the module content, but only focuses on key concepts and ideas.

Read each question carefully. Select the best answer, even if more than one answer seems possible. When done, click on the "Get Quiz Answers" button. If you do not answer all the questions, you will receive an error message.

Good luck!

1. Simply put, which of these are the “cause” of the changes in the environment?

2. Environmental _____ are the “effects” on the environment caused by the environmental _____.

3. Which of the following describe overall environmental goals, arising from EMS policy, that the organization sets to achieve?

4. If the objective is to “Reduce the amount of paper used by 10% in 2 years,” the _____ component would be a 10% reduction.

5. The statement, “We require weighing the amount of recycle waste each week,” is an example of an environmental _____.

Have a great day!

Important! You will receive an "error" message unless all questions are answered.