Environmental management system

Last changed: 15 April 2019

The two main aims when establishing an environmental management system is to ensure that all environmental legislation and other environmental regulations are followed and that the operation constantly improves in order to reduce its environmental impact.

According to the Ordinance on Environmental Management in Government Agencies (SFS 2009:907), SLU must work in accordance with an established environmental management system. Our environmental management system follows the standard ISO 14001:2004/ISO 14001:2015 and looks like the figure below.

Organisation and responsibility

In order for an organisation to meet the ISO 14001 requirements, it must establish, document, implement, maintain and continually improve its environmental management system. As a first step, it is important to define roles, areas of responsibility and authority in the organisational structure. This is done in order to create channels to ensure the environmental management system's function.

Environmental review

The aim of the environmental review is to identify environmental impact causes – environmental aspects – in the institution's operations, what their effect is and to what extent the institution can reduce its negative environmental impact and increase its positive impact. All the environmental impact causes relating to the operation are listed and estimated in an environmental investigation concerning both direct and indirect environmental impact. Direct environmental impact can for example be emissions or resource consumption. Indirect impact can be to increase the decision-makers' knowledge, leading to more environmentally sound decisions.

Environmental policy

The aim of the environmental policy is to express the management's will and ambition to reduce the operation's environmental impact. The environmental policy is the basis for the environmental objectives. In accordance with the ISO 14001 standard, the policy must for example contain a commitment to continuously improve and comply with applicable laws and other requirements that affect the operation. Read SLU's environmental policy.

Environmental objectives and action plan

The aim of creating environmental objectives is to improve the operation in a way that reduces its environmental impact. The aim of establishing action plans for the environmental objectives is to show, in a concrete way, how to meet the objectives and how to check that they are realised.

The significant environmental aspects and the operation’s environmental policy make up the primary basis for the environmental objectives. The significant environmental objectives primarily comprise the prioritised environmental aspects, but you can also establish objectives for things that are easy to take care of and things that are symbolically important to employees or external stakeholders.

A number of long-term, comprehensive objectives are formulated and within their scope, environmental targets are set. The environmental targets must be quantifiable and range over a set period of time. An action plan is established for each environmental target. It clearly states which activities will be carried out in order to meet the objective within the given time period. The activities specify what will be done, when and by whom, as well as key performance indicators and checking methods.


The aim of having procedures is to prevent and reduce environmental impact by documenting best practice. The aim is also to ensure that laws and other requirements are complied with.

The instructions concern activities which may have an environmental impact. Procedure examples:

  • Administrative work
  • Lunch rooms
  • Travel
  • Field work
  • Purchasing and procurement
  • Chemicals management
  • Education and research
  • Waste management
  • Emergency preparedness

Internal and external audits are performed to check if the instructions work well and are complied with. During an audit, an auditor can for example interview employees to see if they are following procedures.

Emergency preparedness

The aim is to identify potential environmental impact risks in the case of accidents and to ensure that all employees know how to act during an accident to minimise environmental impact.

An environmental risk inventory is conducted to identify environmental impact risks during accidents. Procedures for how to act during accidents in order to reduce environmental impact are established and practiced. Emergency preparedness training is carried out with the employees.


The aim of communication is to have channels for informing employees, management and external stakeholders about what is happening within environment work and to receive feedback. It is therefore important to outline what needs to be communicated, who will be communicating and how to do it.

Environmental management system communication includes all internal and external environmental communication. Internal environmental communication comprises information between different levels and functions within the organisation.

External environmental communication comprises summarised information on our environmental management work to external interested parties. There should also be procedures in place for receiving and documenting the views of external interested parties and their questions. Read more under Continual improvement- non-conformities and improvement proposals.


To ensure that everyone has the necessary competence, training plans are established. This is done to ensure that all affected employees receive suitable environmental training adapted to their specific task in order for the environmental work to be integrated and firmly established in regular activities.

New employees, contractors and consultants should receive information on the environmental management system when taking up their appointment.

Follow-up, monitoring and measuring

The environmental management work is checked to ensure that all environmental objectives, significant environmental aspects, compliance with laws and other obligations as well as training and operational procedures are followed up. This is in accordance with the ISO standard 14001:2004/14001:2015.

Checking is also done to ensure that all reported nonconformities and improvement proposals have been noted, nonconformities taken care of and improvement proposals addressed.

The significant environmental aspects and environmental targets are monitored and checked continuously. Objectives and actions are adjusted to check that the objectives are met.

Management review

There are two types of environmental audit:

  • Internal audit
  • External audit

Internal audit

The aim of an internal audit is to check the compliance of laws and other obligations, to check the operational objectives, assess if the environmental management system is implemented, operated and maintained properly, provide input on how to continuously improve the operation and assess whether the environmental management system meets the requirements in the ISO 14001 standard. To ensure that the whole system is revised, spot checks are carried out in all parts of the operation.


Internal audits are conducted at least once a year. Audits are conducted by reviewing documents, visiting work places and conducting interviews. The internal auditor must have knowledge of environment work and audit techniques. Internal audits can be conducted by persons within the operation or by a consultant. Two similar operations that have access to employees who have environmental audit training can conduct an audit in each other's operation.

The audit results are documented in an audit report. After the audit, any nonconformities in the operation and the environmental management system's documents are attended to. The corrective action results are checked at future audits.

External audit

During external audits, an auditor from an independent certification body reviews the environmental management system. If the operation meets the ISO 14001 standard requirements, the operation is certified. External audits are conducted in a similar way to internal audits. 

Nonconformities and improvement proposals

Nonconformities and improvement proposals are important in order to identify what does not work or what can be improved within the operation to fulfil the continual improvement requirement in ISO 14001.

Noncconformities are requirements that have not been fulfilled. This applies to requirements at all levels within the operation, i.e. instructions, objectives and policy. For example, a noncconformity can be that an instruction is not followed or that employees do not work according to an adopted policy.

Noncconformities must always be addressed, and procedures must be checked in order to avoid similar events in the future. Improvement proposals do not result in absolute action requirements, but they are very important in order to fulfill the continual improvement requirement.

Page editor: miljo@slu.se