Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Types of Environmental Management Systems

Different types of EMS

It is important to decide what level of EMS is appropriate for your business; there are three main options:

  • In-house - develop a bespoke system that works for your business based on your own priorities and resources
  • Follow Best Practice - Using international standards and guidelines will ensure you consider all the important elements of an EMS. If you follow a standard such as ISO 14001 or BS8555 you then have the option to get it certified, but this decision is entirely up to you.
  • Certification - Obtaining certification to a recognised standard can increase the credibility of your EMS as well as ensuring commitment from staff and management. This can help to drive improvements. You get certification by having your Environmental Management System checked on a regular basis (usually annually) by an outside verifier. However, certification to a standard is a big commitment and can be costly for small organisations. You should consider it carefully before deciding to go for certification. Some organisations choose to produce an annual environmental, sustainability or CSR report instead, demonstrating their environmental commitment and improvements, and this can be verified by a third party. If you do go for certification there are different environmental standards that you can choose from. BS 8555 has been developed with SMEs in mind, where the standard can be achieved over a longer timeframe where staff time for an EMS is more restricted.

Overview of Certification and standards for EMS

There are a number of environmental standards to which you can be certified:

BS 8555 (useful for SMEs)

BS 8555 is a British standard that provides guidance for implementing an EMS on a phase-by-phase basis. It can be a good way of working towards either ISO 14001 or the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS). You can gain independent recognition for your efforts to follow BS 8555 by using one of the following UKAS accredited schemes:


The Green Ticks scheme, run by Bright Green Business

GBP: Green Ticks scheme


ISO 14001

ISO 14001 is the internationally recognised standard for environmental management systems. Holding ISO 14001 can provide customers and suppliers with a respected assurance that you are managing your environmental responsibilities.

International Organisation for Standardisation: ISO 14001


EMAS is a voluntary European scheme that provides external recognition for businesses that prove that they go further than just meeting regulatory requirements for environmental issues. To gain EMAS verification you must be able to prove that you have identified and are working with all relevant legislation and have systems in place to do so on an ongoing basis. You also have to prove that your system meets the ISO 14001 standard. It is possible to gain and maintain both ISO 14001 certification and EMAS verification at the same time.

Europa: EMAS

Certification bodies

Make sure you use an EMS certification body approved by the United Kingdom Accreditation Services (UKAS). Using a UKAS accredited certification body will ensure that your customers fully recognise your certification.

UKAS: Accredited bodies

Certification for standards such as ISO 14001 is typically 3 years, after which time you will need to be externally audited again to maintain your certificate.

Back to Environmental Management Systems home page

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