Environmental Management Systems (EMS): A Case of Unilever


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Environmental Management Systems (EMS): A Case of Unilever

An Environmental Management Systems (EMS) is a cluster of procedures and practices that an organization can undertake to reduce environmental effects of its actions as well as ameliorate its operating efficiency. The process follows a systematic, comprehensive, and planned way including organizational structure, action plan, resource mobilization, maintenance and implementation of policies targeting environmental protection (English & Dale, 1999). EMS helps organizations to augment overall compliance and eliminate waste. Markedly, compliance is a process of attaining and sustaining or upholding minimal legal requirements in order to avoid facing government fines or eventual closure. Waste reduction, on the other hand, surpasses compliance aimed at reducing environmental impact. The program enables firms to design, implement, and coordinate key environmental policies, and eventually reduce waste through recycling (Feng, & Wang, 2014; Griffith, 2002). Notably, the whole dynamics of EMS take the approach of Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) shown below. EMS borders on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), as it ensures firms do not harm their clients and communities with they operate in.

Climate change has made different industries to apply approaches that aim at minimizing negative effects to the environment. A case example is evident in Australia where a National Waste Policy has it that Waste Management Association of Australia (WMAA) in conjunction with the relevant agency of the government has the responsibility of managing wastes in the nation. Among its tasks, the WMAA has the duty of ensuring all the waste management approaches in all subdivisions are supportable to help in keeping waste production at minimum levels as boosting the actual reuse of those materials couple of times. In 2001, Australia came up with the Product Stewardship for Oil Program (PSO), which fostered the aspects of a sustainable environment. PSO offered incentives to oil companies to help re-refine the used oil, rather than disposing them –  the move helped in encouraging sustainability (Product Stewardship for Oil Program (PSO), n.d.). Notably, the sustainability idea remains a critical subject of the 21st century given that countries are trying out varied strategies to help in reusing or recycling of wastes, as well as minimizing emissions of greenhouse gases. The sustainability concept aims at facilitating use of waste management procedures and methods that see into it that the present generation attain their objectives fully without depriving or starving the aims of the subsequent generation (Bremner, 2012). For example, if a sugarcane firm in Australia such as Bundaberg Sugar resolves to generate electricity from bagasse enough for its internal operations, energy consumption quantity is reduced tremendously, thus reducing reliance on fossil fuels.

In order to stay above competitors, business must develop structures for proper implementation of environmental management plans as well as develop audit reports showing compliance to environmental regulations relevant to host states. One of a global manufacturing firm is Unilever Inc. The Unilever Company manufactures multinational consumer provides including foods, beverages, as well as personal care products.

The Unilever Company has provided Household Bins in urban areas to ensure proper elimination of wastes from the environment. Markedly, most Unilever factories do not use landfills for waste disposals; they take away such wastes at the point of processing, thereby reducing environmental pollution. As a way of implementing its EMS, Unilever practices recycling and reusing of wastes as an approach of mitigating water, air, and soil pollution. Notably, landmarks have confirmed the friendly nature of Unilever factories to the setting. The recycling and reuse initiative has helped the company save over €60 million, as it does not commit on capital expenditure.

Moreover, the Unilever Group of Companies in a bid to keep up with the requirements of most governments went ahead to initiate the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, which targets on improvement of its constructive social effect to warrant their achievement of the sustainability target of 100%. More importantly, Unilever Sustainable Living Plan Helping to Drive Growth (2013) observes that the goal of the Unilever Company is to help in eradicating or solving water scarcity and untenable farming activities with an intention of augmenting overall supply of food. Unilever in September 2012 launched a soap in France to support the growth of tomatoes. The Unilever Sustainable Code highlights that tomatoes sustain development. Similarly, in West Africa, pastoralists have benefited as Unilever partnered in running different field schools, making the company receive full certification in the region.

By using the hygiene brand, the company has been able to launch programs that create awareness regarding sanitation by using toilet papers. At the same time, Unilever, joined the campaigns for the construction of public urinals in London. Markedly, the program has reached several individuals given that sanitation remains a common human right. The company has used the Sustainable Living Plan to ensure many people have access to toilet papers. The initiative has lowered deaths as well as diseases related to poor hygiene. Clearly, the whole aspect of environmental concern shows how businesses took a slight diversion from sole profit-making goals. Manifestly, Unilever Company is gearing towards surpassing its strategic targets in executing its EMS. On the business front, ecological footprint assists in supplementing sustainable development by enabling corporations to use environmentally friendly strategies. Businesses are able to set environmental benchmarks, initiate quantitative strengths, and evaluate different alternatives in order to minimize degrading the environmental resources. Ecological footprint analysis assists in identifying business options that will thrive in the present resource-constrained world. Therefore, this parameter can foresee the limited resources that businesses may require in the future such as energy.

The company has taken proactive measures to mitigate emissions in order to conserve energy. For instance, Unilever launched a reward scheme for employees who cycle of walk to work, dubbed alternative employee commuter options. The intention is to reduce the amount of CO2 that the company, together with its employees, emit in total into the atmosphere. Observably, this EMS program though seems quite insignificant as seen most employees leave their automobiles for given number of days in a week. At the same time, in a bid to keep up with the beyond compliance regulation, the company keeps encouraging customers and the communities they operate in to use natural sources of energy such as windmill and solar energy. Their reliance on the environment to run the services means or obligates them to take great responsibility in ensuring environmental sustainability. Even though taking such environmental measures require lots of financial muscles, the practice builds a firm’s image positively among customers, potential customers, as well as the general public. Moreover, Unilever offer training services to its staff on the effects of using their goods, thus giving them the opportunity to enlighten the local communities. Recycling and treatment of plastic remains before eventual release to the environment, as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) (n.d.) indicates, presents another vital program within the company’s EMS. The initiative reduces soil pollution as the plastics are nonbiodegradables.

In constructions, wastes that are produced must be prevented before they get into the environment. Construction, Demolition, as well as Land Clearing Debris (CDL), for instance, needs total prevention, recycling and reuse, or salvaging at the first phase. During demolitions, larger projects requiring the services of global firms, first identifies potential ways of preventing wastes, followed by salvageable, and, finally, reusable components (Fewings, 2013). According to Bahamon and Sanjines (2010), recycling of waste materials or eventual prevention helps reduce natural resource depletion by organizations, thus lowering greenhouse emissions as well as mitigating pollution as a result of lowered effluents or emissions from manufacturing segment.  The James Dolliver Building in Washington is a case example of minimising waste from the environment. The building restoration project was able to divert over 140,000 pounds of debris from landfills and recycled. When contractors identify potential sources of waste during the design stage, waste generation during actual construction is highly mitigated. Additionally, developers can ensure that they use the same size of materials as were in the old structure in order to increase the rates of reuse (Laquatra & Pierce, n.d.). During remodels in large construction projects, there are always wastes that come from the inflexible and inadaptable design spaces.

Lean construction as a productivity tool for improving flow method eliminates wastes and increases profits as well as meeting the needs of their clients (Lean Construction, 2013). In specifying all the requirements and responsibilities of workers, construction managers improve the usability of the available resources. Large construction projects using lean production process reduce misuse of resources as idleness of labour and resources are extremely minimised. Just as sigma six operates in a way of increasing visualisation, lean construction tool communicates essential information to employees at the work site using labels and signs (Ballard & Howel, 1998; Paramasevam, Hassan, & Mohamed, 2002). Moreover, the tool designs and integrates different phase schedules that are effective in enhancing safety and quality thus preventing destructive outcomes. This approach underscores the need for reliability in scheduling and delivery of high value products and services to respective clients. In Japan, the manufacturing industry, particularly Toyota, reported large amounts of success in 1990s using the lean production tool. The adoption of the tool in the construction industry uses the Last Planner System (LPS) in which promotion of all lean ideas is mandatory (Turner 1993). Since lean production eliminates wastes, non-value adding activities, and cut outs of the system, the flow production process will highly be transparent. An EMS inspires an entity to continuously improve its environmental performance (Daddi, Frey, Iraldo, & Nabil, 2011). The system follows a repeating cycle as in the figure 1 below.

An EMS can give a structure to medium-sized organizations and firms to oversee, evaluate, and consistently enhance the viability and productivity of the administration of their ecological exercises. An EMS approach consolidates occasional survey by top administration and stresses persistent change rather than emergency administration (FitzGerald, 1994; Lozano & Vallés, 2007). Unilever ought to comprehend fresh inventions on technology beckons in the future, and, as a result, it has to align itself with current tactics that will make it possible for them to serve the market base by that time. Alternatively, ethical theories note that there exist ethical values binding businesses and society together. Evidently, the ethical theorems do not take a profit-making angle of analysing business, instead they focus on care for the environment that is envisioned in the EMS of any organization. The profit-making facet has links with utilitarian theories, which generally focusses on the good of the internal environment without focussing on the effect on the external environment. Unilever should strive to balance profit making aspects and initiating its key EMS.

EMS is a program requiring participation of entities in all industries regardless of their locations and sizes. For example, a negative action on the environment affects entirely all organization even though they may be actors or not. That is, if a factory can emit wastes into the immediate surrounding, environmental pollution increases bulbously. Notably, such actions do not discriminate on their repercussions on the globe. Insofar as, it ought to be a strong policy of governments that all entities give out clear plans of environmental management before going into full operations. Inasmuch as Unilever has made attempts to reduce waste and protect the environment in order to be compliant with global governments’ regulations, it should initiate several programs that can be helpful in shielding the environment, for instance, use of renewable sources of energy to operate factory engines as does the Apple Corporation. Environmental sustainability plays an important role in ensuring sustainable productivity in both manufacturing and industrial sectors, hence must be monitored for beyond compliance.






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