The Plan, Do, Review principles of an effective environmental management system are well known (Figure 1) but need to be reiterated due their fundamental importance in achieving continual improvement.
Planning is key. If the planning phase is done properly most of the rest of it will fall into place. The principles of environmental planning are similar to financial planning. It involves determining what needs to be done and assessing and costing options. Resources are then prioritised and targets set in line with anticipated performance.
The second phase is implementing programmes to improve facilities, processes and operational control so that targets can be met.
The final stage is to review performance and commence the process again.
The continual improvement cycle described by Figure 1 simplifies what is in practice a dynamic process with Plan Do Review occurring at many levels.
The stepwise improvements resulting from the annual setting and achievement of performance targets are supplemented with an ongoing improvement programme based around the routine identification of improvement actions and their timely close-out.
Opportunities for improvement are identified from audit and inspection programmes, incident investigations, stakeholder engagement and monitoring programmes. Required actions are recorded in a centralized data-base and routinely reviewed to ensure effective and timely closeout. This process drives a steady and continuous improvement in performance. The setting of performance Standards and an effective action tracking system are both necessary.