To determine significant environmental aspects, start by thinking in the environmental impacts caused by each environmental aspect.
Why do you need to determine significant environmental aspects? Because resources are scarce, and you don’t have any chance of improving if you decide to act on all aspects. So, an efficient method for classifying aspects/impacts is a method that help you focus your attention and resources where they are more needed.
If you’re implementing an environmental management system you already have, or you will have an environmental policy. In that environmental policy your organization is committed to meeting compliance obligations (including legal requirements). So, a first step for determining significant environmental aspects and impacts is to check if compliance obligations are met:
If compliance obligations are not met, you have a problem! This is a priority for action, for improvement.
If there are no compliance obligations or if they are being met, you need to use other criteria to assess environmental impacts.
Frequently, organizations use as other criteria parameters like:
For each parameter you may have a classification range or scale like, for example:
Considering all the parameters with its own scales you apply a formula to get a score. The formula is up to you to decide how to apply, and what weight to each parameter.
From there you get:
STOP – means an environmental aspect/impact without compliance obligations and not significant. You can forget it until next evaluation.
B – means an environmental aspect/impact with compliance obligations that are being met and it is not considered significant. Just keep monitoring according to compliance obligations or system requirements.
C and D – means environmental aspect/impact with or without compliance obligations that are being met and it is considered significant. You have to decide which environmental aspects/impacts in these groups you want to improve.
Danger sign – means an environmental aspect/impact with compliance obligations that are not being met and it is considered significant. Action is mandatory.
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