An Environmental Management System (EMS) is a framework that helps an organization achieve its environmental goals and improve its environmental performance.
The Plan-Do-Check-Act model or PDCA cycle is also called the improvement cycle.
The PDCA cycle is a continuous loop of planning, doing, checking, and acting. It provides an approach for solving problems and managing change. Let us use an example: An organization wants to improve the quality of the wastewater discharged into a river to comply with its permit.
Plan – the organization has to study the present situation, has to study different alternatives to improve the wastewater quality, has to decide what to do and make a plan about how to do it.
Do – the organization has to implement the plan.
Check – the organization has to verify that the plan is being implemented and that results are being met.
Act – the organization has to act based on the conclusions of the Check phase. The decision may be to review the plan or to keep its implementation.
The same PDCA cycle can be applied to the top management level:
Plan - define a general orientation, an environmental policy and translate it into environmental objectives and a plan of action.
Do – implement the action plan.
Check – verify implementation progress and results
Act – decide to keep implementing the action plans or reviewing them.