Limitations to integrated environmental management systems: What you need to know

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Limitations to integrated environmental management systems: What you need to know

An Integrated Environmental Management System (IEMS) is a framework for managing environmental regulations, services, natural resources and environmental protection. It helps to identify and address the impacts of human activities on the environment through integrated management strategies that incorporate economic, social and ecological considerations. An IEMS can work in conjunction with quality management systems and WHS management systems.

While there are many benefits to using an integrated environmental management system, there are some limitations to consider, including technical barriers to implementation, costs, regulatory constraints, performance measurement and your personal business needs.

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Limitations of integrated environmental management systems (IEMS)

When done right, integrated management systems can remove administrative redundancies, ensure consistent management practices across different branches and departments, and deliver a better bottom line for your organisation. However, in some cases, separate management systems may work best. Here are some of the potential disadvantages of using integrated environmental management systems.

Technical barriers to implementation

  • Cost of developing and installing the system
  • Lack of expertise in areas such as database design, GIS mapping and risk assessment
  • Difficulty integrating disparate systems and software into a single platform

Regulatory constraints in adoption

  • Cumbersome and constantly changing laws and regulations
  • Lack of clarity around responsibility for implementation, monitoring and enforcement
  • Difficulty accessing data from different sources

Operational challenges in maintenance

  • Limited staff with the necessary expertise to install and maintain the system
  • Inadequate training for the personnel who will use the system
  • Lack of motivation and engagement from users who are resistant to change

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Difficulty in measuring performance

  • Limited Accessibility
  • Poor Collection and Analysis of Data
  • Difficulty Managing Performance
  • Insufficient Reporting Capabilities

Disparate needs across management systems

Your orgnanisation may have relatively simply quality and safety management needs, but complex environmental management requirements. By using an integrated system you may make your management procedures more complex than they necessarily need to be.

Current separate systems may already work well

If not handled properly, a transition to integrated management may interrupt the processes and procedures you currently have in place – and if those processes are working well, you may cause interruptions and difficulties for your team.

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Overcoming limitations with an IEMS

In 9 cases out of 10, the advantages of an integrated management system outweigh the limitations. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to offset the potential challenges associated with installing and managing an IEMS.

Evaluating the Cost-Effectiveness of an IEMS

Before adopting an IEMS, it’s important to conduct a thorough evaluation of the costs involved. An integrated management system may not necessarily be more cost-effective than using separate management systems depending on your particular needs. It’s important to remember that effective environmental management can reduce costs.

Team training

Investing in some professional training for your team can go a long way to improving your experience using an IEMS. An environmental management consultant can install management software and train your team in its use.

External expertise

Having your IEMS set up by a trained environmental management consultant will help ensure you’re ticking all the right boxes. They can make sure your organisation is meeting its environmental policies, minimising waste and gathering the right data.

Developing Comprehensive Strategies for Maintenance and Operation

Where a lot of integrated management systems fall down is when they’re not regularly maintained or when staff are inadequately trained in their operation. Putting in place strong maintenance and operational policies and procedures will help mitigate any potential difficulties.

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Establishing Metrics for Performance Measurement

By developing metrics for measuring your performance, you can overcome some of the complexities of using an IEMS. Figuring out what good management system performance looks like and establishing clear metrics and benchmarks for measuring it will help you evaluate performance and continually improve your environmental performance.

ISO 14001 Certification

ISO 14001 is the internationally agreed-upon standard for environmental management systems. Implementing an ISO 14001-compliant system will ensure it not only improves your organisation’s environmental management but also guarantees optimal performance of your management system.

Integrated Management System Software

Implementing integrated management system software can help overcome the potential limitations of an integrated management system. Purpose-built integrated management system software can pull together your separate management systems into one logical system. Your safety, quality, and environmental management systems can then be accessed from a single dashboard across your entire organisation.

Watch this short video for a demonstration of integrated management system software in action.


Implementation of an IEMS requires careful planning, strong commitment, and clear expectations for success. Integrated Environmental Management Systems (IEMS) offer many benefits but also present significant challenges that must be addressed for successful implementation and use.

Any new system has its limitations, you just need to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages before making the right decision for your business. Organisations must consider the cost, technical barriers, regulatory issues, human resource needs, and environmental factors when deciding whether or not to invest in an IEMS.

For advice on whether an integrated environmental management system will suit your organisation, contact one of our environmental consultants today.