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Environmental Management Systems

USDA is committed to environmental sustainability by developing and implementing environmental management systems (EMS). Such systems incorporate the environmental impacts of USDA activities into day-to-day decision-making and long-term planning processes, across all Departmental and agency missions, activities, and functions. EMS represents the main management framework for achieving the sustainable practices goals of Executive Order (E.O.) 13693 ”Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade “.  The EMS is a framework that links existing and new organizational responsibilities, programs, and activities. The EMS model of “Plan, Do, Check, Act” provides rigor to existing operations and programs to ensure continual improvement.

Responsibilities include supporting USDA agencies in their efforts to:

  • Develop and implement EMS at appropriate organizational levels throughout USDA
  • Incorporate the sustainable practices goals of E.O. 13693 into USDA EMS
  • Implement environmental compliance plans as an integral part of EMS
  • Implement environmental compliance review and audit programs that identify compliance needs and possible root causes of non-compliance, including if needed, compliance corrections
  • Reduce the release and use of hazardous chemicals and materials, including toxic chemicals, hazardous substances, ozone-depleting substances, and other pollutants that may result in significant harm to human health or the environment.

When properly implemented, a management system enables an organization to clearly identify and establish goals, develop and implement plans to determine measurable progress towards the goals, and make improvements to ensure continual improvement. The EMS does not replace or overtake existing programs that support sustainable practices related to environmental, transportation, or energy related activities, but contribute to and enhance the EMS. For example, leadership, management, and operations addressing specific program needs can remain in place and become part of the EMS. The EMS now recognizes that program as one contributing towards meeting the organizational goals and as a source of information for overall reporting.
The true benefit of the EMS is the linkage of existing or new programs to the organization’s  goals for environmental and energy  found in E.O. 13693 to reducing the organization’s environmental footprint while meeting legal and other requirements. The EMS ensures linkage of efforts concerning training, monitoring and measurement, and reporting. The EMS ensures that senior management play an active role in evaluating the status, progress, and decisions made towards the commitment of continual improvement.
Utilizing an EMS approach helps maintain USDA as a dynamic organization in protecting and enhancing the Nation’s resource base and environment.