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Centre for Development, Environment and Policy (CeDEP)

Environmental Auditing and Environmental Management Systems

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This module is intended to provide a broad understanding of environmental auditing and environmental management systems (EMSs), including an understanding of the increasing importance of corporate social responsibility and the use of standards for environmental management by companies. The legal and procedural context is focused especially on the European Union and UK context, but international standards and benchmarks are also referred to throughout, such as those established by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) or international labelling. Comparative analysis of other contexts is broadened to cover developing country examples and other international perspectives.

Throughout the module a set of case studies is used to illustrate various aspects of the environmental auditing and environmental management systems in different contexts. These are developed as the module proceeds through the units, but can also be reviewed, for example, for revision, as stand-alone case studies.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

After completing this module students should be able to:

  • define environmental auditing and describe the main components of the environmental auditing process
  • identify methods for auditing specific environmental issues associated with the activities of an organisation and product/service
  • describe the main components of an environmental management system
  • understand key principles underpinning a range of environmental management tools and techniques
  • assess critically the use and application of environmental auditing and management tools.

Scope and syllabus

The module is divided into four parts, beginning with an introduction to auditing and the legal context within which organisations must operate and why they need to undertake environmental auditing. A distinction is then made between corporate auditing (of organisations) and product auditing (products and services) where the latter includes a wide range of assessment tools such as lifecycle assessment and ‘footprinting’ tools. The final part is concerned with ‘standards’ particularly those relating to international environmental management system (EMS) standards, such as ISO 14001 and the EU eco-management and audit scheme (EMAS), and developments beyond the environment to incorporate wider sustainability issues under corporate social responsibility (CSR) and environmental and social reporting by organisations. Throughout the module reference is made to a series of case studies focused on different sectors, some particularly relevant to certain units rather than others, but links are provided through specific activities within the units. You can of course review the case studies on their own, outside the specific unit links, which is particularly useful when revising and integrating the material across the units. Other examples are used throughout as well.

Priority topics are environmental auditing, corporate auditing, product auditing and understanding the role of standards for environmental assessment and environmental management systems.

Unit 1 Introduction to Environmental Auditing and Environmental Management Systems
Unit 2 Types of Environmental Audit: the Legal Context    
Unit 3 Corporate Auditing: Procedures and Methods
Unit 4 Environmental Impacts and Performance
Unit 5 What to Audit: Emissions and Other Impacts
Unit 6 What to Audit: Resource Use and Waste Minimisation
Unit 7 Lifecycle Assessment
Unit 8 Sustainable Products and Services
Unit 9 Environmental Management System Standards (EMSSs)
Unit 10 Other ‘Standards’ and Reporting (CSR, GRI)

Module sample

P508 module uses a core text which is specially written and will take you through your self-directed study. Exercises, assignments and other activities, such as self-assessment questions, film clips and animations are included to help you with learning. Most module study guides are now provided in electronic format on a USB flash memory stick, but can also be downloaded from the online learning environment. Click the linked image below to view a sample of our e-study guide:

Suggested reading

  • Brady, J., Ebbage, A. & Lunn, R. (Eds.) (2011) Environmental Management in Organizations: The IEMA Handbook. 2nd edition. London, Earthscan.