Sustainability Management System (SMS)
Management systems are essential to achieve consistent and desired results over time.
A Sustainability Management System (SMS) is a set of management processes and procedures that enable an organization to continuously improve its environmental, economic and social sustainability performance. An SMS follows the established Plan-Do-Check-Act management system cycle for continual improvement.
PLAN – Establish baselines, identify potential and actual sustainability impacts, establish goals and targets.
DO – Implement action plans to achieve the goals.
CHECK – Check and record progress, take preventive and corrective action as needed.
ACT – Evaluate overall progress and systems, act to make changes to the SMS as needed.
Basic Elements of an SMS:
- Sustainability Policy
- Identified actual and potential impacts to environmental, economic and social sustainability
- Identified legal and other requirements
- Sustainability objectives and targets
- Programs and procedures to meet these objectives and targets
- Roles and responsibilities
- Training program so that each employee can satisfy their role for sustainability
- Documentation system to support the SMS
- Communication plan to support the SMS
- Ongoing monitoring and measurement of progress
- Assess the SMS and overall progress, and make improvements
EMS, SMS and ISO
The most commonly used framework for an environmental management system (EMS) is the ISO 14001 standard, developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). A sustainability management system (SMS) typically follows the same structure, but is expanded to include economic and social aspects as well as environmental aspects. ISO also offers a standard for a quality management system, ISO 9001. An organization that has one of these management systems in place already is well positioned to add the other. Some organizations choose to become officially certified by an outside organization as conforming to one or both of these standards.
Schools and Sustainability Management Systems (SMS)
It’s now common for businesses, governments and universities to have sustainability management systems. Only recently are they starting to be developed by some K-12 schools and districts.
An SMS offers benefits for schools and districts including:
- Enables everybody to understand their role in educating students for a sustainable future, and to more effectively do so.
- Moves the effort from single sustainability initiatives to an integrated, long-term approach
- Provides a framework for moving towards sustainability, with supporting metrics to track progress across the organization
- Provides ongoing evaluation of practices, procedures, and processes.
- Uncovers opportunities to reduce costs and waste
- Leads to healthier indoor and outdoor environments, reducing risk
- Enables better internal and external communication about achievements
- Makes sustainability performance an organizational effort
- Positioned as a sustainability leader with a well-recognized management system, and able to brag about progress.
We have created a model Sustainability Management System (SMS) for schools and districts that is derived from ISO 14001. It is adapted for schools/districts and broadened to include all aspects of sustainability. Contact us if you’d like to learn more about it.
School District SMS Examples
There are now several districts around the U.S. which have Sustainability or Environmental Management Systems in place. Some of them follow the ISO 14001 structure.
Colorado: Academy School District
Colorado: Boulder Valley School District
Colorado: Poudre School District
Massachusetts: Waltham Public Schools
North Carolina: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools
Virginia: Albemarle County Public Schools
Virginia: Augusta County Public Schools, some departments