Undertaking an Environmental Review
2. The process of Environmental Review
1.1 Who is this guidance note aimed at?
Local authorities who are committed to implementing an environmental management system
(EMS). Environmental coordinators who are tasked with setting up an EMS and who need to
undertake a successful review.
1.2 What is an environmental review?
A review may be defined as:
"....... an initial comprehensive analysis of the environmental issues,
impacts and performance related to activities relating to an operational unit". (1)
The purpose is therefore to provide information on the current situation of the
authority with respect to environmental issues. The information generated will then form
the foundation for the Policy, Programme and Management System. In essence, the review is
a baseline survey and an opportunity for an authority to answer the questions "What
does environment mean for us?" and "What significant issues are we going to
manage within our EMAS?".
The following flow diagram identifies the steps involved in undertaking the
The Environmental Review
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2. The Process of Environmental Review
Each of the steps identified in the flow-chart is discussed in more detail below.
2.1 Corporate commitment
Gaining commitment from senior management is perhaps the most critical element of
undertaking a successful review. Without this commitment it may not be
possible to develop an integrated and sustainable process.
|Issues and Considerations:
How are you going to gain committment?
- Could you use the existence of an environmental policy to demonstrate the need for a
review and EMS?
- How will you use oral and written reports, briefing documents or training to convince
chief officers, members, line managers and staff ?
- Which of the benefits of doing a review/implementing an EMS are you going to use to gain
commitment e.g. financial savings, complying with legislation, etc?
- How are you going to avoid the unnecessary use of jargon?
- What is the formal process for gaining commitment e.g. coordinator
-departmental/corporate management team -committee? How long will this take? Which is the
appropriate committee, and what is their reporting cycle?
(ii) Whose commitment will you need?
- Do you need departmental or corporate management team commitment?
- Do you need member commitment?
- Do you need the commitment of other key staff e.g. energy manager?
(iii) Do you have any LA-EMAS
- Are these members, chief officers other line management or staff ?
- How influential and motivated are your champions?
- How will you use your champions to the greatest effect?
Benefits of gaining corporate commitment
- Early opportunity to raise the awareness of members, chief officers, etc. of the
requirements of an EMS and the importance of the review.
- Provides a platform for existing departmental initiatives to be integrated into a
- Allows the coordinator to identify allies and the support network which will be
essential in implementing an EMS.
- Helps identify to all concerned the corporate nature of an EMS.
- Competing management priorities e.g. Local Management of Schools, Local Government
Review, Quality, Health and Safety, etc.
- Political and management reluctance to release resources for the implementation of an
- LA-EMAS jargon - user unfriendly?
- Time in preparing committee reports, briefing documents and presentations.
2.2 Planning and responsibility
Before undertaking the review it is extremely important to plan the process and to
assess what the exercise is meant to achieve. The pace and style of the review will be
influenced by the level of commitment from chief officers and members, the presence of
existing management systems (e.g. business planning), the existence of an environmental
coordinator and, to some degree, the size of your authority. These factors combined
provide the background framework to planning your review.
|Issues and Considerations
(i) Who should be responsible for planning
- Environmental coordinator or corporate working group or other group, e.g.departmental
management team or members group? Will this be in consultation with the managers and the
- How much time will be needed to produce an acceptable review plan?
- Who will have to approve the plan?
- What is the size of your authority?
(ii) Unit, departmental or corporate approach?
- How is the authority arranged, e.g. directorates, departments, business units etc?
- Is there a full time coordinator and/or working group?
- Could you start by reviewing a "friendly" pilot unit?
- Do you have the commitment and resources to tackle a departmental or corporate review?
Which departments etc. will you start with?
- Could an issue which already has support, or for which information already exists be
tackled first, e.g. energy?
(iii) Who will carry out the review - in-house
staff or consultants?
- Is there enough in-house expertise (quality)?
- Do you have enough staff resources (quantity) to be able to undertake a review
- Do you have adequate resources to be able to purchase external expertise?
- How might you use consultants - will they be the "doers", facilitators or
- Which consultants might you use? Do they have a proven local authority track record?
- How will you manage the consultants? Who will be responsible for writing the
specification and monitoring progress? What advice is available from the Euro LA-EMAS UK
- What will be the deliverable product - review report (see 2.7)?
(iv) What tools will you use in undertaking a
- Adaption of existing worksheets or methodologies? (see 2.4-2.6)
- Interviews, checklists, brainstorming, etc?
(v) How does the review link into existing
environmental initiatives e.g. State of the Environment report?
- What other environmental initiatives are being, or have been undertaken? Who is
responsible for these? How successful are they?
- How can existing structures such as working groups be used?
- How will you ensure that resources are used efficiently, and that the review becomes
part of day to day service delivery?
Benefits of planning
- Ensures the effective and efficient use of limited resources.
- Allows you to clearly identify the scope of the review and the milestones by which
progress will be measured.
- The preparation of a clear "project" plan will provide a legitimacy for the
- Allows the units involved in the review to plan and agree their resource commitments.
- Helps turn commitment into action.
- Encourages staff involvement and ownership of their bit of the review.
- Lack of information
- Variable commitment of managers and/or departmentalism.
- The planning process may be perceived to be too difficult or unnecessary.
- Failure to comprehend the process and scope of the review.
- Between 3 and 7 days of staff time will be needed to adequately plan a corporate
2.3 Education and training
To ensure that the review plan is turned into action it will be necessary to provide a
range of skills and expertise.
|Issues and Considerations
(i) Training or awareness raising?
- Not everyone within the authority will need to be trained to do an environmental review,
but everyone will need to be aware of what it is aiming to achieve. How will the necessary
awareness be raised e.g. seminars, newsletters, notice boards etc.?
(ii) Who will you train in the review methodology?
- Who is to be involved in undertaking the review - environmental coordinator, corporate
working group, line managers or other key members of staff?
- It may be useful to have key members go through the training process to ensure that they
understand and support the review. Particularly important when the review report and
programme is submitted to committee for endorsement. Members may also like to undertake a
review of their committees and will therefore need to be adequately trained.
(iii) How will people be trained?
- What format will you use: 1 day training course; 2 half day training courses; "on
the job" training; lunch time seminars? How much time will be allowed for training?
- When will training take place - two months before the start of the review or the week
before? Training courses run too far in advance of the start of the review may lead to
people forgetting the aims, content and details.
- People will need to understand how to undertake a scoping review, assess significance,
undertake a detailed review and present their findings. They will also need to understand
the importance of the review for an EMS and the timescales within which they must operate
(decided in the planning stage - 3.2).
- Timing - has environmental training been budgeted for this year? If not, will this delay
the review? Who is responsible for allocating training resources?
(iv) Who will do the training?
- Will the training be done by in-house staff or by external trainers ?
- Is the environmental coordinator a trained trainer? Are your in-house trainers trained
in environmental issues? Will you need to combine the skills of both? Can the
environmental coordinator and/or in-house trainers develop a review course which can be
cascaded throughout the authority?
- If external consultants are used, what will they be asked to do? Who will ensure that
this meets your requirements?
- Who will pay for the development of a training course? Who will pay for the delivery of
training? Will it come out of a corporate fund or be paid for by departments or business
Benefits of training
- Raises staff awareness.
- Increases the skills base.
- Puts the importance of the review into the context of the wider EMS.
- Encourages a more pro-active approach to environmental management.
- Cost - human and financial resources will need to be made available.
- Training at the wrong time.
- Identifying who will pay for the development and delivery of training.
- Lack of in-house environmental and training expertise.
- Cost of external trainers will (for both development and delivery).
- Time away from the workplace for people being trained.
2.4 Scoping Review (screening)
The scoping, or screening, stage of the review provides the opportunity to examine the
activities of an authority and the associated direct and service effects, identifying the
significant effects which will need to be managed by the EMS. The issue of
Environmental Effects Evaluation and the assigning of significance is the subject of
support material available on this website and would usefully be referred to (For further
information see "Environmental
Effects Evaluation (EEE): at the Heart of the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme for
Local Government (Euro LA-EMAS)".
This section focuses on the management of a scoping review.
|Issues and Considerations
Will you start with Direct or Service effects, or both?
- Direct effects are tangible issues and data should be available in a quantified form.
Due to the corporate nature of direct effects it may be easier to start reviewing these
first, for example, using an existing/new corporate working group.
- It can be assumed that the use of energy, water and transport, purchasing of goods and
services and the production of wastes and pollution, associated with the activities of an
authority, are significant direct effects. What is the right organisational level to
examine these issues -corporate or unit? Direct effects may be insignificant at the unit
level, but significant when all units aggregate as the corporate whole, e.g. energy.
- Could you use the experience gained from the review of direct effects to support a
subsequent review of service effects?
- How will you avoid the confusion created by segregating direct and service effects? Is
this segregation necessary for your authority?
(ii) What tools will be used?
- Will you use the worksheets available from the Euro-Emas Library or
will you need to adapt these? How will this be done to allow the individual more
flexibility in the length and content of their response? Could IT approaches be developed
to avoid unnecessary paper generation? Do you have an IT officer who can help in the
development of such materials? Should the IT officer sit on the Corporate Working Group to
identify where and how software could be developed?
- Are worksheets the most effective way to gather the information required? Are
brainstorming sessions or face to face interviews likely to be more effective?
- Will it be necessary to provide a simple, user-friendly version and glossary of the
jargon used in the LA-EMAS worksheets? Are these currently only understandable by the
- If you are going to use worksheets, will a summary sheet covering the aims, objectives
and methodology of the review be required? If not, will this information already have been
provided by a training course?(see 3.3)
- How appropriate is it to send out worksheets stapled to a memo? Will this create
ownership of the review, and will the results be consistent? How much support will you
need to provide to the people completing worksheets?
(iii) What is an activity?
- In undertaking a review of Service effects it is necessary to break an authorities'
service delivery down into individual activities. How will this be achieved? It may be
possible to use the activity breakdowns within existing business or service delivery
Benefits of the scoping review
- Starts the practical process of the review.
- Improves the skill base of those staff/members involved.
- Using interviews can allow the coordinator to introduce themselves, the review and idea
of an EMS in a non-threatening way.
- Focuses on significant effects, and therefore allows priorities to be identified.
- Encourages staff involvement and ownership of the review and their significant
- Should allow the identification of easy financial savings which can be used to gain
further commitment and build momentum.
- Releasing staff time to undertake review.
- Lack of quantified information or data in a format which is readily useable.
- Lack of consistency due to different interpretations of jargon resulting in confusion
and a loss of staff confidence.
- Time involved in organising and conducting interviews.
- The impersonal image of worksheets stapled to memos.
- 5-10 people days (i.e. 10 people for half-day brainstorming plus follow-up, report
production, etc) to carry out a scoping review of the direct effects of an authority.
- 1-5 people days per operational unit* (i.e. manager of section, coordinator and other
key staff plus follow-up, report production, etc) (* in this case an operational unit is
taken to be a team/group e.g. development control or environmental protection unit).
2.5 Review of existing management arrangements
During the review process, consideration needs to be given to the existing management
structures and systems. Examining these will allow the identification of the structures
and systems into which the EMS can eventually be integrated.
|Issues and Considerations
(i) Can your EMS be integrated into existing management
structures, or will you need to create new ones?
- Do you have a corporate strategy or a series of thematic policies, e.g. environment,
economic development, IT or Equal Opportunities? Are these turned into action through
business or service delivery planning? Is there a well established performance monitoring
system -with feedback to business and strategic plans?
- How often are strategies, thematic policies or business plans reviewed? If you have well
established management systems, the review can be seen as the exercise which produces the
"environmental specification" which will be managed by the EMS.
- Does the corporate working group have the necessary management awareness? Could the
review of existing management systems be tasked to the Chief Officers Management Team or
(ii) Is there a corporate working group with
responsibility for the Review and eventually EMS implementation?
- Is there an existing corporate working group that can take on more specific
responsibility for the Review process? Is this an environmental group, an officer and
member working group, or perhaps a sub committee?
- If no group exists, or it is not possible or appropriate to link the review and EMS into
an existing group, how will you set up a new corporate working group? Will it have a
finite life? How often will the need for such a group be reviewed?
- Will you need chief officer or member agreement to set it up? How long will it take to
gain this formal agreement? Can you start a corporate working group in anticipation of
this agreement in order to maintain momentum of the review?
- How often will this group meet? Will this group always meet together, or will there be
sub groups examining more specialist areas?
(iii) Who will be included in a corporate working
- Will members sit on this group, or will they be kept informed through briefing reports?
- Will senior managers sit on this group? Do you need a Director to chair the group as a
seal of approval for the process?
- Will you include departmental representatives (if such exist)? Do these departmental
representatives include both the key staff responsible for environmental activities (e.g.
energy officer, pollution control officer), and/or those who have a personal interest and
commitment to the process? (These may be the same people).
- How will you ensure enthusiasm and momentum are maintained? Will you need to establish a
formal plan with clear milestones (see 2.2).
(iv) How can existing communication systems be used
to disseminate information?
- How will you ensure that information generated by the working group is disseminated both
to the management and to wider staff ? Will you use formal reports, regular newsletters to
staff, or a mixture?
Benefits of examining existing management systems
- Examining existing management systems early should help to identify the best ways in
which to integrate the EMS. Only in this way will it be possible to keep LA-EMAS
implementation simple and effective.
- A working group should allow a corporate forum for open discussion and provide the
strategic management necessary for the Review process.
- A corporate working group will allow for free flow of information, both of baseline data
into the review, and the dissemination of recommendations out.
- The lack of well established corporate management, business planning and/or performance
- Implementing an EMS may be seen as creating a new layer of management.
- The culture of the organisation may not support members, chief officers and staff
meeting within the same open discussion forum.
- Establishing a new working group may meet resistance if it is perceived as 'yet another
meeting' or 'corporate group'.
- The review of existing management systems would take between 1-5 days of officer time,
(e.g. 10 senior officers involved in a half-day brain storming and follow up).
- Monthly/six weekly meeting of the corporate working group. This will involve 2-4 hours
of possibly as many as 8-15 staff at each meeting.
2.6 Detailed Review
The detailed review examines the effects designated as significant during the scoping
review. It may also be appropriate to consider detailed reviews as "further
analysis" actions to be included in the environmental programme.
How are you going to prevent the detailed review turning into and/or being perceived as a
intensive data gathering exercise?
- Have you clearly identified the information you will need to make recommendations for a
future programme? Who will identify this information - the corporate working group? Can
you justify the need for each piece of information? Do you know who "owns" or
holds the information?
- Will you clearly articulate your information needs as part of the planning process (see
3.2)? Will you need to gain commitment/endorsement from Chief Officers, etc for the
information you wish to gather?
- Will data gathering need to be phased? Which issues will you start with, direct or
(ii) Are there any information gaps?
- Is information available in a readily accessible form? If not, will you need to
establish new data gathering systems and procedures (e.g. recording essential user
mileage, not just the value of allowances paid out?)
- Check with departmental officers and managers to ensure the existence of information
(e.g. internal car mileage claims should be available from the payroll section).
(iii) What tools will you use to undertake a
- Will worksheets simply be sent to staff in isolation, e.g. without any training (see
2.3)? Will this give you the quality and consistency of response you need for an effective
- Will you give an estimated time allowance (and cut off point) for data collection for
each significant effect?
(iv) Where will you find the information?
- Is data on significant service effects available in the State of the Environment or
sustainability indicators report?
- Is detailed information on direct effects already gathered by the financial services
Benefits of the detailed review
- Establishes the baseline environmental performance for the authority.
- Identifies the environmental effects which will need to be managed by the EMS, i.e.
creates the "customer specification" for environment.
- Resources are focused on priority or significant issues.
- Data gaps can be clearly identified.
- The need to establish new data gathering systems can be clearly identified.
- The detailed review could become a bureaucratic technical data gathering exercise.
- This stage is a resource (particularly time) intensive activity which delivers no
tangible benefit other than recommendations for action and raised awareness.
- It may be difficult to quantify service effects.
- Absence of information or data in an inaccessible format.
- 2-10 people (i.e. co-ordinator, manager and other staff for a half-day brain storming
and follow up) days per operational unit* for a detailed review of service effects.
- 15-50 people days to undertake a detailed review of direct effects of an authority. (*
in this case an operational unit is taken to be a team/group, e.g. development control or
environmental protection unit.)
The report shows the findings of the environmental review and acts as the basis for the
Programme. It includes areas of strengths and weakness within the environmental
performance of the authority.
|Issues and Considerations
Who should write the report?
- Will the environmental coordinator or environmental working group write the report?
(ii) Who should the report go to?
- Will the full report be submitted to the corporate working group for approval prior to
- How will the report be reported to a senior management/Directors' meeting?
- If the report needs to go to members for approval, which committee is most appropriate:
environment committee, full council, or all of these? Which officer will speak for the
report? H Will the report be made publicly available? If so, have you identified any
liabilities which could embarrass the authority if reported in the public domain? Should
your solicitor or legal services unit examine your report before it is made public?
(iii) In what format should the report be
- Is a different presentation format required for each audience? (e.g. members, senior
officers and the corporate working group)
- How long should the full report be? How are you going to keep it simple?
- Will there be a summary report of the main findings?
- Will this report be the first introduction to LA-EMAS for members? In which case, will a
presentation to support the report be required?
- Will the main findings of the report be communicated to staff, through newsletters,
- How will you ensure that the report is not too negative? What is the correct balance
between existing strengths and the new weaknesses identified?
(iv) How is the report best used as a tool to
progress to the Programme?
- Will the full report be used with senior managers as a tool to ensure formal (not just
verbal) commitment is maintained for the Programme?
- Can the report be used as a stimulus for the formation of more permanent environmental
working groups to progress the EMS?
- Is this report being used to bring LA-EMAS into the corporate arena?
Benefits of the Review Report
- The report highlights strengths and weaknesses. This may be the first time that
corporate environmental performance has been drawn together and may represent a "good
- The report provides the framework to give LA-EMAS a more corporate remit, if this is not
already the case.
- The report provides a tangible tool with which to gain the support and commitment of
members for the development of a programme of action.
- Gaining endorsement for the report within the various committee cycles may take a long
time which could stall the implementation of LA-EMAS.
- The report may identify many recommendations for the Programme. This could seem daunting
unless priorities are identified.
- The report could make it seem that "environment has been done" when it is
really the starting point for action.
- 3-5 days to write up the comprehensive report of the review.
- 15-30 minute presentations to committees as required.
- Publishing costs of the report (variable depending on the length, quality, etc. of the
document). This may also include costs for the summary report and newsletter to staff.
It may be advantageous, in terms of gaining support and maintaining momentum, to jump
straight from the Scoping Review to the Programme via an interim report. Thus the
data gathering associated with the detailed review becomes "Further Analysis"
activities within the programme.
A separate guidance note entitled "Developing an Environmental
Programme" is available on this web-site.
Undertaking an environmental review will involve;
- Gaining corporate commitment.
- Planning and assigning responsibility.
- Training and education.
- A scoping review.
- A review of existing management arrangements.
- A detailed review (or "further analysis activities in a programme).
- Producing a review report leading to the development of an environmental programme.
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(1) Department of Environment, UK, Circular 2/95(2), Article 2(b).
(2) LGMB. (1995). Undertaking an Environmental Review (Version 1-12/95), UK
(3) LGMB. (1996). Environmental Effects Evaluation in Local Government, UK