Office of Environmental Quality

​Off​ice of E​nvironmental Quality

​Environ​​​​mental Management System​​​​

Going Beyond Compliance: Why the EMS is Revolutionary

From the point of view of an Environmental Management System, good is never good enough. The basic tenet of the EMS is straightforward: You can always do better. You can improve continuously. One innovation leads naturally to the next. And the next beyond that.

This is part of what makes the EMS so revolutionary—because, in the time before EMS, even the most progressive corporations and governments generally viewed compliance with environmental regulations as the ultimate goal, the gold standard, the pinnacle of stewardship.

Compliance means knowing the laws and not violating them; it is about meeting minimum standards.

Compliance does not mean doing the best job possible; it only means not breaking the laws. It's not bad, and certainly an improvement over accepted practices of the mid-20th century. But compared to the standards and goals of an Environmental Management System, the idea of compliance starts to feel a bit inadequate - so-so - mediocre, at best.

There is no end to the cycle of continuous improvement fostered by an EMS. By definition, this continuous improvement pushes environmental policies and practices routinely beyond minimum requirements and standards. The ethic of continuous improvement is part of what makes the EMS a revolutionary tool for private enterprise as well as for the public sector.