Over the past decade an increasing number of companies and government institutions have implemented formal environmental management systems (EMS) as a process to effectively manage regulatory requirements and reduce pollution. There are a number of different EMS process approaches; however the ISO 14001 international voluntary standard introduced in 1996 has gained the greatest following. Currently, there are approximately 1,700 U.S. and 37,000 worldwide businesses and other facilities registered as conforming to the ISO 14001 standard.
This new approach to voluntary environmental protection has many supporters calling for the EPA to support a cooperative effort to assist firms with EMS interventions by offering a variety of incentives and resources. Advocates claim that the framework of an EMS provides opportunities for improved environmental performance and compliance. In addition, many proponents are convinced that a facility with an effective EMS will operate more predictably and yield environmental performance, while at the same time reduce the government's inspection and enforcement costs. Thus, it is argued, allowing the government to redirect scarce regulatory resources toward higher risk facilities.