An Analysis of Environmental Management System Development and Implementation in the United States Federal Government

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title

Repository Usage Stats



Environmental Management Systems (EMSs) are one tool that corporations around the world have been using to work toward sustainability. Agencies in the federal government are also using EMSs to reduce their ecologic footprint, improve efficiencies, and “go green”. Executive Order 13423, “Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management,” directs all federal agencies to implement EMSs at all appropriate levels of the organization, ensuring that an EMS will become the agency standard for managing environmental aspects of agency policy and directions.

While many federal agencies have implemented EMSs, other agencies that are seeking to develop their own systems are left with few resources for use in the process. A small, independent agency, the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has not yet implemented an EMS and has few resources dedicated to the EMS development effort. The focus of this masters project is to understand the challenges and opportunities related to EMS development and implementation for federal agencies, with an emphasis on providing recommendations to the NRC.

Research consisted of case studies of agencies selected from the 2008 White House Closing the Circle Awards civilian EMS category nominees. Open-ended interview questions were used to gather information regarding the nature of the EMS development and implementation processes at the selected agencies – the United States Postal Service and Sandia National Laboratories.

While many agencies have seen success, there are hundreds of others that have yet to develop and implement management programs that will lead to significant change or to “triple-bottom-line” sustainability. In the cases studied, four issues emerged as primary difficulties for EMS development and implementation: lack of guidance; lack of resources, both financial and personnel; lack of management “buy-in” and support; and resistance to change from an established agency culture. Agency best practices worth emulating include integrating the EMS into the existing organizational structure and creating employee interest, particularly through communications initiatives and awards programs. By utilizing the experiences of other agencies and private sector organizations, the NRC and similar organizations can be more successful at EMS development and implementation.





Sahm, Sara (2009). An Analysis of Environmental Management System Development and Implementation in the United States Federal Government. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from

Dukes student scholarship is made available to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution / Non-commercial / No derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) license.