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Environmental Management System

Photo of wild sunflowers in green grass.

Credit: Bob Fiehweg

NREL's Environmental Management System (EMS) supports the laboratory's commitment to its environmental policy to continually improve environmental and sustainability performance. The management system integrates environmental protection into daily activities throughout the laboratory with safety and health hazard identification and control processes, as well as quality management processes.

NREL's Environment Management System was certified to the ISO 14001 international standard for environmental management systems in 2011 by NSF-ISR. NREL's EMS also meets the criteria of Executive Order 13423, Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management, and DOE Order, 436.1, Departmental Sustainability that require Federal facilities to implement environmental management systems. To follow through with NREL’s environmental policy and maintain certification, the laboratory receives a surveillance audit each year and a full recertification audit every three years.

Integrated Safety Management and Environmental Management Policy

Primary Aspects

NREL conducts regular risk assessments of its activities and operations and mitigates potential impacts through physical and procedural controls. The following "aspects" or potential impact areas receive particular attention through the management system:

  • Air emissions
  • Surface water or groundwater emissions
  • Wastewater releases
  • Waste generation and management
  • Resource use or conservation (energy, water, land, biological, cultural)
  • Community.

Reporting Performance

NREL regularly reports progress on its aspects and other potential impacts through:

Continual Improvement

Image of a wheel titled Environment, Safety and Quality Excellence. The five arrows that form the wheel in a continuous cycle are called; define scope; analyze hazards, impacts and issues; develop controls; perform work; and feedback and improvement.

NREL's EMS Continual Improvement Cycle.

NREL's Environmental Management System follows a Plan-Do-Check-Feedback cycle to support continual improvement:


  • Environmental policy
  • Risk assessment and hazard identification
  • Objectives and targets

Implementation & operation

  • Document and record management
  • Procedures and SOPs
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Training
  • Communication

Checking and corrective action

  • Monitoring and measurement
  • Inspection
  • Evaluation of compliance
  • Assessment and corrective action


  • Management review

Colorado Environmental Leadership Program

NREL has been a member of the Colorado Environmental Leadership Program (ELP) since 2004 and receives recognition as a "Gold-Leader" through the program. This Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment program recognizes facilities that voluntarily:

  • Exceed regulatory requirements
  • Implement environmental management systems
  • Work closely with their communities
  • Set three-year goals focusing on measurable results.

Learn more about this voluntary program at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment ELP website.