Environmental Management Systems for the Defence Sector

By Anastasios A. Oglanis

Environmental Management Systems for the Defence Sector

The environmental management of the armed forces activities seems to be a growing concern for military forces worldwide. The military sector and the Armed Forces are an essential and sensitive part of any nation incorporating multi-dimensional and complex characteristics. Apart from its strictly military activities, the army is also involved in several civil activities as well, the most important of which is the civil defence. The army usually cooperates with the local and federal authorities of each country in cases of threats or emergencies to protect people, land, buildings, industrial and telecommunication activities, public health, and infrastructure. In fact, there are a lot of occasions during which the army is required to respond to environmental threats and natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods or oil spills providing personnel and specialized equipment and contributing to a series of efforts for specials events. Naturally, the context and relevant legislative framework is different in every country, but the general purpose is common in the sense that the armed forces play a key role in the protection of the country from any external or internal dangers. However, this does not undermine the fact that their equipment, infrastructure, and actions have significant impact on the environment, but rather complicates the issue of environmental strategy so as to combine the defence mission and the environmental protection.

Additionally, military authorities all over the world recognize that the effective environmental management is a key factor to ensure operations in the long run. Thus, it is clear to everyone now, that environmental management is a necessity not just for the public, but also for the sustainability of military land and operations. However, the challenges presented in the military sector are enormous, and the integrated management of its activities should be a priority. It is crucial to examine in depth the environmental impact of defence activities, because such an examination will provide the information required to form the baseline for the proper policies and measures. A usual mistake is to consider that measures are the result of the effective implementation of an EMS. The management system usually unveils their necessity early enough, so that the military authorities can decide actions proactively and not after the impacts result in inappropriate outside coercions. In addition, effective control-mechanisms and improved communications are required, which means greater efficiency in decision making and this is precisely the main advantage and the essence of every environmental management system.

Another important aspect regarding the EMS and the ISO standard, is the evaluation of the effectiveness of its implementation, and the relationship between environmental management and improvement in the environmental and economic performance. As far as the military sector is concerned, there are only few studies focusing on the successful implementation of environmental management systems. However, these few studies illustrate that there are great benefits emerging from the combination of environmental awareness with military purposes. The EMS standards and guidelines secure continual environmental improvement of the military sector, ensuring that the environmental goals in the future will be met. However, implementing an EMS demands the top-level management loyalty and relevant policies to be adopted. The needed procedures and the proper steps should be written and well documented while it is of utmost importance to carefully schedule the training sessions for each level, to ensure that everyone is capable and qualified to act effectively. Nowadays, several nations are carrying out studies to integrate an EMS into their defence sector, and most them use the ISO 14001 or other similar EMS frameworks for their baseline structures.

The following features are considered crucial for an EMS framework and are recognized as the basic steps to follow when evaluating an EMS of an organization, regardless of the sector that this organization belongs to:

▪ Management commitment and integrated approach to cover most of environmental aspects

▪ Integrated and holistic plans and strategies, goals

▪ Targets and objectives, to identify early enough the most serious environmental impacts

▪ Present the needed response and accordingly with the needed technical support

▪ Policy and guidelines documentation

▪ Reviewing

▪ Reporting and communication processes, transparent follow-up actions and measures, personnel and board commitment into every day.

The features are the basic milestones of an integrated environmental management and apply to every firm, public organization, or Department including the Defence sector as well that wishes to effectively address its environmental issues. Although it can be argued that there are several drawbacks in the EMS approach, it is generally accepted that a successful implementation could affect in a positive way many internal the management and personnel attitude and ethic, the respective policy as well as the stakeholder contribution and response.



This is an excerpt of the journal article: Study of environmental management systems on defence, by Oglanis, A.A.; Loizidou, M.D., Published: Winter 2017 in Global J. Environ. Sci. Manage., 3(1): 103-120. DOI: 10.22034/gjesm.2017.03.01.010 under a Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 4.0).


Anastasios A. Oglanis
Major General ret.

Anastasios Oglanis, Major General (retired) of the Air Force. He was member of the NATO’s committee for the introduction of its environmental protection policy (MC-462), and relevant STANAGs. He proposed, established, organized, and directed the Environmental Protection Sections at the Hellenic National Defence General Staff and the Hellenic Ministry of National Defence.