How to Identify Environmental Aspects

Creating an environmental overview is a key part of your environmental management system. Basically the environmental aspects are the activities of your organization that have an impact on the environment. In this post we will give a few tips on how to identify them. As a general practice it is good to involve multiple people from different departments to have as many points of view as possible.

The Organization

First look closely at the organization and what it does. Which processes are having an impact on the environment? For example your purchasing procedure might not have a direct effect on the environment but it can have an indirect effect as you can choose the suppliers. In line with activities of the company it is important to look closely at the scope of the certificate, and whether there are certain activities outside the scope of the certificate.

The Activities

The activities are basically everything the company does. Good practice is to start with the core processes of the company and go on from there. A good first step is to look at the operations part of the company, which is mostly where the majority of the impact on the environmental can be found. Just list every activity the company performs. However, it is also important to take the supporting part of the company into consideration such as heating the building and waste management.

It is important to take every activity into consideration that falls within the scope of the company.

The Aspects

The aspects are basically the type of impact the activity has on the environment. An activity can have multiple aspects like for example, cleaning has an aspect of wastewater but it also has an impact on water usage. Some examples of aspects might be:

  • CO2 emissions
  • Usage of water
  • Usage of electricity
  • Impact on wastewater
  • etc.

The Impact

When all activities and aspects are identified it is important to score the different activities. It is undoable to actively manage all environmental aspects so scoring them helps the company prioritize them. Some criteria that are used a lot to score the activities and aspect are things like:

  • Frequency of occurrence
  • Size of potential impact
  • Stakeholders that are impacted and their influence on the company

Pick the Right Battle

Now when all the activities and aspects are prioritized, they should then be managed by the company. It is fairly easy to focus on the top five that have the highest score on the impact score list. It is not necessary and simply unmanageable to mitigate all the aspects all at once. The company can assign five activities and start improving on them.


  • Ronaldo says:

    Very nice information

  • Generally, you need to explain the meaning of environmental aspect. It is not the activity but “element of activity that can interact with the environment” as per ISO 14001 definition. An environmental impact is ” the change to the environment resulting from environmental aspect”. It is like the “cause and effect”.

  • Wayne Banting says:

    What you may be discharging into the atmosphere – besides CO2 emissions – may be the least of your worries!

  • Dr. Syed Naimathulla says:

    Under the heading The Aspects, the 4th bullet point should be Impact of Waste Water inplace of Impact on Waste water. This is because in any process waste water will be generated. Its impact on environment decides the best treatment option.

  • Well, that’s a good intro indeed. But there could be as robust or simple as you want. I always recommend a most methodic approach. Process diagrams are a great tool for aspects identification, as well as FMEA, where you can take an impact as the fault.

    Then, as you mention, they need to be prioritized for each area within the organization, since environmental impacts for logistics will be quite different from processing or manufacturing.

    Other important consideration are well defined criteria and participation from all levels within the organization. Environment management responsibles are not process specialist and they are proclives to omission.


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