Environmental Management Systems – Your A – Z guide

IEMA Acorn Scheme


Regardless of an organisation's shape, size and business sector, all organisations face an ever increasing number of challenges relating to their environmental performance. More environmental legislation and regulation, higher energy and waste disposal costs, increased pressure from business partners and other stakeholders; the drivers for companies to actively engage in positive environmental management have never been greater.

The IEMA Acorn Scheme, an officially recognised EMS standard recommended by the government, offers accredited recognition for organisations evaluating and improving their environmental performance through the phased implementation of an environmental management system (EMS). Acorn focuses on environmental improvements that are linked to business competitiveness and is flexible so that all types of organisation, whatever their size, can participate.

application/pdf  ACORN PERFORMANCE LEAFLET.pdf (506.82 KB)

Why participate?

Participation in the IEMA Acorn Scheme offers participants the following benefits:

  • EMS implementation broken down into a series of logical, convenient, manageable phases using the British Standard BS 8555
  • Clearly defined route plan to ISO14001 certification and/ or EMAS registration, with UKAS accredited recognition along the way
  • Self-determined time frame for implementation – you decide how fast and how far you want to progress
  • Environmental performance improvement which can lead to reduced costs and improved business efficiency
  • Opportunities to engage supply chain partners in environmental performance improvement
  • A flexible approach that provides UKAS accredited recognition for participants
  • Entry on the IEMA Acorn Register

How to Participate?

Participation in the scheme is easy. All you have to do is:

  • implement one or more phases of BS8555
  • have this confirmed by an independently accredited Acorn Inspection Body
  • demonstrate continuous environmental improvement to the Acorn Inspection Body on an annual basis to maintain your registration

Click on the links for further information on each of the Phases in BS8555 – you’ll also find some useful tools and links to relevant resources to help get you started.

It’s up to you how and when to use the Acorn Inspection Body – you can be inspected after you’ve implemented each Phase, or bundle two or more phases together before being Inspected. The choice is yours – Acorn is flexible to your needs so you can use it in the way that best meets your business needs.

Once the Acorn Inspection Body has confirmed that you’ve achieved the relevant Phase(s), you’ll be issued with an Acorn certificate and then entered onto the Acorn Register.

The Benefits

There are enormous potential benefits to be gained through effective environmental management following the Acorn route.

You can implement your EMS in bite-sized chunks with the ability to pause at each level if necessary – you decide the pace to fit in with the dynamics of your business. The distinct milestones utilized in the scheme ensure certainty over the different steps that are involved in progressing to a fully-function EMS, helping to keep organisations on track towards their final goal.

The scheme differs from the systematic implementation of a direct, cumbersome EMS approach such as ISO14001/EMAS because it provides tangible results at an early stage –the starting phase produces quick-wins in environmental performance.

Combining the removal of traditional barriers to EMS, the provision of clear milestones and independent recognition for the achievements that have been made throughout the process, Acorn helps to motivate people and drive culture change whilst meeting the restraints of limited time and resources.

Successful inspection to the IEMA Acorn scheme will enable organisations to join a listing on a central register containing key data on all those participating. A unique benefit is that, in addition to promoting an organisation’s environmental credentials, it will act as a valuable resource for sourcing suppliers who have demonstrated environmental performance improvement.

Initial research for Project Acorn conducted on behalf of the Department of Trade & Industry (DTI) into the barriers and enablers to EMS implementation by Small-Medium Enterprises (SMEs) highlighted the following benefits:

Internal BenefitsExternal Benefits
Improved employee motivation and morale New customers & increased satisfaction of existing ones
Cost savings & efficiencies Reduced pollution
Better quality of management & training Increased recycling
Improved legal compliance Better public image

The BS 8555 standard ‘BS 8555:2003: Environmental Management System. Guide to the phased implementation of an environmental management system including the use of environmental performance evaluation’ is available through our online shop.

IEMA members receive a 15% discount on the normal selling price, non members a 5% discount. Click on the link below for further details:

BS 8555 Publication