Environmental Management

, Volume 35, Issue 3, pp 311–329 | Cite as

Toward Environmental Management Systems in Australian Agriculture to Achieve Better Environmental Outcomes at the Catchment Scale

A Review


Environmental Management Systems (EMS) are being trialed for Australian agricultural industries as society becomes more concerned about agriculture’s environmental performance. EMS is a structured approach used by farm businesses to assess, monitor, and improve environmental performance. Use of EMS in conjunction with other policy tools (such as financial incentives and regulation) in agriculture could enhance management of both on-farm and off-farm environmental issues. Based on the international standard ISO14001, EMS was designed to be applied at the individual business level. However, governments in Australia are exploring its potential to be applied at a catchment scale, among other things, for the purpose of linking farm-level actions to catchment targets. In Australia, governments and catchment management bodies are using Integrated Catchment Management (ICM) as the framework to try to achieve environmental targets set out in catchment plans. In this article, we compare aspects of the EMS and ICM frameworks and comment on the potential of using EMS to achieve catchment-scale environmental outcomes. We conclude that EMS could be a useful policy tool to improve farm management and to contribute, in part, to better off-site outcomes at the catchment/landscape scale. Recommendations on the use of EMS at the catchment scale are discussed. These include using an educational approach for EMS delivery, linking the EMS process to catchment targets, and ensuring catchment targets are realistic and achievable.


Catchment management Environmental policy Natural resource management 



The authors are thankful for the helpful comments and information provided by Harold Rudy (Ontario Crop Improvement Association). Thanks to Shayne Annett and Mark Allaway (Department of Primary Industries, East Melbourne) for their comments regarding ICM in Victoria.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Primary IndustriesPrimary Industries Research VictoriaVictoriaAustralia

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