Discovering the Key Difference between an EMS and a QMS

If you are a business owner and want your products or services to be of the best quality in the market, you need a strong, certified, quality management system (QMS). However, only assuring the quality of your products or services is not all. You also need an efficient environmental management system (EMS) to ensure that production and consumption of products or services do not cause any damage to the natural resources and result in harmful consequences on the environment. In other words, both an EMS and a QMS are equally necessary for businesses to make their products or services capable of satisfying their customers. It is clear that there is a huge difference between EMS and QMS in their approach even though both are related to improving products or services for ensuring higher customer satisfaction.

The next section of this blog is going to explain to you the key functional differences between the EMS and QMS so that you know what strategic changes are required in your business to have both.

Uncovering the Structural and Functional Difference between EMS and QMS


To learn about the difference in the concept of the EMS and QMS, you need to first understand the two integrated ISO standards, ISO 9001 and ISO 14001. While ISO 9001 is the standard for quality management which defines the requirements for a business to implement a QMS, ISO 14001 is the standard for environmental management which defines the requirements for setting up an EMS in an organisation.

While there are some common requirements between the two management systems, their implementation requires an organisation to deploy separate approaches. Here are a few of the common requirements:

• Documented system (i.e., procedural manuals) to describe how processes for management should be executed
• Controlling of documents and records (i.e., reviewing and updating the documents according to improvements in processes)
• Training of employees to make them skilled at operating the implemented management system (EMS and QMS)
• Internal auditing to check whether the EMS and QMS are in line with the specific requirements of ISO 9001 or ISO 14001
• Corrective and preventive actions to eliminate any noncompliance issues or inadequacies discovered in the EMS or QMS
• Periodic management review to ensure employees are proactive in functioning the EMS and QMS and both are contributing to deliver the desired outcomes


Even though both the QMS and EMS are meant to help your business exceed the expectations of your customers with superior quality products or services, there is a sharp difference between their approaches. A QMS is actually customer-driven whereas an EMS is environmentally driven. It means that the QMS works to improve your processes to ensure that higher quality products or services are produced and make customers happy.

On the other hand, the EMS works to optimise your resource uses and improve operations enterprise-wide such that there are minimal harmful impacts (like release of toxic wastes and greenhouse gases) left on the environment. No doubt, both systems result in increasing the bottom line of your business, i.e., there is better execution of processes and use of resources which results in better efficiency, cost savings, and a more satisfied customer base.

Best Practices

The difference between the QMS and EMS are mainly observed in their best practices.

The best practices promoted by a QMS are as follows:

1. Customer focus which means the quality management practices should be aimed at meeting every requirement of customers and exceeding their general expectations.

2. Leadership is about engagement of the business’s top management in pushing the quality objectives across all departments (or employees) and making them responsible for achieving them.

3. Engagement of people which means full involvement of every member of the organisation to work towards quality objectives.

4. Process approach is incorporating the Plan-Do-Check-Act policy to make the QMS as effective as possible.

5. Continual improvement implies undertaking management reviews and internal audits frequently to discover areas in QMS that require correction or improvements.

6. Evidence-based decision making which implies any change or decision regarding quality assurance in the business must be taken considering actual facts and data.

7. Stakeholder relationship management under which the organisation needs to take care of the expectations of all stakeholders (i.e., suppliers, investors, third-parties, etc.) and not just customers in their quality management objectives.

On the other hand, the ISO 14001 based EMS provides a framework of best practices which include:

1. Minimisation of environmental footprints of the business operations, intermediate materials, products or services

2. Eliminating the environmental risks or hazards to the surrounding living habitats that can occur due to pollution, leakages and any negligence

3. Promoting sustainability in the business by making efficient use of resources, energy, and switching to better renewable alternatives

4. Ensuring environmental legal compliance by ensuring that all local and international authoritative regulations regarding environmental protection are met by the business

5. Operational improvements which imply making necessary adjustments in the processes (such as including separate waste treatment methods) to increase efficiency as well as environmental degradation

Bottom Line

Apart from a few common requirements, there is a big difference between the EMS and QMS. The idea is to make you understand why both standard systems are required for your business, despite both being comprehensive and helping to improve customer satisfaction.

However, the good news is that both can be integrated easily by following the guidelines provided by ISO 14001 and ISO 9001 standards respectively. As implementing both systems is time-consuming for your management team and requires an inherent understanding of the standards, you can consult with our experts. We, at Compliancehelp, aim to provide end-to-end assistance to businesses including internal auditing to make their implementation of an ISO-certified management system successful.