Keywords: environmental management systems, EMS, ISO 14001, agriculture, farm management, social indicators, natural resource management, environmental protection, Australia, voluntary approach
Enhancing the social content of environmental management systems in Australian agriculture
Despite criticism that Environmental Management Systems (EMSs) do not address social aspects, a review of the EMS implementation on Australian farms revealed that there were many social dimensions to the EMS. While these were not necessarily explicitly recognised by the farmers, certifiers and/or regulators, these social factors were very important to the ongoing commitment to, and operation of, the EMSs. Social factors enhance the operation of the EMS, reinforce initial motivations and have major benefits for the farm business. However, gaining recognition of these factors was difficult, measuring changes in social interactions not easily achievable and not well recognised or rewarded by outside stakeholders. The development of improved mechanisms for valuing social factors in agricultural contexts, better understanding of the roles of these factors amongst EMS certifiers and advisors, and more explicit acknowledgement of the importance of these factors on overall farm management is required.