Environmental and Social Management System (ESMS) Implementation Handbook

Environmental and social responsibility is becoming more and more important in today’s global economy. There are thousands of environmental and social codes and standards in the world today. The codes and standards define the rules and the objectives. But the challenge is in the implementation. 

In the current economic climate, companies are under pressure to perform or even just survive. New initiatives are often met with resistance as people struggle to keep up with their day-to-day responsibilities. Some people think that an environmental and social management system must be big, complicated and expensive. But that is not really true. To be effective, a management system needs to be scaled to the nature and size of the company. If a company has existing management systems for quality or health and safety, this Handbook will help expand them to include environmental and social performance. Our hope is that this Handbook will accelerate a company’s journey of continual improvement, for its own benefit and that of its employees and stakeholders.


  • Sections I and II provide background on environmental and social management systems (ESMS).
  • Section III provides step-by-step instructions on how to develop and implement an ESMS. If you see a Toolkit icon, it means that there is an accompanying tool in the ESMS Toolkit.
  • ESMS Toolkit provides tools, including forms, templates, checklists, and other useful documents, to help you develop and implement the systems described in the Handbook. We suggest that you adapt each tool for your company.
  • ESMS Self-Assessment and Improvement Guide contains a questionnaire, maturity matrix, and improvement tips to help you measure the maturity of your ESMS and develop a plan for improvement.