Purpose - The main aim of this paper is to prove that an Environmental Management System (EMS) can be a powerful tool for organizations to both improve their environmental performance, and enhance their business efficiency.Design/methodology/approach - A case study methodology is used putting forth the "Implementation of an EMS system at Pioneer Building and Construction", a registered company in the construction industry whose primary business activities relate to development and construction of projects on a contract basis.Findings - The findings stated that by implementing an EMS, Pioneer obtained a 10 per cent cost reduction; an estimated $1.2 million now could be saved annually as the annual costs were $12 million- which more than offsets the costs sustained in the implementation of ISO 14001. Practical implications - This paper validates that although the causes of environmental degradation are well known, the business logic for environmental improvement has been largely operational and technical. Few firms have incorporated sustainability into their strategic thinking. A sustainable business should use its unique position to develop and achieve sustainable production and sustainable consumption at the same time. A responsible and sustainable system of environmental management should start with pollution prevention then expand into control and environmental design. The practical implications of this paper are to assist small business to embark on their implementation of the EMS. Originality/value - EMS relevant information specifically with regards to the building and construction industry within the small business sector has been observed in this paper which is very important for similar such organizations to get cracking on their implementation of an EMS which is valuable in terms of improving their efficiency as well as being a social obligation for the future generation and the economy.