The environmental management standard ISO 14001 is sometimes brushed off by some as something to appease the ‘greenies’. The reality is though, environmental management isn’t simply a distraction, or cost. Successful implementation provides a multitude of benefits, which the following article explains in further detail…
A manager too busy to listen to the argument behind environmental management could be costing your business. By proactively reviewing and taking action on environmental issues, rather than taking a reactive approach, a whole host of benefits can be reaped, not least compliance with environmental regulation and law. Implementing an Environmental Management System (EMS) such as ISO 14001 can lead to:
- Reduced energy and material costs
- Reduced cost in waste, and consequent waste management
- Reduced cost through efficiency of work practices
- Ongoing compliance with legislation and regulatory requirements
- Reduced insurance premiums, because of lower risk
- Improved stakeholder image
Winning more work
Taking a moment to think about these points helps to realise just how many areas of an organisation can be impacted through environmental consideration. The ‘green issue’ will never go away, so what’s stopping you?
A 2010 study by the Department for Environmental Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) revealed the true cost savings behind implementing ISO 14001. One of our clients which took part in the study showed they saved 19% in energy costs in the first year a lone, saving an amazing 66% by the third year.
Having ISO 14001 certification isn’t just about saving though, it can lead to gains too. In fact, one of the primary drivers for our clients implementing the standard is to win new work. They found that without ISO 14001, they struggled to qualify for central Government and Local Authority tenders, who demand a proven, externally verified EMS to be in place.
“We have been able to show that we have the appropriate environmental management systems in place which has enabled us to win public sector contracts.”
– Robert Palmer, Mascot Management
Outside of the public sector, private sector supply chains often require ISO 14001 because it ensures continuity throughout the chain. With big businesses under constant pressure when it comes to their environmental impact, its no surprise that almost all FTSE 100 companies hold ISO 14001 certification.
“It has helped us to win business with larger companies that we couldn’t deal with as they insisted on ISO 14001.”
– Alan Liu, United Commercial Trading (UK)
In an ever competitive market, client loyalty isn’t what it used to be. Now, clients are keen to shop around for the best price, even if they feel you provide a good service. By showing that you take your environmental credentials seriously, with the added bonus of lowering your running costs, having ISO 14001 could be the difference when trying to keep hold of your clients.
“We needed this certification in order to maintain an important customer. Also, it has given us a good image within the industry.”
– Colin Usher, John McCall Architects
So what exactly is an EMS?
An Environmental Management System, or EMS, allows you to assess your business’ environmental strengths and weaknesses, thereby helping you to both identify and manage your environmental impacts, with the resulting aforementioned benefits. An EMS also ensures you comply with relevant legislation, and commit to continual improvement.
Where does ISO 14001 fit in?
Its all very well having an EMS, but who verifies it? For true credibility, you need to demonstrate to your clients and stakeholders that your EMS has been externally verified. This can be done through certification to the ISO 14001 standard.
The International Standards Organisation (ISO) is the world’s largest developer and publisher of International Standards, with a network of 159 institutes across the world. Standards are written with contribution from governments, the private sector, industry associations and even the general public. Standards developed by ISO influence our every day lives, almost everything we touch is associated with a standard.
ISO 14001 focuses on proactive management and employee involvement in defining roles related to the environmental policy of an organisation. The environmental management standard is a comprehensive framework that contains core elements for managing a company’s processes and activities, identifying significant environmental aspects the organisation can control and those which it can be expected to have an influence. In summary, the standard requires an organisation to say what it does in environmental management, and to do what it says!
Who does ISO 14001 suit?
One reason why ISO 14001 is so popular is because its a generic environmental management system; its not biased towards the product or service industries, or particular sized organisations. Because it can be applied to any business, ISO 14001 is able to remove costly investigation into an organisation’s environmental credentials because it is a respected as a robust and established standard. No surprises then that ISO 14001 is considered the de facto measurement of a business being ‘green’, particularly within government. Implementation in the UK has consequently flourished; in 2009 alone, there were10,000 certificates issued according to a survey by ISO.
What does ISO 14001 require from you?
ISO 14001 requires organisations to formally document an Environmental Policy and establish a programme to manage environmental impacts, defining a plan to manage these. Internal audits should be carried out to ensure continuing compliance together with management reviews to demonstrate senior management involvement and ensure continual improvement.
To achieve third party certification to ISO 14001, the process starts with what’s known as a ‘Stage 1 Audit’ This is where your Lead Assessor reviews your existing systems and provides you with a gap analysis report which will identify the actions required to meet the standard.
Once the organisation has filled the gaps highlighted in the Stage 1 report, an Auditor will visit again to carry out a ‘Stage 2 Audit’. This will reveal the effectiveness of your environmental management system and whether it meets all the requirements of the standard. If you are fully compliant, you will then be recommended for certification. If starting from scratch, the process takes between three and sixth months.
To learn more about achieving ISO 14001 certification, please visit our dedicated web section.