Every company should consider ISO 14001 Environmental Management Systems (EMS) certification, regardless of its size or sector, because of the wide-reaching benefits. Having a more sustainable business culture, managing environmental impact, and ensuring environmental regulatory compliance is not only good for the environment, but it can also be very good for business.
ISO 14001 is an international standard designed to help businesses identify and analyse the environmental impacts of their activities. It is a management tool where companies can identify their environmental risks, find ways to control them and improve their environmental performance. It also helps them develop solutions to minimise or eliminate these impacts while ensuring they are not detrimental to people, property or biological diversity.
When your business becomes ISO 14001 certified, you must report on how well you perform according to the standard. This provides you with important benchmarking data, so you are able to identify the environmental impact of your business, track your progress in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and set targets and outline responsibilities within a reporting structure.
Importantly, you can choose to use ISO 14001 certification as an opportunity to streamline the way you handle environmental responsibilities and prove to customers that your methods and processes have been verified to an international level. ISO 14001 EMS is not about making massive changes to your habits from day one. It is about changing your perspective on managing your environment.
Organisations think implementing ISO 14001 is costly, but the savings and improved business performance you get in return should cover everything. You can save time and money by integrating ISO 14001 with your current management system, such as ISO 9001, without many changes to the processes and procedures.
No single ISO 14001 certification cost can be set for any business. A company’s size, markets and shareholder demands, and production processes will affect costs. It is essential to select an accredited certification body and ISO consultant for their experience in your sector. If you are utilising an external consultant to help with implementation, one ISO consultant may charge you more than another.
If you’re planning to implement ISO 14001 in your company, here are some actions that can help you get started.
Environmental Impact Assessment
The first step is to identify all the possible impacts of your organisation on the environment and measure them. You need to review all business activities and produce an aspects and impacts table. The activities performed by your organisation are evaluated against the various environmental elements:
- Emissions to air
- Releases to water
- Releases to land
- Use of raw materials and natural resources
- Use of energy
- Energy emitted
- Generation of waste or by-products
- Use of space
Determine which activities impact each environmental element and evaluate how significant this impact is. You will need this information to determine your objectives and targets. Organisations use a simple scoring method of severity on the environment vs likelihood; however, there is nothing that says you need to use a scoring mechanism.
Legal Compliance Obligations
An essential element of ISO 14001 EMS is legal compliance. It means that you can demonstrate to authorities and your customers that you are complying with all laws and regulations of your industry.
Once you have identified your activities in the impact assessment, you should determine the legislation surrounding the business and activities. This is environmental legislation, not items outside of that. An easy example is waste disposal; we have the Environmental Permitting Regulations, the Waste Regulations, Hazardous Waste Regulations, and a few others.
The legislation is different globally and also by state and sometimes the city. For example, in the UK, we have legislation for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, which may be slightly different.
It is sometimes not easy to determine the proper legislation and what is involved in meeting that legislation. If you are unsure, it can be helpful to use an environmental consultant to help with this; however, all of the legislation is available online through government websites.
Objectives and Targets
Simple changes can have a significant effect on an organisation’s environmental impact. One of the most effective ways to make a positive impact is by using energy wisely. Energy conservation can cut costs and simultaneously reduce an organisation’s carbon footprint.
Every organisation is different, and what is a high environmental impact on one could be very different to another. Your aspects and impacts process should identify your key environmental impacts, the things you are not performing very well at or could be improved. These key (significant) impacts are where you start with your objectives—set objectives around reducing or mitigating the impact so it is no longer a concern.
There is no point in setting an objective to reduce paper if you have a more severe issue around using dangerous chemicals. The idea is to reduce what is having the most significant impact on the environment, not what is the easiest to solve or mitigate.
Just like most objectives, they need to be SMART.
Once you have identified your aspects, legislation and objectives, you must introduce controls to ensure you meet those obligations and commitments.
Following the waste example, you will identify in the legislation that you must use a licensed waste carrier that takes the waste to licensed premises for handling the waste. Your operational controls need to address these requirements, identify what records need to be maintained and ensure people are aware of those controls.
One of the areas that organisations often miss is the requirement for a lifecycle analysis to be considered within your controls. If you are designing a product, you should consider what materials you are using, where they are being sourced, how harmful they are to the environment and how are they disposed of. You should use the most environmentally friendly products over the life cycle, not just the cheapest to buy from a low-cost country.
Consider the transportation methods and supplier credentials for products purchased. Are you buying from environmentally friendly and conscious suppliers?
Internal audits need to be performed just like any other ISO standard. Still, you also need to use this opportunity to determine if you are legally compliant with your compliance obligations identified at the start.
A key element of ISO 14001 EMS is legal compliance; you need systems and processes in place to monitor whether you meet those obligations. Internal audits should take a sample of the legal requirements and determine if the controls you have in place are suitable. Check the waste disposal process is followed and that you have all the transfer documentation in place, are oil drums stored correctly, etc.
Raise awareness of the requirements and benefits of this certification: If your company is not environmentally friendly and you still think you should go for the ISO 14001 certification, then you need to raise awareness among your employees about having such a certificate.
Ensure that every employee understands the requirements and their responsibility as an ISO 14001 certified company: You need to make sure they know the policies and targets and how they contribute to the management system’s success.
At Auva Certification, we have our own in-house auditors that specialise in environmental legislation and use software to ensure that our legislation knowledge is continuously up to date so we can better advise our clients.
If you would like more information about ISO 14001 EMS, or just to chat through your ISO certification options, please contact us by calling 01376 386110 or email firstname.lastname@example.org