ISO14001 – the Environmental Standard
“Businesses can lead with their values and make money, too. You don’t have to simply be purely profit-driven. You can integrate social and environmental concerns into a business, be a caring business, be a generous business and still do very well financially.” – Jerry Greenfield
The Environmental Management Standard ISO14001 was updated in 2015, alongside the international Quality Standard ISO9001 and Health and Safety Standard ISO45001. One of the objectives was to create commonality of terms across the ISO ‘family.’
However, the update was also an opportunity to expand the focus beyond measurement. It now encompasses some new requirements, specifically in the two areas of (i) leadership and commitment, and (ii) communication. The old ISO14001:2004 version is no longer available for new entrants to the accreditation. For those renewing, there is a three year window to upgrade activities to fulfil the new requirements.
Satisfying the law around the environment is a basic element for achieving the standard. All businesses should be working within the framework of the law, so this badge is proof of the facts. However, observing from a different angle – that of future proofing and resilience, compliance with environmental legislation should be a given – the starting point, not the objective.
Moving an organisation along the spectrum, from non-compliance, past meeting regulatory requirement to the realms of ‘compliance plus’ beyond brings many commercial benefits.
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Environmental Management Systems
Some of these benefits are easily quantifiable, especially for companies with a functioning Environmental Management System (EMS). These include, for example understanding resource usage, such as energy, water and procurement of raw materials. Quantifying waste in terms of general waste to landfill or incineration versus recyclables, emissions to air and discharges into watercourses form further measurables.
There are a range of accredited EMS standards available, ISO14001:2015 being the most highly recognised and rigorous to implement. Other standards, such as the Investors in the Environment (iiE) bronze, silver and green standards focus on making genuine accreditation easy with less focus on volumes of prescriptive documentation.
Leadership and Communication
Recent changes from the ISO14001:2004 standard, now updated to ISO14001:2015 include the addition of committed leadership and communication requirements, among other amendments. Once the leadership and commitment element is brought into the equation, the focus becomes future thinking. This can result in exciting developments in corporate culture and value systems. A sense of purpose can be created through inspirational leadership, hand in hand with enhanced communications. It is here that the real benefit starts to take shape. A Sustainability Programme that enables individuals’ aspirations for a greener lifestyle to evolve in the workplace works well for business.
A Sustainability Programme Enhances the Brand
Staff retention and recruitment of talented personnel is reportedly ever more challenging in the current economic climate. If facilitating an engaging Sustainability Programme gives companies the edge, making them a desirable place to work, surely that’s a good outcome for all the stakeholders.
Communications activity which applauds any achievements in reducing environmental impact achieved further motivates those involved, engendering employee loyalty. In addition, it’s good for customers and prospects perception of the brand. In a world where consumer desire for sustainable brands is ever increasing, why wouldn’t you want to gain that edge – before your competitors do?
Developing an environmental policy is proven to be commercially beneficial to a business – so seek out an expert who can support and guide you through the process of gaining the ISO14001 accreditation and assisting you to implement a sustainability programme.