How to write ISO 14001 environmental targets for your organization

When an organization pursues ISO 14001 accreditation, the standard is pretty specific about what needs to be achieved in terms of your actual management system, and how a “process approach” alongside the “plan, do, check, act” (PDCA) cycle should drive you toward better results, which can then be reviewed and adjusted to ensure continual improvement. You can learn more about the PDCA cycle from our blog article Plan-Do- Check-Act in the 14001 Standard. However, if you are building your first EMS (Environmental Management System), you will have to set your initial environmental targets for the system. Sound easy? It may well be, but are your ideas of what the targets should be the same as your top management’s? And are they the same as those of the workforce? And when we decide, should we be conservative or aggressive? What about our customers – what will they think of us when they see the targets we pursue?

A democratic view on target setting

The forthcoming ISO 14001:2015 standard will see some changes from the existing standard, which we examined in this previous blog: Main Highlights of ISO 14001:2015 Draft International Standard. Among these is an increased involvement in, and commitment to, the EMS within an organization; therefore, it stands to reason that a company’s top management will play a leading role in setting environmental targets within the EMS. You may be in the construction, electronics, chemical, or service business, but the chances are that top management will not be aware of every potential aspect or subject, so how can you ensure that the views of all staff are taken into account?

Ensuring everyone has input

In the past, organizations have used feedback forms and suggestion boxes to solicit feedback from employees. In my experience, an employee forum is a much more efficient and dynamic method of ensuring employee input into a target-setting process. This type of forum has a multi-functional purpose within the ISO 14001 target-setting process:

  • to ensure opinions of all departments are heard and taken into account
  • to educate and re-establish the importance of undertaking the ISO 14001 standard accreditation
  • to demonstrate to the auditor and your customer base that a forum-based input has taken place

So, it is now likely that you can formulate a more rounded set of targets for your EMS, which reflect what is important for your business from top to bottom. You now have to ensure that they are specific in terms of achievement, responsibility, and time periods. Don’t be afraid to be aggressive; sometimes narrowly missing a hugely aspirational target can be better than achieving a modest one. Remember, the Management Review process (which you can see details of in this previous blog article: How your Management Review can be more useful) can be used to review and amend these targets in the future, so do not be afraid to be optimistic!

So, now we can see how targets can be formed, but apart from the obvious environmental benefits, how else can these help our organization?

Using your environmental target to your benefit

The first-level benefits of having intelligent and well-crafted targets are obvious: to benefit and improve the environment for future generations. But, there are manifold reasons for spending the correct amount of time and getting the correct amount of internal involvement in setting your targets, as follows:

  • costs savings to your business
  • mitigating future risk
  • reputational improvement – it is good to be perceived as “green” and “forward thinking”
  • business-to-business benefits – clear, intelligent, and well-defined targets will help you gain and retain clients
  • being prepared for future legislation changes

So, as you can see, there are also many indirect benefits from using a democratic approach to ensure that your environmental targets are as intelligent as possible. Your top management team may have the final say, but presenting them with as much knowledge and information as possible can only be a positive. And, while you will have many other considerations to satisfy before you can be ISO 14001 accredited, you can be confident that if you can perform against these targets, then you are well on your way to doing your part to conserve the earth’s natural resources for future generations.

To ensure you are working toward having the correct parts of ISO 14001 in place, please see our list of free resources, including our free Gap Analysis Tool.

Advisera John Nolan
John Nolan
John Nolan is a Fellow of the Institute of Leaders and Managers in the United Kingdom, and Prince 2 accredited with a background in Engineering and Electronics and Data Storage and Transfer. Having studied and qualified as both a Mechanical and Electronic Engineer, he has spent the last 15 years designing and delivering Quality Systems and projects across many sectors in the UK, including both national and local government.