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How micro businesses can benefit from ISO 14001

In 2011, according to the US Census Bureau, businesses employing fewer than 20 people made up almost 90% of the total number of businesses trading in the United States. The figures are very similar in the UK, and I would guess in the rest of the world. Traditionally, when we see stories about environmental issues on our newsreels, whether positive or negative, if they are related to industry then they are associated with multinational organizations and large corporations, and the effect that such companies tend to have on the environment. The ISO 14001 standard, therefore, is obviously an accreditation that is highly desirable for large corporations who not only want to improve their environmental performance, but also display to stakeholders and the public that they take their responsibilities seriously when it comes to preserving resources for future generations. So, it should come as no surprise that organizations like IBM led the way in becoming ISO 14001 compliant back in the ‘90s, but is there real benefit in smaller organizations investing in the time and funds required to comply with and become accredited in ISO 14001?

Where is the benefit for my micro business?

If you are familiar with the ISO 14001 standard, you will already know that the language is used in such a way to provide no differentiation between organizations of different sizes. In other words, implementation of the standard should be a scalable process – possible whether you employ 5 or 5000 people, given that you execute the key parts of the standard correctly. Therefore, there is no reason why a micro business should not undertake a project to improve its environmental performance, or even achieve ISO 14001, similarly to how a larger business would. So, does that mean that the benefits are scalable, too? Well, the good news is that the benefits for a micro business can be proportionately more significant than for larger corporations that are expected to be environmentally aware, and an ISO 14001 accreditation might be just the thing to help your business push out of the “micro business” category and grow. So, what exactly will those benefits be?

What are the actual benefits?

Firstly, we are all duty bound to protect and use the earth’s resources as best we can, and preserve what we can for future generations by diligent decision making. We achieve this, among other means, by identifying environmental aspects (which we looked at in an earlier blog post How to write environmental targets for your organization). Apart from the obvious environmental benefits when we make improvements using the “Plan, Do, Check, Act,” which you can read about in the previous blog entitled Plan, Do, Check, Act in the ISO 14001 Standard, there is also a benefit in how your customers and suppliers will perceive you. Winning a new contract that allows you to take the next step forward with your small business will be helped by your ability to show environmental awareness and the internal processes to measure, monitor, and continually improve. If you are dealing with government sectors, for example, where public and tax money is spent, then environmental considerations will become even more important in the years to come.

We have considered the benefits of attaining ISO 14001 accreditation in a previous article, Six key benefits of ISO 14001, and this is no different for micro businesses than for large corporations. Elimination of waste from processes, and saving money on packaging, consumables, and energy all add up to an improved bottom line as well as preservation of materials for the future. Adding these financial benefits to the reputational benefits your micro business will enjoy may just be the boost you need to improve and expand.

Great, so how do I do it?

If you are a small business, chances are you may not have a Quality Manager, or someone who has experience implementing ISO 14001. It is also likely that you may not have the funds to employ an external organization or a consultant to guide you through the whole process, which can take up to six months to be implemented properly. The good news is that you can do most of it by yourself, with some guidance in certain areas. Our series of blog articles will provide a flavor of what is required, and obviously, purchasing and understanding the ISO 14001 standard is recommended. Then, you can hold your own management review, which you can read more about in this previous article, The importance of the management review in the ISO 14001:2015 process, and write your own environmental targets, which you can see more on in this article, How to write ISO 14001 environmental targets for your organization, and start off measuring, monitoring, and building continual improvement into your process and performance. On that basis, the sooner you start, the sooner your micro business will start thinking and performing like the large corporation you would one day like it to become, and the benefit will be shared by you, your stakeholders, and the planet.

Why not use our free  ISO 14001 Gap Analysis Tool to analyze how you measure up against the requirements of the standard?

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.