How to get management buy-in before ISO 14001 implementation

Why would we spend money on implementing an environmental management system? Spending money to become environmentally friendly is not good for the bottom line. Why bother with the expense of ISO 14001 when we have other things to worry about? If you are hearing these statements, you are probably trying to convince your senior management that it is a good idea to implement an environmental management system (EMS), but they can’t get past the thought of the money it will cost. It can be difficult to convince management to support the implementation of an EMS, but this will be easy compared to maintaining an environmental management system without ongoing management support.

When it comes to implementing the ISO 14001 requirements, it is often easier to become registered than it is to maintain your registration after, especially if management is not fully in support of the EMS. The reason this is true is that part of the ongoing maintenance of ISO 14001 is to show improvement of the EMS, especially through continual improvement. This will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, without ongoing management support. So, ask yourself: “What do I need to do?”

What can you do to get management support?

If you want to speak to management, you need to talk dollars and cents. With an environmental management system, and in fact any management system, it is not that easy to show the payback. It is really hard to say that if we spend $30,000 on implementing ISO 14001, we will make $100,000 more next year. It just doesn’t work like that. So, you need to focus on the potential benefits for implementing an environmental management system. I talked about this in a previous blog post on 6 Key benefits of ISO 14001, but here are a few other things to consider.

Improve legal compliance. Do you comply with all the legal requirements you know about? Of course you do. The benefit of an EMS when it comes to legal compliance is that it helps you research and document which laws you need to meet, track your compliance with these laws, and have a process to keep up to date on changes in the laws. By having a process to keep up with legislative changes, you can make sure that you avoid any fines and penalties imposed by not meeting the applicable laws. Depending on your industry, this can bring a substantial savings to your company.

Improve your image with customers. Recent surveys show that customers want to do business with companies that show care for the environment. In fact, some companies will use words like “green” or “environmentally friendly” on their products to improve the product image, even though this does not necessarily mean the company works to improve their environmental impact. Some people refer to this as “green-washing,” and it is becoming increasingly hard for consumers to know what companies actually do to help the environment. If you have implemented a management system to monitor and control how you interact with the environment, and have used an internationally recognized standard as your guide, then you are able to claim real commitment to environmental protection.

Make continual improvement part of your culture. One key part of the ISO 14001 requirements is the need for continual improvement in your management system. By building continual improvement into all aspects of your management system, you can drive the culture of your organization toward improvement by all employees. When improvement becomes part of the everyday work of your employees, you can see great benefits in all aspects of your business, not just your environmental impacts. Improvements in your business processes and practices can save time and money, which is what management wants.

Be prepared when you present to management

When you go to management and ask them to spend money on a project, you need to be prepared. Management will want to know what the benefits and payback are, and if you have not thought about this in advance, your idea to implement an EMS may meet more resistance than if you came prepared to answer the questions you know will be raised. The key thing to remember is that a management system is not there to be a burden on resources, but instead should provide an advantage for your company, so be prepared to show what this advantage will be.

For a way to help organize your thoughts to present to management, check out this Project proposal for ISO 14001 Implementation.

Advisera Mark Hammar
Mark Hammar
Mark Hammar is a Certified Manager of Quality / Organizational Excellence through the American Society for Quality and has been a Quality Professional since 1994. Mark has experience in auditing, improving processes, and writing procedures for Quality, Environmental, and Occupational Health & Safety Management Systems, and is certified as a Lead Auditor for ISO 9001, AS9100, and ISO 14001.