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    Using ISO 14001:2015 to identify environmental aspects for call centers

    As the worldwide service industry increases, most countries have seen a significant rise in the number of call centers operating within their borders. While appearing to be a very clean environment to work in, and with less environmental impact than traditional manufacturing industries, call centers nonetheless can cover large floor-space areas, employ hundreds or even thousands of people, and consume resources accordingly. Therefore, it stands to reason that the environmental footprint may be heavier than first imagined, and indeed ISO 14001 compliance and accreditation is becoming more of a requirement for these facilities, especially given that in many cases the call centers themselves may be servicing calls regarding products or services on behalf of organizations that do have a large environmental impact, such as electronics, mobile telephones, or even utility supplies. Therefore, if a multi-national is seen to be “environmentally friendly” in its provision of goods or services, it stands to reason that they should want the service arm of the organization to be the same. So, given that ISO 14001 needs to be implemented in a call center environment, where do we start?

    Identifying environmental aspects

    We have looked at many facets of ISO 14001 in our previous articles, from creating policies to using corrective action and risk assessment, but in this case let us examine how to identify environmental aspects within the call center. The previous article What makes an environmental aspect significant in ISO 14001 is a good starting point to fully understand the issue. So, given that we understand what defines an environmental aspect, when we look at our call center, what do we see that we can classify as an aspect, and take action to control?


    • Utilities: Call centers are large consumers of electricity, and energy in general. Can you devise an internal policy or program that limits the amount used and educates all staff in terms of best practice for preserving energy?
    • Consumables: Do you have a printing policy? Do you discourage printing unless necessary? Do you ensure you print double sided if you do print? Have you considered reducing the number of printers to control and assist this type of initiative?
    • Inter-company travel: Do you have a policy to cover this? Do you ensure that travel is only undertaken when necessary, and that conferencing and video linking are used whenever possible?
    • Employee travel to work: Do you have a policy to educate and control your impact? Do you encourage car share? Could you provide a forum whereby providing an element of “flexi-time” or shift swapping could allow more car share and lessen the environmental impact?
    • Bike travel: Do you have incentives to allow people who live close by to cycle to work? Do you provide suitable cycle parking and showers for participants to use before work?

    These aspects can all have a significant effect on the call center’s environmental impact, and highlighting them before writing policies and programs to control them can have a large impact on the environmental performance. Why not make an “environmental performance matrix” where you can measure these aspects before and after you implement your plans, letting your stakeholders see the difference that the initiatives are having, both in terms of environmental performance and money saving? Management and leadership commitment is required for a successful ISO 14001 project, and the term “money savings” usually helps to get the senior team on board! So, are there any other initiatives you can use to improve environmental performance in the call center?

    Improving environmental performance externally

    The initiatives mentioned above can be central in improving your environmental performance, as can managing the environmental performance of your suppliers. You can read more about this in the previous article How to drive your supply chain to ISO 14001 compliance, but ensuring that your suppliers know part of the procurement process is given to their environmental performance, and not solely price, is critical. Inform your suppliers that ISO 14001 accreditation is also preferable, and ask to see their Environmental Policy. Why not inquire if they have the same initiatives and programs we have been considering above? Ask them if they manage their own suppliers in terms of environmental performance the way that your call center manages them. Promote environmental awareness to them by your deeds and not just your words. Looking after your own performance is paramount, but you can see the benefit to the environment from using this “pyramid” type process to encourage environmental awareness from your call center all the way down your supply chain.

    This free webinar can also help you: ISO 14001: Identification and evaluation of environmental aspects.

    Advisera John Nolan
    Author
    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.