How to choose a Project Manager for your ISO 14001 implementation

Any organization who has undertaken an ISO 14001 project will testify that it is a large undertaking. Many man-hours will need to be used, along with a level of expertise to ensure that the project runs smoothly and that the objectives are achieved and final audit successfully completed . Legal obligations will need to be considered and actions taken to meet compliance, employees and stakeholders consulted, and collective internal and external “buy-in” sought and received to ensure the project can be successful. With the release of the 2015 standard, the use of a “management representative” is no longer mandatory, as the role can now be shared or “assigned to a member of top management.” Therefore, it is possible that some organizations may choose to share the tasks of implementation and education amongst several employees.  From experience, however, it is recommended that one person be nominated as the “representative”. However, many organizations may wish to use a project manager for the initial implementation at least, as many members of top management consider ISO 14001:2015 implementation a project in and of itself.  So, if you select a project manager, what qualities does this person need, and how should we go about selecting the candidate?

Skills and abilities: what is required?

It can be argued that the ISO 14001 PM (Project Manager) should have the same skills as any other modern project manager and, while this is partly true, there are also some fundamental requirements that will help your organization ensure that the EMS implementation this process can be undertaken efficiently. Let’s look at them individually:

  • Project management experience: Obviously this will be of great help, as no implementation project will be totally linear, therefore working with several different groups simultaneously will be required.
  • Knowledge of the standard: This sounds obvious, but it is vital that your PM thoroughly understands the ISO 14001:2015 standard, its ethos and objectives. External training may assist with this. If your PM cares about the environment then that is a good starting point!
  • Contextual, legal and market knowledge: The candidate should have knowledge of all these factors and how they fit in with the risks and opportunities that ISO 14001:2015 implementation will present.
  • Communication skills: The PM will have to communicate and gather opinion with both external and internal stakeholders, so it is critical that he/she can communicate accurately and effectively. Delivery of key parts of the project can depend greatly on these communication skills. Read more in the previous article How to perform communication related to the EMS.
  • A persuasive personality: The PM will have to pull together different factions with differing interests. Persuading everyone that ISO 14001:2015 is in the best interests of all is an important attribute.
  • Be an believer: Unlike delivering other internal projects, not everyone may start off thinking that ISO 14001 is of great importance. It is therefore important that the PM can “sell” the project to all employees and stakeholders, whether managers, employees or external parties. If the PM does not believe, it is highly likely that the project will hit problems at some point or other, or even fail completely.
  • Be organized: Every EMS requires processes to deal with legislation updates, corrective actions, organizing of the internal audit schedule, dealing with environmental incidents and ensuring the emergency response plan is up to date, amongst other things. Your PM should have a plan for passing this knowledge and discipline on to a nominated person(s) for future EMS upkeep. A person lacking in good personal organization will find this difficult.
  • Be personable: Dealing with many people ranging from stakeholders, employees and managers through to your auditor himself means that you will have to know how to approach and deal with people. If your PM manages the 14001 implementation, they may well be the best person to host the certification audit also. This is one of the most tricky but potentially rewarding aspects of the job.

So, with the correct person in place, what else do we have to do to ensure our ISO 14001:2015 implementation goes smoothly?

Ensuring the implementation goes smoothly

ISO 14001:2015 implementation can be treated the same as any other major project in terms of implementation and management of tasks. Ensure your objectives and desired outcomes are clearly specified to the PM for the avoidance of doubt. Making these outcomes time specific is also critical as an audit date will need to be arranged and a reasonable history of data collection and compliance will need to be demonstrated to the auditor. From there on, it is good practice to have a project plan drawn up, and stakeholders and employees to receive regular bulletins on progress and results. Your PM will need to recognize that – unlike traditional internal projects – that demonstration of continual improvement will need to be evident during this process, and communication along with the implementation of the PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) cycle can achieve this. Marry the correct PM with the correct process, and your 14001:2015 project will be in safe hands.

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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.