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How to implement EMS in the retail sector according to ISO 14001

The retail sector in every regional economy accounts for a large percentage of gross domestic product, which equates to tens of billions of dollars per year. Whether through retail or online purchasing, the retail industry as a whole has a huge impact on the wider environment, and it is ever more apparent that adopting compliance and certification according to ISO 14001:2015 within this industry can have a massively positive impact on the environment. So, if you are involved in a retail business, what parts of the ISO 14001:2015 standard can help mitigate the environmental impact of your business, and perhaps save you money and enhance your reputation at the same time?

The standard: How it can help

As with any business, many retail organizations can benefit from all of the clauses in the 14001:2015 standard. However, let’s concentrate on several that can be directly applied to the retail business – whether online or onsite:

  • Context of the organization: This is one of the parts of the 2015 standard that is more prescriptive than the previous 2004 standard. If you own a retail business you must now consider the impact of your supply chain, the impact from the sourcing of your raw materials for production of your goods, and even how your goods can be recycled. You can read more about this in the article Determining the context of the organization in ISO 14001:2015.
  • Planning: This is a critical part for a retail business, especially in terms of risk and opportunity. Does the production of your goods put the environment at risk? Do you have the opportunity to lessen your environmental impact by improving that process? Do you have an opportunity to drive your supply chain to compliance and improve the level and cost of that service at the same time? Do you consider environmental credentials when choosing suppliers, or merely cost? Read more about how to identify and deal with risk in the article The role of risk management in the ISO 14001:2015 standard.
  • Performance evaluation: If you own or manage a retail business this is critical to your results, and also ties in with the continual improvement aspect. Evaluate your results accurately and improve continually and you will not only lessen your environmental impact, but improve your bottom line as well.

So, taking the above sections of ISO 14001:2015 and implementing them into your retail business can help you achieve your environmental objectives, but to help us on a practical level, how can we apply those to a typical retail business?

  • Your supply chain: Evaluate, assess risks and opportunity, and then use the “Plan, Do, Check, Act” cycle to change, improve, and maintain. Can your supply chain eliminate waste, encourage use of recyclable materials in your product, rationalize transport activities and therefore costs, ensure that your products have their environmental and recycling properties made obvious, and use and encourage reuse of recyclable packaging? Assessment and improvement of this whole process can be financially and environmentally beneficial. Our article on Driving your supply chain to 14001 compliance will provide assistance with this.
  • Your retail site or office: Whether you have a site or sell online you will almost certainly find that if you evaluate the consumables and utilities that you use, significant savings can be made in both financial and environmental terms. The article How to identify environmental aspects in your office using 14001 will help with this.

So, in summary, tackling the internal and external environmental aspects that affect your business and the environment can pay dividends.

Using 14001:2015 to help your retail business

The retail trade may well be the next sector to come under pressure in terms of environmental compliance, given the effect that maintaining a retail site takes in terms of utilities, paper consumption, and general consumables. Add your supply chain to that equation and you can see massive opportunities for reducing wastage and improving production and logistic activities. Finally, a consideration of the lifecycles of your product and packaging and how they can be improved can yield further benefits. In all of these cases, mitigation of environmental impact also equates to lower costs and higher margins. In that case, why wait on governing bodies to apply pressure on your business when it makes sense for your business to start with ISO 14001:2015 now?

To ensure that you meet the standard’s requirements, visit our  ISO 14001:2015 Internal Auditor online course.

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.