Where does ISO 14001 fit into your organization?

In this age where organizations are expected to be more environmentally aware than ever before, ISO 14001 is recognized as the primary business standard that provides guidance on how to control environmental impact for businesses the world over. With 319,234 ISO 14001 certificates  awarded during 2015 alone – a number that is increasing year over year (source: https://www.iso.org/the-iso-survey.html) – many businesses are now habitually incorporating compliance with ISO 14001 into their existing business practices, with the benefit being seen by both the individual businesses and the greater environment. But, given this is the case, where does ISO 14001 fit into your organization?

ISO 14001 – Why do companies comply?

Recently, I had a discussion with an ISO certification auditor who told me that one of the most interesting questions he asked companies at the start of the certification audit was: “Why do you want certification to ISO 14001:2015?” Interestingly, he told me that the range of answers was generally as follows:

  • We have a major customer who insists we are certified.
  • We can’t compete in some tenders if we don’t have it.
  • We want to be perceived as being more environmentally aware by our customers and suppliers.

I found this interesting. In our previous article: How to get management buy-in before your ISO 14001 implementation, we examined some compelling arguments for the adoption of ISO 14001, and I know that after 20 years of working with the standard my perspective has changed significantly. My answer to the auditor’s question would now be, in order of importance:

  1. To help protect the environment for current and future generations.
  2. To help reduce waste and save costs for my organization.
  3. To improve my company’s reputation.
  4. To give my company a competitive edge in the marketplace.

Of course, these are my opinions, and an outsider looking at the prospect of doing business may prioritize these differently, but that is fine because I believe all of the above are valid and achievable. This led me to ask myself: How does ISO 14001 fit into my organization?

ISO 14001 – How does it fit into my organization?

In my current organization, ISO 14001 was implemented some five years ago, and the reasons for doing so were a mixture of all of those illustrated above: reputation, cost, and a general regard for the resources of the planet that we are custodians of. However, it struck me that the way that ISO 14001 is used in my organization has changed dramatically for the better during that five-year period. The organization I work for develops extremely environmentally positive electronic products for the security industry, and as I considered where ISO 14001 fits into our organization, I considered the overall objectives of the organization:

  • To develop and manufacture products that are more environmentally positive and have longer life cycles than their market competitors.
  • To develop and manufacture products that are more environmentally positive and have longer life cycles than the legacy products they replace.

What has become clear is that the ethos of ISO 14001 is now firmly embedded in our day-to-day activities, and in fact, the environmental performance of our products is a unique selling point. So, along with measuring and improving our day-to-day impact, and that of our supply chain, as you can read about in: Driving your supply chain to ISO 14001 compliance, we actually measure the environmental qualities of our products – power consumption, life cycle, recyclability – and use them as a fundamental part of making our products saleable. Given that this truly indicates that our environmental objectives are aligned with the objectives of our business – see Ensuring that environmental objectives are aligned with the company’s strategic direction for more details – we can truly say that ISO 14001 is embedded in our business management activities and our company culture.

ISO 14001 – How does it fit for you?

Whatever part ISO 14001 plays in your organization’s activities, it is a positive standard to comply with – whatever your reasons. However, as discussed above, being environmentally positive above the level of compliance can bring huge benefits:

  • Having products with longer life cycles and less power consumption is a huge selling point and competitive edge.
  • Using less power, packaging, and consumables reduces cost and increases profit.
  • Developing your reputation as an environmentally aware producer brings market benefits when you bid or tender for work or contracts.

Therefore, I would encourage your organization to not only comply with ISO 14001, but aspire to perform above and beyond what the standard dictates. Likewise, if you truly integrate your environmental considerations and activities into your day-to-day business activities, your environmental performance will unquestionably benefit. However ISO 14001 fits into your organization now, it can be used as a business tool to set you apart from your competition. At the same time, your organization will see financial benefits, and the greater environment will be sustained also. These compelling reasons should be enough to ask yourself: “Where does ISO 14001 fit inside my organization?” and adjust that position to the benefit of all.

Use this free  ISO 14001 Foundations Course to learn how to adapt the EMS to your company.

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.