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Ensuring employee buy-in when implementing your ISO 14001-based EMS

Establishing and developing an EMS (Environmental Management System) that will eventually become certified to ISO 14001:2015 can be a daunting task, but it can be made considerably easier when you can depend on the buy-in and commitment of the workforce involved. Having the commitment and backing of an informed, knowledgeable, and motivated workforce can make a huge difference not only to the implementation phase of the EMS, but also to the ongoing results when the EMS itself is established. So, what tips and tricks can be used to ensure this commitment?

Winning the hearts and minds of the workforce

There are several opportunities for the organizational leaders or project manager to help get the workforce onboard during the establishment of an EMS, firstly pre-project, and then on an ongoing basis as the processes that support that EMS are being established. Let us look at what can be done before the project begins:

  • The article Six key benefits of ISO 14001 outlined the benefits that an EMS can bring to an organization. Improvement of credibility, cost savings, process improvement, and reduced employee turnover can combine to improve prospects for any organization, and educating employees to understand that these benefits are tangible can ensure that employee commitment is secured. After all, employees with mortgages and bills to pay – and sometimes stock options and profit sharing – are surely the easiest set of stakeholders to convince when it comes to projects to improve performance.
  • Improve your own personal skillset. Adoption of ISO 14001:2015 principles and practices means understanding new principles and learning new skills. This new skillset can provide employees with an edge in terms of personal development and even in qualifications, which in turn can improve promotion prospects and employability prospects when an employee is seeking a new job. Why not consider our free ISO 14001:2015 Foundations Course to start your very own journey towards personal development?
  • Join the club of independently certified success. The ISO organization announced on its website (source: that more than 300,000 certifications exist throughout 171 countries at this present moment. Failing to join this group at a time when environmental issues are growing in importance can only mean that your organization will fall behind others in the same sector if an ISO 14001:2015-certified EMS is not established by your organization.

So, now that the establishment of your EMS is set to begin, what measures can be taken to ensure that employee commitment is maintained, that motivation improves in terms of ensuring the successful establishment of the EMS, and that the output maintains its quality? Let us consider what can be done during this phase:

  • Competence and awareness – It is generally accepted that employees who are consulted, involved, and informed are more responsive and productive than those who are not. If you ensure that your employees are involved in the EMS and its functions – from objective setting to process mapping to improvement of environmental aspects – you can create a culture of increased employee motivation in terms of environmental matters. The article ISO 14001 Competence, training and awareness: Why are they important in your EMS? can help you understand more about this topic.
  • The benefit of leadership – Leaders have a unique opportunity to influence the organizations they manage through the style and substance of their actions. In our previous article, How to demonstrate leadership according to ISO 14001:2015, we examined the revised requirements that ISO 14001:2015 places on the organization’s “top management.” These more prescriptive requirements not only place more emphasis on the role of leaders, but encourage more contact between leaders and employees, and even present a greater opportunity for leaders to influence and mentor their employees in environmental matters, should they choose to do so. This presents a significant opportunity to motivate through leadership.
  • Improved emergency preparedness – Employees who are trained and aware of emergency preparedness processes and methodologies are in an excellent position to act promptly and efficiently in the event of an environmental emergency – this can only be good news for both the organization and the greater environment.

Establishing and maintaining employee buy-in

Different levels of engagement, involvement, and leading by example can play a huge part in maintaining employee buy-in through the establishment and maintenance of an ISO 14001:2015-certified EMS. It is also clear that communication and engagement are key to ensuring that environmental matters remain at the forefront of your employees’ minds; and, critically, ensuring that employees realize they can voice their opinions and their input is valued can be the key to building an open culture, whether in environmental matters or business in general. Maintaining motivation and employee buy-in can simplify your EMS establishment greatly, but even more importantly, can ensure that your EMS results are positive for many years to come.

To help your employees understand what ISO 14001 is about, and the benefits of implementing it, use this free Why ISO 14001? – Awareness presentation.

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.