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How can ISO 14001 help improve a company’s total quality management?

While ISO 14001 is widely recognized as the business sector’s foremost standard to allow organizations to manage environmental performance, there are also additional benefits that organizations should accrue from adapting the standard and its practices. In a previous article, How to integrate ISO 14001 and 9001, we looked at the ease with which the ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 standards could be integrated by a business, so it is immediately clear that there are many activities and practices shared by the two standards, including the concept of “total quality management” (TQM). It therefore would seem reasonable to assume that the implementation of ISO 14001 may lead to improvements in quality management performance also – but, is that true, and if so, how can we ensure that our business benefits too?

ISO 14001 and quality management – What is the relationship?

Annex SL and its use has meant that the ISO family of standards use similar clauses and terminology, so integrating the standards into your TQM business management system should be relatively seamless. Therefore, if you currently comply with ISO 14001, then your related Quality Management System or activities should be smoother and more efficient because of this shared knowledge and activity. As such, many of the functions in the ISO 14001 standard, such as management review, internal audit, and corrective action, are shared by the standards. With continual improvement and customer satisfaction being central to both standards (particularly the 9001 standard), and the “Plan, Do, check, Act” cycle being a common theme, it becomes clear that the two standards are closely related. Given TQM’s basis of integration of systems ultimately leading to customer satisfaction, it is clear that ISO 14001 has a part to play within this system.

How can your EMS activities help your quality performance?

If your organization conforms to ISO 14001, and therefore has a functioning EMS (Environmental Management System), then this without doubt can positively influence your overall quality performance. Let’s examine how:

1) Your organization will be accustomed to using objectives and key performance indicators (KPIs) as part of your EMS. Just as fact-based decision making is central to TQM, use the same basic methodologies to establish quality KPIs and work towards quality targets; this is central to understanding your performance, and ultimately improving it. The article How to define key performance indicators for a QMS based on ISO 9001 can help you with this topic.

2) In the article Measuring training effectiveness in ISO 14001:2015 we looked at the importance of training and knowledge to the EMS; this is equally important to your QMS (Quality Management System), and integrated TQM system. Combine aspects of quality performance, product awareness, and shared QMS objectives into your training program and you can increase awareness and facilitate improved product knowledge and QMS performance very quickly. Effective training can facilitate this.

3) Leverage your leaders to improve quality. In the article How to demonstrate leadership according to ISO 14001 we looked at the positive effect that good leadership can bring to your EMS performance, and this is very similar in terms of the QMS. Most leaders will jump at the opportunity of improving quality performance with relatively little cost; therefore, implementing quality-related activities into your existing EMS functions can give immediate benefits to the quality performance of the business. It can be advisable to draw up a plan of how these activities can be replicated or simply extended to boost your organization’s quality management performance, as this can be effective in engaging and winning over organizational leaders.

4) In the article How to allocate roles and responsibilities according to ISO 14001 we looked at allocating EMS responsibilities. Now that we have established leadership buy-in and set up KPIs, why not include basic quality management responsibilities in individuals’ job descriptions? This presents your organization with a clear opportunity: integrate activities, programs, and corresponding responsibilities into the roles and responsibilities of selected individuals, who can then be trained and mentored to correctly carry out activities that will improve your product quality internally, and deliver excellent TQM results.

5) Work to change the company culture. In the article 5 tips to build a positive environmental culture in a company we looked at how culture could be changed. Very similarly, a culture of positive behavior that can improve your total quality management performance can also be established at the same time. Reinforcing that good quality management, product performance, and customer satisfaction all lead to increased success for the organization and increased job security for employees can be the foundation for culture reinforcement. This can often lead to increased employee activity in terms of employee interest in quality management, and willingness to engage in improvement meetings and forums. Therefore, if you have established and improved this culture using the advice given during ISO 14001 implementation, your organization has a sound basis to use this element to improve all-around quality management performance. Yet again, this aligns perfectly with the “total employee involvement” of TQM.

Getting maximum benefit

We can now see that there are real methods – in terms of activities, behaviors, culture, and the shared format of ISO 14001 and ISO 9001 – to ensure that the foundations that ISO 14001 has provided to your company and workforce can be used to improve total quality management, as a joint process between your existing management systems. In fact, in many ways the implementation of an EMS, with the activities, behaviors, culture, and knowledge requirements needed to make it successful, is the perfect framework to make quality improvements by integrating elements of quality awareness and initiatives into your existing activities and responsibilities. Combining the two can greatly enhance the chances of your organization’s overall success and prosperity, and further enhance your organization’s concept of TQM, and that will be good news for everyone – especially your customers.

Use this free online ISO 14001 Foundations Course to improve your knowledge of the standard and see how to improve your company’s Total Quality Management performance.

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.