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How a food business can benefit from ISO 14001

The global food industry is a collective of complex and diverse businesses, both large and small, that work together to feed the population of this planet. Even if your food business is at the smaller end of that scale – think sandwich or coffee shop, or small supplier to these businesses – you may be interested to know that significant benefits can still be gained by implementing ISO 14001 in your business. In fact, many owners or managers can find this benefit enough to give their organization a competitive advantage over rivals. So, what are these benefits, and how can ISO 14001 in the food industry be used to deliver them?

The benefits and how to realize them

It is widely recognized that ISO 14001 is the premier industry standard used to reduce a company’s environmental impact, but many of the activities initiated by the standard bring other benefits, namely process efficiencies and cost reductions. The article How to get management buy-in for an ISO 14001 project examined how to convince your top management team that ISO 14001 could have cost as well as environmental benefits, and this applies to a business in the food industry as much as any other sector.

The next critical step will be ensuring that your employees understand the positive part that ISO 14001 can play for your food business. You also need to ensure that your supply chain understands, given that you are responsible for the environmental impact that supply chain creates. So, what is the best way to achieve that? Certain parts of the standard can facilitate initiatives that will help these “dual” benefits to be realized, but what sections should you concentrate on? How can you ensure the resulting actions from the ISO 14001 implementation project can benefit your food business?

Understanding the needs of interested parties. This is a sub-section of section (4), which deals with defining the context of the organization. Previously we looked at the article Understanding the needs & expectations of interested parties in ISO 14001 and how a company had to assess legislation and the needs of stakeholders, then decide what would become a “compliance obligation.” This provides a defined opportunity for a business in the food sector.

Complying with environmental legislation to avoid fines is a positive factor but consider what your customers really want. Redesigning processes, reducing use of packaging and working to reduce your delivery journeys can not only save considerable amounts of money, but may allow you to market or re-brand as “environmentally friendly” as your unique selling point.

Actions to address risk and opportunity.  These actions make up part of section (6), which deals with planning, and once again there are opportunities here that can help a company prosper in the food sector. Adopting an intelligent attitude towards environmental risk can pay dividends, as we discovered in the article Risks and opportunities in ISO 14001 – What are they and why they are important. Whether improving your recycling processes, rearranging your working hours to reduce utility bills or using your new found “environmentally friendly” status to try and win new business, maintaining a focus on environmental risk and opportunity can bring defined benefits for your food business.

Dealing with environmental aspects. This also comes within section (6), and though this is a critical part of any EMS (environmental management system), it also presents the chance for benefits in any food business. Controlling emissions, water waste, electricity and the general carbon footprint of the business all have the dual benefit of decreasing the environmental impact while increasing profit margins.

ISO 14001 in food industry: Use it as competitive advantage

To learn how ISO 14001 could provide benefits in a restaurant, and whatever place your business holds in the food sector, read the Case Study: Using ISO 14001:2015 to reduce environmental impact and increase profit in a restaurant.

Ensuring your business gets the benefit

Having an EMS compliant with ISO 14001 can make environmental and financial sense for businesses in the food sector. The examples given above help illustrate how the initial project investment can quickly be clawed back through reduced bills and profits that entry to new markets can bring. With the food business guaranteed to sustain and expand as our needs and tastes develop, presenting a food product or service to the market that is sustainable and environmentally responsible can help improve your reputation and your business prospects accordingly.

Increasing profit and playing a part in developing a more sustainable future for the food industry are compelling reasons for considering ISO 14001:2015, so, why not do it today?

To learn more about benefits that ISO 14001 can bring to your food business, download this free whitepaper: How can ISO 14001 help your business grow?

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.