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Protect and improve biodiversity performance by implementing ISO 14001

The survival of businesses in the long-term hinges on ecosystem services, different species, and genes – that is, the biodiversity. So, these days, most businesses consider preservation and protection of biodiversity to be of utmost importance. Implementing ISO 14001 in your organization can contribute to protecting and improving biodiversity, and this will be explained in this article.

The introduction of the ISO 14001 “biodiversity” term

Because the new revision of the standard had to address future challenges, and the loss of diversity is one of the primary ones, numerous references to the aspects of biodiversity can be found in ISO 14001:2015.

Although there are not direct mandatory requirements related to biodiversity in ISO 14001:2015, its importance has been enhanced in this new version and this is reflected in the text. So, where exactly is the term “biodiversity” mentioned in ISO 14001?

ISO 14001 & biodiversity: How to improve performance

In addition, there is a new approach in ISO 14001:2015 regarding the identification of the environmental impacts, giving more attention to biodiversity. While in the past the company had to determine its impacts on the environment, now there is a change of perspective, and the organization must determine the impacts from the environment that affect its processes and activities.

Business effects on biodiversity

Businesses’ activities can have major negative effects on diversity, both direct and indirect. Among the potential direct effects are the introduction of non-native species that can disrupt the original ecosystems, habitat degradation by the use of land, or rainfall runoff from disturbed land leading to pollution of streams. When a company implements ISO 14001:2015, those impacts are determined, as well as the significant environmental aspects and the capability of carrying out the necessary actions to mitigate those direct (and indirect) negative impacts.

On the other hand, some indirect effects include those caused by third parties such as suppliers during the production processes, as well as impacts resulting from the use or disposal of the business’s goods by final consumers. In this sense, ISO 14001:2015 requires providers to be selected according to certain criteria based on the protection of the environment and its biodiversity, helping the company to reduce these so-called indirect effects, and also conducting the necessary actions to reduce or avoid the associated impacts. For example, even though a company cannot control whether a customer is disposing of a product correctly, it can write the appropriate instructions indicating the best way to eliminate or recycle the item.

Learn more about the benefits of ISO 14001 for various types of businesses in the article How micro businesses can benefit from ISO 14001.

ISO 14001:2015 as a tool for biodiversity preservation

We can affirm that while businesses are part of the problem, they can also be part of the solution. Significant efforts toward the preservation of biodiversity can be achieved by companies and industries in an effective and innovative way, and ISO 14001 can be the tool used for this purpose. Let’s see how.

As we discussed in the previous section, direct and indirect effects or impacts on the environment must be determined and evaluated in an Environmental Management System (EMS). Ideally, this should be conducted in consultation with third parties or, at least, taking into consideration the point of view of those stakeholders. These third parties can include local communities and neighbors of the organization, non-profit organizations, contractors, etc. By considering these stakeholders, actions taken to avoid negative impacts will be much more appropriate and effective.

Traditionally, Environmental Management Systems have been more focused on covering environmental aspects related to climate change such as energy consumption, emissions, etc., and other kinds of environmental contamination, like waste generation, water and soil pollution, etc. However, it is important to stress that many actions aimed to mitigate those environmental aspects usually also help to preserve biodiversity.

Another requirement of ISO 14001 is that risks and opportunities within the scope of the Environmental Management System, and associated with the protection of biodiversity, need to be addressed. The avoidance of negative impacts on biodiversity also reduces the risks to businesses. Often, when a company implements measures to protect biodiversity, this represents an opportunity for the organization as well, because it results in cost savings – and improvement of the business’s image and its reputation. Finally, any action taken by a company towards the protection of biodiversity not only benefits the environment, but also contributes to enhancing the company’s commercial activities.

The importance of communication

Undoubtedly, there is an increasing interest by consumers regarding biodiversity, which grows slowly but steadily. In this regard, ISO 14001 establishes requirements necessary for more effective communication.

An important reason to disclose adequate and relevant information about the management of biodiversity carried out by the organization is meeting this demand of communication by consumers or any other third party, enhancing the company’s public image and credibility.

In addition, communicating potential effects that a wrongly used or disposed item may have on biodiversity can avoid negative effects on the environment. For instance, the incorrect use of insecticides caused by lack of information can lead to undesirable impacts on biodiversity.

Also, companies can play a crucial role in the communication of biodiversity, which is still far from being as well-known as the risks of climate change. Information provided by the company needs to be transparent and appropriate, avoiding any accusation of “green washing.”

Read more about communication according to ISO 14001 in the article How to perform communication related to the EMS.

What is good for biodiversity preservation is good for your company

It has been proven that the loss of biodiversity results in a reduction in the quality of the assets and services provided by nature, affecting businesses in every sector and industry. ISO 14001 can be considered a strong instrument to manage environmental aspects associated with those business’s activities, which helps to continuously improve biodiversity performance.

All measures included in the ISO 14001:2015 standard, if applied to businesses’ processes, will definitely bring numerous benefits not only to our planet, but to those companies. This can be defined as a win-win strategy, because protecting biodiversity means that natural services will be available for future use by companies.

To see what other benefits ISO 14001 brings for your company, download this free white paper: How can ISO 14001 help your business grow?

Advisera Iciar Gallo
Iciar Gallo
Iciar Gallo has more than 10 years of experience in business consulting training and auditing, including a number of management systems such as ISO 14001 and ISO 9001. She has worked for several international companies and prestigious universities, leading projects in Spain, Panama, Venezuela, England, and more recently in the USA. She has also worked as a teacher of several courses on environmental standards and at AENOR and Advisera. Iciar holds an MSc degree in Environmental Management and Control from the Technical University of Madrid and is certified as an auditor of ISO 9001 and ISO 14001.