Considering the climate crisis and other environmental changes, companies need to find ways to be more eco-friendly. Reducing the impact on the environment is the need of the hour, and ISO 14001 is a standard that can help. Quality management systems and product lifecycles that are environment-friendly can bring a drastic difference in how organizations influence the environment.
Introduced in 1996 by ISO and most recently reviewed in 2015, this is the standard that businesses must adhere to in order to keep their establishments from adversely impacting the environment. Even though it is a voluntary certification, over 300,000 companies and non-profits comply with the ISO 14001 standards.
What Does It Do and Who Is It For?
ISO 14001 focuses on establishing and implementing an Environmental Management System in organizations. Often called an EMS, the Environmental Management System, as described by ISO 14001, comprises policies, procedures, practices, and records that detail how a company must interact with the environment. An EMS is one way to monitor and record the sustainability of an enterprise for all its members, both internal and external.
Since each organization has unique targets, needs, and environmental interactions, its compliance with ISO 14001 is based on a tailored system of requirements that fits the business processes. With the framework provided by the ISO 14000 family, you can create an environmental management system that matches your business without compromising your goals or missing important components of a successful EMS.
There are two advantages of implementing ISO 14001 that businesses cannot overlook. Firstly, being compliant with regulations that reduce the negative impacts on the environment creates a positive brand image. Passing up on this opportunity to appeal to the target customers, community, and the public can sour the relations that the business has. A lower carbon footprint is a dealbreaker for many customers when they are looking for a brand to engage with.
In addition to this, successful environmental management systems also bring chances to conserve precious financial resources. When incidents that result in liability costs, input materials, and energy for production are reduced, the efforts can save money. This ISO compliance is also grounds for obtaining insurance at better costs.
What Do The Standards In The ISO 14000 Family Cover?
In simple words, the ISO 14000 family is concerned with the various aspects of management practices that are seen in a facility, the immediate surroundings of the facility, and during every phase in a product’s life cycle. Depending on the type of organization, this may include the procurement of raw materials, the consequence of using these raw materials in certain conditions, the impact of its eventual disposal, and so on.
The ISO 14000 includes the following key standards:
- ISO 14001: Specification of Environmental Management Systems
- ISO 14004: Guideline Standard
- ISO 14010 – ISO 14015: Environmental Auditing and Related Activities
- ISO 14020 – ISO 14024: Environmental Labelling
- ISO 14031 and ISO 14032: Environmental Performance Evaluation
- ISO 14040 – ISO 14043: Life Cycle Assessment
- ISO 14050: Terms and Definitions
Can An Organization Be ISO 14001 Certified?
With over 300,000 organizations all over 171 countries being certified, meeting this ISO standard is not impossible. ISO 14001 certification is of two types: certification of a company’s environmental management system against the ISO requirements and certification of individuals to be able to audit against the ISO 14001 requirements.
For the former type of certification, the company has to implement an EMS based on the ISO 14001 requirements and then hire a recognized certification body to audit and approve the EMS as meeting the requirements of the ISO standard.
The certification process starts with defining your organization’s environmental policy, aspects, objectives, and goals so that you can identify the legal requirements for management support. The overall scope and execution of the environmental management system have to be taken into consideration as well.
At the same time, an organization also needs to create various mandatory processes and procedures to facilitate its operations. These processes need to be documented, and once they are in place, you need to start operating the EMS for a while. By going through this, your organization can collect more data to move on to the next steps of auditing and reviewing the system before getting certified.
Benefits Of An ISO 14001 Certification
Regardless of the size and nature of the organization, ISO 14001 certification has numerous benefits. Even though this standard is one among the 23,000 that ISO has established, it has gained importance in recent years.
- Evidence-Based Decision-Making- ISO 14001 certification means you only use accurate data collected from reliable sources to make decisions. When there is a standard for the data collection, the improvements you make are successful in the first attempt rather than having trials to achieve the desired impact. You can also use the data collected to track progress and correct any improvement decisions you have made. Evidence-based decision-making is one way to save time and resources.
- Keep Up Continuous Improvement- ISO standards often call for constant monitoring and reviewing to make improvements as necessary. Once your organization is certified, you can work towards growing and learning to bring down the environmental impacts in a systematic way. Constant improvement means your public image gets a boost. When organizations look for ways to improve their EMS practices, the environment sees fewer negative impacts.
- Engage People- When faced with a choice to collaborate with an enterprise that tries to conserve the environment and one that does not take such active efforts, people tend to prefer the former. Through the ISO 14001 certification, you can engage your employees, stakeholders, and clients in an effort to reduce their environmental footprint. Such relationships increase the commitment and focus that employees have, and at the same time, it builds brand loyalty.
ISO 14001 is a certification that many customers look forward to in their service providers. Being complicit in environmental transgressions is not excusable anymore, and organizations need structured and clear systems that can help them reduce their footprint. ISO 14001 is an internationally recognized way of doing that.