ISO 14001 is the standard used as a framework for the setting up and maintenance of an environmental management system that complies with specific requirements. ISO 14001 certification is beneficial for the following reasons:
- Proof of the organisation’s compliance with the requirements of ISO 14001.
- Shows clients and business partners that the organisation is committed to responsible environmental practices.
- Shows commitment to reduce environmental impact and to ensure sustainability of practices.
- Provides the organisation with a competitive edge over companies that have not been ISO 14001-certified.
Compliance with the standard holds several key benefits. It helps the organisation to use resources efficiently and to reduce impact on the environment through the reduction of wastage and responsible usage of resources. In the long run, the organisation also benefits from reduced costs associated with wastage management. Improvement in environmental performance leads to a higher level of trust from the public and stakeholders. An environmental management system according to the requirements of ISO 14001, makes it possible for the organisation to identify, monitor, control, and manage issues related to the environment in a sustainable way. It also helps the organisation to see the bigger picture and manage activities accordingly to minimise risk to the environment.
ISO 14001 certification can be done in conjunction with ISO 9001 certification and the systems for optimal performance and minimisation of administrative load in managing compliance with the various international standards. The standard is applicable across all industries, regardless of main activities and business size. Implementation requires a fresh look at the organisation’s activities and how these affect the environment. Factors such as air or noise pollution, waste management, water pollution, or soil contamination are considered with every action taken by the organisation.
The recent revision of the standard has led to even better performance by organisations that have gone through the certification process according to the requirements of the standard. More emphasis is placed on the involvement of top management, proper leadership, and inclusion of environmental management policies in the organisation’s strategic focus. Compliant companies commit to ongoing improvement of their environmental management including, for instance, the implementation of recycling processes. Compliant enterprises benefit from improved financial performance, reduced costs, increase in employee motivation, better standing in their communities, and reduced impact on the environment.
A systematic approach is followed regarding environmental performance. This ensures a well-documented audit trail regarding the organisation’s processes. The Plan-Do-Check-Act approach is followed, which ensures continues environmental performance improvements. “Plan” entails the setting of objectives and development of plans. The process includes analysis of the organisation’s existing systems, the setting of targets, and development of plans to reach the targets. Next comes the “Do” part, which entails the actual implementation of the plans within the framework of ISO 14001, followed by the measurement and monitoring of the results against the objectives. The “Act” part entails correction and improvement of plans to ensure continues improvement. The cycle is repeated on an ongoing basis.
Part of the process entails compliance with the legal requirements of a particular country regarding environmental management. The objectives, targets, and plans must be well documented and responsibilities must be clearly assigned. With compliance comes the benefit of employees taking responsibility for their actions. Communication is essential for successful implementation of the compliant management system. Awareness training, in addition to training in the relevant legislation, setting up of the ISO 14001 environmental management system, internal audit training, and risk management relevant to the environment should be priorities. It is essential to be prepared for environmental emergencies. Frequent testing and improvement of procedures to deal with such emergencies should form part of the organisation’s management and improvement plans.
Measurement must be done against the environmental impacts that the organisation identified. Performance must be well documented. There must be procedures in place for evaluation and correction of non-conformities. The records must be stored correctly, and be retrievable and be accessible. Regular internal audits are necessary to help keep the organisation on track, even after certification has been done. Implementation of such an environmental management system can only be successful if the top management stays committed to the process, if the implementation and requirements are communicated, if employees are trained adequately, and if proper record-keeping practices stay in place.
Let the experts of WWISE help your organisation to prepare for ISO 14001 certification and maintenance of compliance.