Companies of all sectors, types and sizes have an ethical and moral duty to consider their environmental impact. It’s also increasingly a business priority, to maintain a relationship of credibility and trust with your customers.
In fact, B2B contracts are commonly only placed with organisations that can evidence their commitment to sustainability, and a positive environmental ‘footprint’.
Central to this is an Environmental Management System (EMS). An EMS is a systematic approach to controlling the immediate and long-term effects of your processes, services and products.
If you need to establish, improve or maintain an environmental management system, you would be wise to work towards the requirements and targets encapsulated by ISO 14001.
What ISO 14001
It’s part of the ISO 14000 family of industry standards that govern environmental management. It provides a framework that organizations can voluntarily follow to prove their commitment to an accredited set of performance targets.
The benefits of ISO 14001
Meeting the requirements of ISO 14001 provides internal assurance that you’re managing your environmental checks, measures and controls effectively.
It also sends an unequivocal message to your customers, suppliers and any other ‘stakeholders’. It shows the depth of your commitment to being thorough and consistent in your EMS. Certification is proof that you have reached international recognised standards, end to end across your business. This builds your reputation as a caring, sustainable and forward-looking company.
Having a best practice framework to shape your environmental activities can also help integrate them into your everyday operations, with all your team working to the same pre-agreed targets.
In some cases, having ISO 14001 could even reduce your Public Liability premiums, as your insurer will have ‘proof positive’ that your workforce is managing environment risks efficiently.
However, one of the most important benefits of working towards ISO 14001 is that it makes it less likely your company will commit environmental errors and oversights.
Lastly, ISO 14001 also brings significant cost benefits. The framework helps you to identify savings, through improved water and energy efficiency, and a reduction in waste.
What are the ISO14001 requirements?
The primary requirement of ISO 14001 is that you have an appropriate Environmental Management System for your company. This needs to extend to your supply chain too.
Requirements also include that you assign roles and responsibilities for actioning your environmental policies, especially a named lead for EMS.
ISO14001 requirements focus on evidence of a positive impact too, and proof that you have considered long term, as well as immediate eco-factors. Have you got environmental targets attached to your business plan, and how are you monitoring and evaluating your progress?
In a nutshell, the requirements of ISO14001 are about continuous improvement and your environmental legacy, as well as what you’re doing today.
ISO 14001 requirements checklist
To meet the standards set by this important environmental framework, companies need to draw up a checklist of the requirements they can work through.
For example, the first item could be ensuring that your management team is fully committed to your EMS and implementing it daily. You should also agree on the perimeters of your EMS – in terms of the processes, products, services and supply chain elements it covers.
Then, your ISO 14001 requirements checklist could identify areas that need improvement, and any resources you need to assign to creating positive change.
It should also list the training and education needed to build skills, and meet the targets set.
Knowing how to create this ISO 14001 requirements checklist usually requires outside expertise.
The ISO14001 process
To successfully reach the standards embodied in ISO14001, you need to work with an appointed accredited certification body such as CS East.
We offer this service to any organisation, irrespective of their location, business sector or size, though we primarily provide environmental consultancy services to small and medium-sized enterprises.
The starting point in working towards ISO 14001 accreditation is to be assessed against the mandatory requirements. Any areas for improvement in your EMS would be identified and added to your checklist.
When any required changes are implemented and operational, a second assessment would measure effectiveness and confirm that the international environmental management standards have been met.
If any further improvements are required, this would be accomplished prior to applying for certification under ISO 14001.
Your file would then be reviewed by an impartial, independent panel who could then decide to grant or refuse your ISO 14001 accreditation. This panel would also consider renewals and suspensions.