ISO 14000, Environmental Management, Sustainability

Terry Dowson

Transformation Strategies: ISO 14000, Environmental Management, Sustainability


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Introduction ---- Where To Start

Worldwide political pressure and public concern over environmental issues, is forcing many governments to react and introduce legislation to try and improve the legacy this generation leaves behind for the next. The momentum is gathering and these issues will not evaporate with time, they are here to stay. Global warming, ozone depletion, groundwater pollution and rapid depletion of the Earth's natural resources are all high on the global political agenda. . Industry will have to insulate against the growing tide of opinion, and make itself less vulnerable to the predatory politicians.

ISO 14001 is an internationally recognized standard through which an organization can demonstrate an advanced level of competence in managing the environmental impacts of its activities and processes. Company's aspiring to achieve certification to the standard, must fulfill the demanding criteria of its six elements.

A browse through the ISO 14001 standard will undoubtedly leave one with a sense of déjà vu, indeed, this is entirely intentional, as the standard was designed to fully compliment ISO 9002, its quality cousin. Although there are familiar rings to the technology and disciplines of a quality system, implementation of an environmental management system is appreciably different in approach.

This article broadly summarizes the experience of designing and implementing an EMS, from the very beginning, right through to successful accreditation to ISO 14001, a process taking slightly more than eighteen months to complete.


Where To Start
Once a decision has been made to progress towards a formal and systematic approach to managing environmental issues, then the logical place to start is at the beginning. The planning stage is crucial if any degree of success is to be achieved, and time spent preparing a sound foundation, will be rewarded at all subsequent stages of the implementation process. The company infrastructure should be examined to try and identify areas of weakness; appreciate some of the cultural hardspots, which could make planning organizational changes difficult, or at least more so perhaps than initially anticipated. The end result will have a much greater chance of success if it is complimentary to existing business practices; to contemplate major changes will almost certainly lead to failure. Ideally, the EMS should interface smoothly with the current set-up, and create the least amount of inconvenience to the organization and its people

A strategic implementation plan should be produced, which outlines the resources required to develop the EMS, and this would almost certainly involve a gap analysis, and should clearly indicate how the system will be supported in terms of human, financial and technical resources. At this stage it is worth exploding one myth at least, specifically, that companies should not be discouraged simply because they believe that they would be disadvantaged, perhaps due to the hazardous nature of their particular business. A company does not have to solve all its environmental problems in order to get certification to ISO 14001. Recognition of its major problems, and the introduction of management controls to reduce the significance of any environmental impacts, is what an accreditation body is looking for initially, followed by a progressive plan of further improvements to reasonable and practicable levels.

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