Some of our readers may be wondering whether companies that have implemented environmental management systems actually have received tangible benefits for their efforts. Some of you may have also been keeping track of the inroads that ISO 14001 has made in the regulated sector, and possibly comparing the efforts of ISO 14001 to ISO 9001 as a guide.
In certain sectors, such as the automotive industry, there is no guessing: many suppliers to the Big 3 automakers have to be certified to ISO 14001 as a business requirement. Yet, other companies, still have a Missouri “show me” perspective. Can we really blame them?
While there are a number of sources available in print or on the web that allow folks to keep track of ISO certifications worldwide, that may not be enough to convince some folks of the real value that can be theirs should they decide to start traveling down the Road to ISO.
There are a number of organizations, including the omnipresent regulators, who are starting to look more closely at EMSs as a means to enhance compliance attitudes at a number of regulated organizations.
The USEPA and a number of state regulators have been toying with the concept of having organizations implement EMSs as part of voluntary programs, such as EPA’s Performance Track. Interestingly, there is no mention of certification to ISO 14001 or any of these voluntary participants, but if organizations wish to pursue that venue, they are free to do so.
And what have some organizations found about pursuing the implementation of an EMS? It does work, and it does help streamline compliance activities. The key to success lies in an EMS that follows a recipe with proven track value. The one with which I am most familiar is an EMS that is modeled after the elements of ISO 14001.
Why not follow this recipe, and see how it works. Then, once you have gained some confidence in applying the elements of ISO 14001 to your EMS, perhaps then you may want to start looking at having your facility’s EMS certified by an outside registrar.
Show Me the Money
You might argue that all that discussion about ISO 14001 is all well and good, but what can you show me to convince me that spending all this time, employee resources, outside consulting assistance, training, and more training, will provide my organization value for my investment?
These are different times post September 11th, let’s make no mistake about it, but value is value, and if real value can be realized in a format other than “pro-forma” or as some folks call it, “sleaze factor” accounting, then we have something that we can take to the bank.
The metrics for capturing the value that can be obtained in a well-organized environmental management system does not have to be exotic or require costly EMS tracking software tools that some firms are hawking, the rule of the day is the simpler the better. Some organizations use simple tables, spreadsheets, or even Access databases to track their results.
The key is not the software, it’s the person who harvests the data, and whether they are diligent and methodical in their efforts. It also helps if one begins with the low-hanging fruit to track the monies saved. Use these activities as a practice field as you move to the more elusive values that may require more creativity, such as tracking energy consumption in various locations throughout the plant, some of which may not be directly related to your EMS program. In such cases, you may have to resort to specialized software to help you.
You may also have to evaluate the many choices available to you to find the one package that provides you the value, not a sale for the vendor.
I queried several associates and posed this question: ‘What value did you receive by having an EMS in place at your facility?” This is what I received.
One organization reported to its stakeholders that it had saved about $75,000 in one year in combined energy savings, solid waste reduction and recycling efforts, and had earmarked additional solid waste streams for being introduced into their recycling program. Doubly important, solid waste reduction was among their significant impacts, and they were well on their way to achieving results beyond their initial expectations.
These results were so impressive, that their registrar had noted their accomplishments at a recent surveillance audit. What tools did this organization use to track these results? A table format with results tabulated quarterly and submitted at year end. It worked for them. What works for you may be completely different.
This organization also found that by having an EMS in place that is slowly maturing, their confidence level in themselves is on the upswing, and they are continuing the EMS momentum into other areas, such as their contractors and suppliers, who are also linked to their EMS.
There’s value here as well, especially if your contractors are among those folks who may contribute to your organization’s EMS, by way of aspects and impacts. Let’s not forget their participation.
Another colleague from GM had this to say:
He has been pleased with the progress his plant has made in cost, worker and environmental considerations as they strive for continual improvements in their business activities.
Is there value, or perhaps more appropriately, is there a return on investment for organizations seeking to implement an EMS that conforms to the elements of ISO 14001? The answer may depend upon whether an EMS was properly designed and whether the individuals keeping it going have the right tools and management support to realize tangible positive gains.
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