EHS MANAGEMENT BLOG

How ISO 14001 Affects Your Sustainability Efforts

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How do you deal with growing environmental challenges?

It's one of the biggest questions facing EHS professionals. 

Many companies are embracing ISO 14001 to reduce waste, gain a competitive edge, and woo customers and investors.

It's a big change from "Band-Aid" environmental management, where companies just met legal standards —  say, shutting down facilities in response to new emissions regulations.

In contrast, the new standard encourages companies to systematically manage environmental responsibilities to promote sustainable growth.

Below, we'll look at how ISO 14001 affects your sustainability efforts:

Why is the new ISO 14001:2015 standard so important?

The new ISO 14001:2015 revision turns environmental management from a "checkbox" to a core business component like finance, marketing, or HR.

These changes reflect a shift in sustainability thinking. Businesses are waking up to the importance of "holistic" environmental management.

Says Acting ISO Secretary General Kevin McKinley, “ We see a lot of difficult discussions on climate change, we see a lot of challenges for organizations to meet expectations of policy makers related to water utilization, related to energy usage. These are big challenges — challenges that are reflected as well in the views of their stakeholders, of shareholders.”

In response, ISO 14001 lays out a framework for an environmental management system (EMS).

An environmental management system helps organizations identify, track, and control their environmental issues. Everything from air pollution, to waste management, to climate change mitigation, to resource efficiency is considered in the organization's strategic planning process. 

How does ISO 14001 change corporate sustainability?

Naturally, this approach requires a top-down commitment. As part of the 2015 revision, ISO 14001 underlines the importance of leadership involvement.

Says John Fillo of Trinity Consultants, “We don’t have the vernacular of an ‘environmental management representative’ anymore. [It’s] not just one person wearing the hat of the management system guru, but rather leadership across the organization to improve the management system.”

The new ISO 14001 also emphasizes the need for continual improvement. Instead of just looking good on paper, companies will take a proactive approach to sustainability. By implementing the ISO 14001 standard, you'll be able to document your methods and show measurable improvement.

Finally, the new standard encourages greater involvement and communication with stakeholders. That translates to more trust and a better corporate reputation.

Similarly, expect companies who use ISO 14001 to nudge suppliers to do the same. It's the snowball effect: consumers push companies to care about CSR, and companies turn to their supply chain to be more sustainable.

Final thoughts

The new standard is exciting news for environmental compliance directors: ISO 14001 doesn't just promote sustainability within a single business, it’s driving a global shift in attitudes.

But, says Perillon customer Michael Tucker of National Grid, “Fulfillment of compliance obligations does not simply happen. Even the best process must be properly managed.”

Feel free to check out our guide to ISO 14001 environmental management to learn more. 

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