The global International Organisation for Standardisation or ISO as it is more commonly known is responsible for the development of product and service standards and quality management. ISO 14001 sets outs the requirements for environmental management systems. Implementing environmental management systems in accordance with ISO 14001 is a strategy that can be used in corporate social responsibility programs.
What are Environmental Management Systems
Environmental management systems are policies and procedures adopted and implemented by an organisation in order to meet legislative requirements and oversee environmental impacts. ISO 14001 suggests that environmental management systems are created in accordance with the Plan-Do-Check-Act framework.
When implementing environmental management systems, consideration must be given to directly controllable factors within production and distribution; as well as making provision to influence the business’ supply chain to carry out environmental management and protection strategies.
Environmental Impacts of Business Operations
The environmental impacts of business operations can be either positive or negative. Positive environmental impacts include preservation of wildlife habitat and cultural heritage. The list of negative environmental impacts, which must be considered when implementing ISO 14001 environmental management systems include:
- carbon emissions;
- water and energy use;
- waste; and
A requirement of ISO 14001 is that policies and procedures are implemented for emergency situations. This includes preparing risk assessments, storage procedures for any chemicals and liquids, emergency responses including communication to external stakeholders and evacuation plans.
Specific and Measurable Targets and Objectives
As part of the planning process, targets in relation to environmental impacts need to be set. ISO 14001 recommends that environmental impact targets are specific and measurable. An example of a specific and measurable environmental impact target for a manufacturing business would be to decrease carbon emissions by 10% over three years. Service businesses also are responsible for environmental impacts and the carbon emission reduction example is appropriate. Strategies to reduce carbon emissions may be different in both types of businesses.
Staff Training and Communication
Developing policies and procedures is not sufficient for an ISO 14001 compliant environmental management system as the standard advises that staff and contractors must be trained in the company’s environmental management procedures and made aware of the existence of the environmental management policies.
The standard states that internal communication is important and can be used as part of the awareness program. Communication with external stakeholders in relation to the environmental management system is at a business’ discretion and policies and procedures should be established to ensure consistent communication through channels including annual reports, websites and community consultations.
Internal Audit and Management Review Provisions
ISO 14001 guidelines provide for a continuous quality improvement cycle for environmental management systems. Specifically environmental management systems should be subject to regular objective and bias-free internal audits by appropriately trained professionals.
Senior management of the business have an obligation to review the environmental management system including environmental performance outcomes and internal audit results on a regular basis in order to evaluate the efficacy of the environmental management system and provide suggestions for improvement.
The International Organisation for Standardisation standard ISO 14001 sets out the requirements for environmental management systems. In order to implement an ISO 14001 compliant environmental management system, a business
- needs to consider environmental impacts of operations,
- create emergency preparedness plans,
- set specific and measurable targets in relation to environmental performance, and
- undertake regular internal audits of the environmental management system.
Finally senior management needs to be involved in reviewing the environmental management system on a regular basis taking into consideration any changes in legislation, current environmental performance and results of internal audits.