ISO 14001:2015 is the internationally recognised framework that guides organisations in improving their environmental consciousness business-wide.
These guidelines were designed to be applicable regardless of your business’ size, location or sector, meaning that all companies are held to the same standard. This also establishes greater consistency on a global scale, so those who have established an international presence can achieve certification across all of their operations.
What Does Compliance With ISO 14001 Involve?
The distinct requirements of this standard are explained in 10 key clauses, each of which covers a different crucial component of compliance.
Each element of the standard outlines mandatory aspects of an environmental management system; however, the clauses don’t dictate how such requirements ought to be met. This allows for greater flexibility, so while businesses are held to the same standard, they can make changes that are needed in their unique context.
Sections one through three describe the scope of ISO 14001, providing individuals with valuable insights into what exactly compliance with the standard entails. This builds a solid foundation so that, prior to proceeding, organisations are equipped with the knowledge and understanding of the requirements that are needed for certification success.
The remaining seven clauses detail the core components of ISO certification, explaining the key areas your business will need to focus on. As a general overview, these sections emphasis the need for:
- Strong leadership and involvement from top management (clause 5);
- Creating reliable planning processes to address ongoing risks and opportunities (clause 6);
- Action that supports the integration of ISO 14001 into your current systems. For instance, providing employees with relevant training, building awareness of the requirements organisation-wide and establishing processes to control the documentation of information (clause 7);
- Planning for the management of operations, all the while constructing plans that outline how you will respond to emergency environmental situations (clause 8);
- Introducing performance evaluation capabilities to monitor, measure and evaluate your environmental management system processes (clause 9);
- Striving for continual improvement by regularly identifying and resolving nonconformities (clause 10).
Common Challenges of Integrating ISO 14001
Introducing an environmental management system can be incredibly beneficial for an organisation, assisting them in enhancing both the performance and reputation of their business. With long-term solutions in place and maintained compliance, organisations can enjoy an array of benefits well into the future.
However, before taking action to become more environmentally conscious during their day-to-day operations, many companies are held back by various doubts and concerns.
1. The Cost of Certification
Organisations often believe that, if they decide to strive toward becoming certified, they will incur substantial financial costs. There’s also the concern that implementation will be incredibly time-consuming and, thus, that it will take away from their employee’s ability to complete necessary tasks. Similarly, the costs associated with training employees in the standard requirements can act as a barrier for organisations considering whether or not to become certified.
However, when implementing new projects and the like, it’s typically expected that your organisation will encounter initial costs of some form. While committing to these costs may seem intimidating it’s important to note that, in many cases, the long-term benefits and company savings will far outweigh your investment.
Consumers are becoming increasingly conscious of their environmental impact and, often, individuals choose to only support businesses that align with their values. With an effective, maintainable environmental management system in place, your organisation can highlight your commitment to sustainability and establish a competitive edge, driving more valuable business.
In addition to this, compliance with ISO 14001 can assist you in improving efficiencies and, consequently, refining processes so that they support cost savings without compromising on quality. Environmental management systems focus on reducing waste, which assists organisations in improving their allocation of resources, optimising their processes and saving monetary and time costs during their day-to-day operations.
2. Lack of the Necessary Resources & Knowledge
Often, organisations will want to achieve and maintain certification, but they’re concerned that they don’t have the adequate resources to do so.
Maybe they’re lacking qualified human resources employees or they don’t know where to begin when it comes to educating their staff on the requirements of an environmental management system. Such barriers aren’t uncommon, however, external resources are making overcoming apprehensions of this nature less challenging.
Digital transformations have made accessing information more convenient and easy than ever before. There’s an abundance of value-driven resources that can be used to educate employees, a large portion of which are available at the click of a button.
If you don’t have the required resources internally, there’s also the option to gain professional assistance from an expert ISO 14001 consultant. With extensive experience helping businesses integrate effective, maintainable environmental management systems, an ISO 14001 consultant can assist you in achieving your compliance objectives.
In many cases, the certification process is unknown territory, so it’s not surprising that the concept may seem daunting and overwhelming. Luckily, there are an abundance of resources available to organisations and, with a little bit of guidance, they can confidently overcome their apprehensions and achieve certification success.
How Could ISO 14001 Certification Benefit Your Business?
Establishing a greater focus on sustainability and achieving compliance with ISO 14001 not only assists your organisation in being more environmentally conscious, but also gives you the opportunity to enjoy a range of benefits.
1. Establish a Competitive Edge
By introducing an environmental management system into their current processes, companies can display a commitment to improving their sustainability and reducing their global impact. This can, in turn, assist them in attracting more consumers with similar values and priorities.
Buyers are becoming increasingly aware of their purchasing decisions and, thus, many choose to boycott brands that they believe are acting unethically or without sustainability in mind. In fact, 70% of consumers would consider switching brands if another more environmentally friendly option became available.
In addition to this, if you’re applying for government tenders or the like, having a credible representation of your environmental compliance can be incredibly beneficial. In some cases, certification can be the decisive factor that influences which organisation is successful in their application.
2. Boost Regulatory & Legislative Compliance
Once you’ve been awarded ISO 14001 certification, you can rest assured that your business is meeting any relevant regulatory and legislative obligations.
A key element of compliance with ISO standards is the need to introduce long-term solutions that support the continued improvement of processes. This means everyone in your organisation is working cooperatively towards refining your environmental management systems, so it’s far less likely you’ll fail to meet legislative requirements.
While your organisation can, of course, ensure you’re satisfying regulatory guidelines without ISO 14001 certification, this system can aid you tremendously in monitoring and maintaining your compliance. It provides a systematic, strategic approach that guides businesses in ensuring they aren’t overlooking any legislation that directly applies to them.
3. Improve Your Response to Change
When organisations implement an environmental management system, a core requirement is that they’re constantly looking for risks and opportunities in their sector.
Compliant businesses employ a proactive approach to risk management, which assists them in taking preventative measures that address potentially damaging situations.
In addition to this, organisations can develop actionable plans to address certain issues in the case that they arise. By pre-emptively building strategies to resolve unfavourable situations, you have the opportunity to improve your response time and reduce the overall negative impact of harmful circumstances on your business.
ISO 14001 certification also has a strong focus on collecting good, accurate data, all the while establishing reliable systems. Thus, when you’re adjusting business processes, you will likely already have the systems in place to do so effectively and efficiently, allowing for your business to make any required changes with ease. With great data backing up your actions, you can also ensure such changes have clear direction and that, if they start to go off track, you can alter your existing approach accordingly.
The business landscape is constantly evolving and advancing, so it’s crucial that your organisation has the processes in place to remain responsive, relevant and competitive in the modern environment.
4. Reduce Employee Turnover
When working toward ISO 14001 compliance, organisations are expected to involve employees across all business levels.
When staff members are involved in improving a business’ management systems, they’re typically far more engaged and invested in the continued success of the organisation. With management who recognised their value in achieving company objectives, employees feel as though they’re making a real impact in their workplace.
This can, in turn, be incredibly effective in boosting staff morale, creating an improved workplace culture and reducing employee turnover. Ultimately, this also translates into monetary and financial savings in your organisation’s training and recruitment department.
Want to Become ISO 14001 Certified?
If you’re interested in achieving compliance with ISO 14001, get in touch with our experienced team of consultants today. We’ve assisted numerous organisations in reaching their compliance objectives and know what it takes to integrate practical, effective and maintainable environmental management systems.