The challenges standing between your business and ISO 14001 certification

61% of Australian consumers say companies’ sustainability practices influence their purchase decisions, with only 10% saying that sustainability practices have no influence at all.

As consumers adapt their habits to focus on sustainability, they are increasingly demanding more from companies. Eight out of ten Australian consumers expect all businesses to do everything they can to support environmentally friendly practices. For many people, this issue is so important they will stop supporting brands that don’t meet their expectations.

Consumers are expecting companies to commit to environmental sustainability across all of their practices, not only a select few. While an architecture firm may recycle paper in their office, are they also using environmentally friendly designs and materials? A cleaning company may choose less harmful chemicals to work with, but how are they disposing of waste and could they cut back on resources?

When brands are willing and able to adapt to meet expectations the opportunities to grow and do good are endless. But with one in two Australians actively looking for greener products or services, unresponsive brands risk losing business from and existing customers who prefer more sustainable options.

For companies wanting to minimise their environmental impact, compliance with ISO 14001 provides assurance that they are taking all practical steps to conduct operations sustainably.

Why invest in ISO 14001 certification?

ISO 14001 is the internationally recognised standard for environmental management.

Becoming certified with this standard provides a stamp of credibility that your organisation is not only meeting relevant legal requirements but also going above and beyond to proactively control risks and minimise environmental impacts.

From improving sustainability and minimising waste with more effective resource allocation to reducing their environmental impact, here are some of the most common reasons companies decide to invest in ISO 14001 certification.

1. Establishing a competitive edge and attracting new business

Consumers increasingly want to support brands that demonstrate a clear, strong commitment to sustainability. So much so, that 73% of Australian consumers are happy to pay more for brands with strong sustainability and eco-friendly practices.

When companies are compliant with ISO 14001, consumers can trust that they are taking practical, effective steps to ensure systems and practices are environmentally friendly. This makes them the preferable choice over non-compliant brands because of the confidence and credibility that comes with certification, which gives the company a competitive edge.

2. Improve regulatory and legislative compliance

Companies that are ISO 14001 compliant can be confident that they’re meeting their environmental regulatory requirements – consumers can also be confident this is the case. Regular audits ensure that this compliance is maintained over time and that emerging risks are managed proactively to avoid breaches.

3. Employees take pride in a sustainable, environmentally friendly record

Working at a company that prioritises environmental friendliness and proactively works to minimise impacts is something that employees can be proud to be a part of. It can not only contribute to happier workplaces and reduced staff turnover but also help attract talented employees who are concerned about sustainability and elect to work for companies that align with their values.

4. Lighter footprint on the environment

When your systems are strategically built around sustainability, this makes it far easier to minimise impacts and leave behind a lighter footprint on the environment day in and out. As we navigate environmental issues such as pollution, resource depletion and environmental degradation in the years ahead, it’s good to know that you are doing what you can to operate sustainably.

5. Reduced costs due to fewer resources used

When companies work towards getting ISO 14001 compliant streamlining systems to ensure they are highly efficient is a key focus. Resource allocation is optimised, which involves looking for opportunities to avoid using more resources than what is realistically required and can in turn result in cost savings.

For companies wanting to get ISO 14001 certified, there can be obstacles along the way. Knowing what to expect will put you in the best possible position to get certified quickly and with fewer costly setbacks.

ISO 14001 most common challenges

1. Starting strong

Companies often find that while they want to get ISO 14001 certified, they don’t feel they’re ready to start. However, there is never going to be a “perfect” time to get things underway.

ISO implementation is an ongoing process and ultimately the sooner you start, the sooner you can achieve your compliance goal. As long as you have the funds and time – the time commitment will vary depending on whether or not you work with an ISO consultant – the best time to start is now.

2. Setting realistic goals

The goals you set need to be realistic and time-specific, without being overly conservative and easy to achieve. Ensuring that your objectives are challenging enough and developed to maximise the company’s return on investment will help you get the most out of your goal setting.

With ISO 14001 certification ticking the box isn’t enough, so it’s also important to ensure your goals support ongoing improvement.

3. Getting busy and losing momentum

Depending on where current systems are at, implementing ISO 14001 may be less or more challenging. During implementation the time and effort required are usually the main challenge companies face, so it’s important to have a plan for how you will consistently keep everything progressing.

Before starting the project, ensure you have enough human resources available to provide support as you work towards compliance. Doing this helps ensure that if you do get busy the project doesn’t lose momentum.

4. Managing legislation and regulations

Environmental legislation can be complex for businesses to implement. If there isn’t a dedicated person or function at your organisation that specialises in this area, legislation-related matters can feel even more difficult to navigate.

When companies achieve ISO 14001 certification, they can also be confident that they are compliant with environmental legislation as these requirements are a part of the ISO standard guidelines.

While legislative compliance can be confusing it’s incredibly important, which is why often companies opt to get external help from a consultant who understands the requirements and lessens the workload in-house.

5. Leadership from top management

Commitment from top management is essential for compliance with all ISO standards including ISO 14001. While it’s a requirement for certification it also helps encourage employees to get on board with changes, which makes the overall implementation more effective and maintainable.

Top executives are busy and stretched thin already. But when the leadership team sees the value in ISO 14001 compliance, including how it will benefit the business and them personally in their day-to-day job, they are much more likely to make it a priority. From reduced costs and a lighter environmental footprint to saving time, certification adds value in a variety of ways.

6. Self-management

ISO standard implementation can be self-managed, but in these instances the organisation’s management needs to drive the change.

If there’s a lack of awareness around goals, ineffective project management or staff don’t have access to required resources, this could bring the compliance process to a halt.

Having an external consultant can be helpful for organisations struggling with this, as periodic check-ins keep the company accountable and on track.

7. Transparency

Accurate information about the company’s environmental management system implementation needs to be shared transparently with employees. Often businesses fail to ensure relevant information is shared with employees at all levels, which can lead to inconsistent and disjointed efforts that hold the company back from achieving its certification objectives.

Ongoing training and clear communication across organisational levels are necessary to overcome this.

Once you’re ISO 14001 compliant, informing customers of your certified status is also worthwhile. Compliance shows that environmental management is a priority at your business, which may influence the purchasing decisions of consumers who prefer to support brands that align with their own personal values.

8. Maintaining balance

Systems need to be built in a way that reduces environmental impact with minimal change. This is often achieved by tweaking what is already there and minimising paperwork, such as through the use of automation and cloud-based systems.

Another effective option is regularly auditing changes over time, which ensures that they aren’t limiting your team or product.

There also needs to be balance in how environmental changes are implemented, more specifically ensuring that any additional work employees take on to help the company get certified doesn’t infringe on their ability to complete necessary day-to-day tasks.

If a person is taking on more responsibilities these need to be manageable to ensure all parts of the business continue to run smoothly and that areas aren’t being neglected during the implementation of ISO 14001. If the workload does seem unrealistic, an ISO consultant could help take the pressure off your team.

Contact us about ISO 14001 certification

If you’re ready to take the first steps towards becoming ISO 14001 certified, get in touch with our team. We’re experts in compliance, and can help you reach your compliance goals quickly and effectively.

We also have experience with a range of other services and ISO standards, including ISO 9001ISO 45001 and integrated management systems. Find out more by contacting us today.

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