The Big Picture
The international quality management standard ISO 14001 encourages businesses to implement an environmental management system, or EMS. The EMS, a detailed environmental policy, looks at environmental impact of products, activities, and services; sets environmental objectives; meets legal and regulatory requirements; provides training to employees; and provides for oversight and auditing procedures. Many companies find that ISO 14001 adherence, a continuation of the ISO 9000 product quality standards, helps to meet the ever-increasing environmental standards and concerns of the global marketplace.
The International Organization for Standardization developed the ISO 14001 standards to provide an internationally recognized framework for environmental management, measurement, evaluation, and auditing. Companies control the environmental impact of their activities, products, and services by implementing an environmental policy that meets international standards, but is specific to their operation. Examples of EMS practices include recycling wastewater back into the manufacturing process, decreasing spilling and mishandling of hazardous chemicals, and reducing emissions.
- International Organization for Standardization controls and sets the standards. ISO does not certify ISO 14001 compliance, but does support to third-party organizations that do.
- Registrars attest that a company's EMS meets the standards of ISO 14001. While it is not necessary to register as ISO 14001 compliant, registration does provide independent verification and credibility.
- Accreditation organizations, such as the Standards Council of Canada, certify that third-party ISO 14001 registrars are competent.
- Independent consulting firms assist companies in creating and implementing environmental management systems.
- Third-party auditing firms can be hired to assess the EMS and the implementation of EMS policies, as well as make recommendations for improvement.
Getting Down to Business
Many companies find that it makes sense to implement an EMS and that it is often an expansion of already-established management policies. Among them:
- Sony's manufacturing operations in Singapore and Korea were among the first in Asia to achieve ISO 14001 certification. Now all Sony's Asian facilities follow ISO 14001 standards while Sony's operations throughout the world follow a Green Management 2002 environmental Action Plan to reduce Sony's environmental impact.
- Lexmark International, manufacturers of printers and printer drivers, implemented ISO 14001 at its site in Orleans, France. "Conformity to ISO 14001 requirements is being maintained without any special effort, as the implemented procedures seem so natural," says Bernard Daloz, Environmental Programmes Coordinator. "The continuous improvement concept, which the standard intends to encourage, has been taken on board and is showing clear results."
- Baxter Healthcare finds that the company's environmentally beneficial initiatives, which include ISO 14001, have produced $107 million in income, savings, and cost avoidance over the past seven years. The corporation's Singapore manufacturing site, which makes intravenous tubing and sets used in peritoneal dialysis and blood transfusion, follows the ISO 14001 standards.
For many companies, ISO 14001 registration may become a contractual requirement of customers in both the United States and the European Community. Companies that meet ISO 14001 standards maintain a competitive edge in the marketplace by showing a concern for environmental impact. Benefits can include:
- Increased energy efficiency, decreased pollution, and other money-saving environmental measures.
- Uncovered potential areas of increased efficiency in inputs such as energy, raw materials, and labor, leading to cost savings and increased profit.
- Improved community goodwill and profit from the market for green products, practices, and services.
- Increased understanding of environmental risks and liabilities, allowing for proper handling before emergencies.
- Better management, leading to increased confidence from insurers, stockholders, customers, and employees.
Forming and implementing an EMS requires an initial investment of staff time and money. Results may not be immediately apparent. Review of manufacturing processes or raw materials may require new methods or materials, potential additional costs.
Implementation of an EMS can be a time-consuming process that requires strong commitment from management and involvement of key personnel and employees. Many firms choose to hire an outside consultant with EMS expertise to facilitate the process. Some basic action steps are:
- Assess in-house knowledge and resources and, if necessary, hire an outside consultant.
- Prepare budget and schedule.
- Review current practices.
- Prepare preliminary plan.
- Prepare procedures and policy documents.
- Implement new practices and procedures.
- Train employees.
- Audit and review of system.
- International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is ISO's governing body. Its Web site offers clear descriptions of ISO standards and the use of adherence for marketing purposes. It also publishes a newsletter and offers additional resources.
- NSF International (P.O. Box 130140 Ann Arbor, MI 48113; 734-769-8010; 734-769-0109 (fax)) is an authorized source of ISO 14001 standards documents.
- ISO 14000 Info Center is an online source of information and resources on ISO 14001.
- Standards Council of Canada provides general information and is an accrediting entity in Canada.
- GlobeNet offers databases of ISO 14001-registered companies as well as accrediting bodies, registrars and certifiers, and professional services. Also available are interactive environmental management implementation tools.
ISO 14001 is fast becoming the environmental policy standard for companies to follow. A smart company will consider getting on board now by implementing an EMS, recognizing that an initial investment of time and money benefit can both the environment and the company.