U.K. Sets New Environmental Standard for Small Businesses

U.K. Sets New Environmental Standard for Small Businesses

Small and medium sized businesses now have their own environmental management standard, with the launch of the British Standards Institute’s new BS 8555: 2003.

The new standard is part of Project Acorn, an initiative formed from the partnership of BSI with major companies such as Marks and Spencer and Biffa, aimed at promoting best environmental practice among small- and medium-size enterprises (SMEs).

This is the first time that challenges for SMEs to manage their impact on the environment have been specifically addressed, says BSI. There are over 3.7 million SMEs in the U.K., and firms employing fewer than 10 people make up over 90% of all companies in the country, contributing 40% of the country’s gross national product.

SMEs also account for 60% of the country’s business waste, and over half of all environmental incidents.

“Any small organization which wants to address environmental management must do so within the context of a range of other pressing business issues such as managing day-to-day operations and winning new orders,” said Chris Sheldon, CEO of the Acorn Trust. But this is against a background of an increasing number of larger companies expecting their suppliers to be able to demonstrate environmental protection, he added.

The new standard uses a phased implementation approach, which breaks down the process of installing a formal environmental management system into five levels. There is also a sixth level allowing companies the possibility of seeking recognition against the already established and internationally accepted ISO 14001 standard.

The system is more incremental than ISO 14001, allows for the budget constraints of smaller companies and is more flexible, a BSI spokesman said. “At the sixth stage it goes beyond 14001,” he said, explaining that the system is more bespoke and engages supply chain management.

The phases are:
  1. Commitment and established the baseline
  2. Identifying and ensuring compliance with legal and other requirements
  3. Developing objectives, targets and programs
  4. implementation and operation of the environmental management system
  5. checking, audit and review
  6. environmental management system acknowledgement
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