An updated building standard aims to square the circle of environmental and business objectives

By Sue Gregson

Edition 6 – October 2015 Pages 39

Tags: building management • environment

The publication in September 2015 of the revised ISO 14001 Global Environmental Management Standard has been heralded as a move that will “shift business focus on the environment from compliance with regulations and direct operations, to placing the environment at the heart of thinking and strategy.” This will assist businesses around the world to respond to increasing global sustainability challenges and ensure long-term business success.

Currently there are over 300,000 organisations worldwide that are certified to the ISO 14001 Standard, first published in 1996. According to the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA) ISO 14001 is, globally, the second most used standard companies employ to manage their performance, with 171 countries now participating.

Its popularity as a management tool is linked to both improved financial and environmental performance. In a recent survey carried out by IEMA around 60% of businesses responding reported saving over £10,000 as a consequence of implementing an Environmental Management System, with some businesses saving over £5m.

The majority of these savings were delivered through energy efficiency measures (71%) and improved waste management (64%). Wider benefits include improved environmental performance (38%), meeting legislative requirements (39%), enhancing stakeholder relations, and generating new business opportunities (22%).

In response to what Martin Baxter Executive Director – Policy of IEMA has called “a perfect storm of global challenges,” such as climate change, resource scarcity, volatile energy markets and soaring population growth, the International Standard for Environmental Management Systems ISO14001 has been revised, a process taking over three years to complete, in order to support businesses to manage these growing risks and take advantage of business opportunities. The new Standard has been developed to better align with business strategy and to support organisations becoming more resilient to external environmental change.

The new Standard will require companies to:

• put in place measures to proactively respond to growing environmental risks;

• ensure top management are accountable for environmental performance improvement; and

• place greater emphasis on managing environmental impacts across the value chain.

One of the key changes is that ISO 14001 will not just be a framework for managing the organisation’s impact on the environment; it will also help organisations manage (and become more resilient to) external environmental change, for example climate change and resource availability.

It’s early days but the revised Standard has already received widespread recognition and support from business, with over 40% of businesses surveyed by IEMA responding that the updated version will bring greater ‘buy in’ from senior management. .

The biggest challenge will be getting environmental management positioned at the highest level of the organisation. If environmental management is currently in its own silo, integrating across the whole organisation will be difficult for some. However, there has been some consideration by regulatory bodies, such as the Environment Agency, that organisations may be able to reduce the number of compliance visits regarding permitted activities if they have a certified ISO 14001 EMS in place. A financial and efficiency incentive such as this will be key for environmental management gaining traction in the boardroom, allowing it to rise higher up the business agenda.

There is a three-year transition phase from the 2004 to the 2015 version. Businesses are being advised that implementing the new ISO 14001 Standard should be used as an opportunity to refresh and invigorate the way existing users can get value out of good environmental management. It’s also important to recognise that you don’t need to be certified to use the Standard and get the benefits. Given that ISO 9001 is also changing, and the structures of these standards, together with the forthcoming Health and Safety standard (ISO 45001) have been aligned, developing a joint and integrated approach to implementing the new standards makes sense W&P

About the Authors

Sue Gregson

Sue Gregson is an Environmental Consultant at International Workplace



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