Whilst designed to help companies reduce their environmental impact, ISO 14001 is also a key requirement for companies to win work through tendering. The management system standard was updated in 2015 and companies need to transition to keep their certification.
We spoke with Darren Chadwick, Managing Partner of sustainability strategy consultancy Brite Green to find about the changes to the standard and what they mean for companies.
What do the updates to the ISO 14001 standard mean for companies?
The last version of ISO 14001 was published in 2004 and so after more than a decade of service, it was very much in need of an update. That update came in 2015, when a new edition of the standard was published, introducing a range of significant changes. These changes have helped to bring the standard right up to date with the latest best-practice in environmental management.
The ISO 14001:2015 standard is now a much more strategic tool to help drive improvements in business and environmental performance. With maturing legislation, growing investor and stakeholder expectations, and improving technology, environmental management is an issue that can no longer be ignored. Companies across all sectors are looking at how to embed environmental considerations into core business decisions. The ISO 14001 standard provides a proven framework to assist senior management in doing this, but it does require organisations to significantly expand and upgrade their processes.
With ISO 14001:2015 becoming more strategic, the standard is much more applicable to business of all sectors.
We recently worked with Saatchi & Saatchi London on their transition to the updated ISO 14001:2015 standard. They became the first advertising agency in the UK to achieve certification to the new standard. Whilst the direct environmental impact of professional services firms like Saatchi may be limited, the new standard helps to define the wider value proposition, which includes winning more tenders, finding opportunities for cost reduction, and attracting and retaining staff by demonstrating commitment to responsible values.
The updated standard goes beyond looking at how an organisation has a negative impact on the environment, and examines the ways environmental issues might impact the business. In addition, the new standard requires organisations to understand the needs and expectations of interested parties, i.e. your customers, investors and staff. This makes it a powerful framework for improving relationships with important stakeholders.
What are the key changes?
There are four main themes you need to know about in the new standard:
The new standard requires greater leadership from top management on environmental issues. This includes more accountability for the environmental management system as well as providing the support and resources needed to manage environmental issues effectively. This will be something that auditors will be looking at much more closely, so you’ll need to prepare your senior team.
Context of the organisation
The 2015 standard introduces some new language: context. Whilst some organisations may have considered this before, there is now a requirement to formally consider and analyse the internal and external drivers for environmental management. This includes a specific requirement to understand and meet stakeholder expectations, borrowing principles that have been used in materiality analysis for some time now. This approach will undoubtedly help companies find ways to build more value and manage risk better.
Environmental impacts for a business are often like icebergs, with the majority of the impacts hidden in the supply chain or in product use and disposal. The new standard recognises that these indirect impacts are important to manage and extends the requirements for companies to do so.
The updated standard now expects businesses to take a life-cycle approach and consider impacts that occur in the supply chain, during the use of products and services, and at end-of-life. The “life-cycle considerations” are likely to bring new business processes into scope for the first time for many companies
It’s not just about risk
The 2015 standard moves away from just managing risks and impacts, and now specifically includes a requirement to identify opportunities arising from better environmental management. This has been a key theme in successful business cases for environmental programmes and is helped by the inclusion of whole life thinking in the new standard.
Do you have any advice for companies making the transition?
Companies now have until September 2018 to transition to the updated ISO 14001:2015 standard or face losing their certification. Having already helped some of our clients to transition, I would recommend considering your transition sooner rather than later as the significant changes and new criteria mean the process can take up to 12 months. It is therefore crucial to leave enough time to develop the new processes and get them properly embedded in your team and wider-organisation.
I would also recommend taking the time to really explore what the new standard means to your business. This change is a great opportunity to take a good look at your business and engage with colleagues, customers and investors. We’ve been amazed about the extra benefits this has delivered.
Also, if you are just starting to explore what changes you need to make to meet the new requirements, a gap analysis can really help to focus your efforts. This is something your consultant or certification body can do.
If you are at a more advanced stage of your transition, enlisting external support at the pre-audit stage can help to identify any issues you may have missed and make sure you’re fully ready for the external audit. Again, this can be done by your consultant or certification body.
About Brite Green
Brite Green is an award winning sustainability strategy consultancy which specialises in delivering enhanced business performance through improved sustainability performance. With a service offering that covers business strategy, management systems, solution implementation and sustainability reporting, Brite Green delivers sustainability solutions that drive business performance. If you would like to know more, get in touch or visit the Brite Green website.
Webinar - Tuesday 13th June
Join Brite Green and Greenstone on Tuesday 13th June at 12:00 for a webinar on the new ISO 14001:2015 standard. During this webinar, Darren Chadwick, Managing Partner at sustainability strategy consultancy Brite Green will look at the benefits of the new standard, the key changes, and will explore what to consider when you're preparing to be certified to the new standard. Register here.