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Environmental Consulting Companies

How ISO 14001:2015 Changes Environmental Management

Environmental consulting companies and, indeed, any firms operating in South Africa, regardless of the industries in which they operate, should take note of the changes in ISO 14001:2015 from the previous version. Several changes have been made to the standard to bring it to top-level management, ensuring that companies include responsible environmental management in their strategic outlooks. Senior management must take on a strong leadership role in the implementation of an ISO 14001-compliant environmental management system (EMS). As environmental consultants will note, a new approach is needed to ensure that environmental performance forms an integral part of company strategy and is realised in the everyday operations of the enterprise.

The new ISO 14001 places the focus on executive management with a new clause specifically addressing the accountability of the top management and the leadership responsibilities. Leadership must be focussed on the establishment of unity in the enterprise to bring about sustainable practices. It is now about the creation of an environmentally responsible corporate culture and not just the management of processes anymore. The intention is to create sustainable business operations that will help to conserve the valuable natural resources of the entire world.

Environmental consulting companies increasingly notice how accreditation in ISO 14001 helps enterprises to gain a competitive edge whilst it also helps to reduce the impact that human and economic practices have on the environment. Companies that comply with the requirements of ISO 14001 are better equipped to handle environmental risks. Customers appreciate their commitment, and business partners are looking for trading partners that show a commitment to sustainable environmental practices.

Compliance with ISO 14001 helps firms to gain consistency in their business processes and creates structure. As such, they have a framework in which to operate to ensure sustainable practices. Many companies have reported that implementation of the standard has helped to improve their public standing and has helped them to get more business. ISO 14001:2015 is also more geared towards inclusion of small to medium enterprises. Now even smaller businesses can comply and benefit from certification. The smaller companies have realised that looking at the lifecycles of their products is a good start.

A company, even if operating in the services industry, can reduce its environmental impact simply by having a fresh look at their suppliers and at recycling. Paper, plastics, metal and computer equipment recycling can be done, but the company can also look at which recycling companies to use. The closer the recycling companies are to them, the shorter the distances that have to be travelled and the lower the carbon emissions of those company vehicles will be. ISO 14001 requires a new outlook on every activity in the company and how it affects the environment. The new standard emphasises performance and gives even smaller businesses the opportunities to use benchmarks against which they can measure their environmental performance and ongoing improvement.

The previous standard didn’t consider the effect of the environment on the business, but the new standard addresses this issue. Companies need to look at how the environment affects them specifically and how they can adapt to the changing environment. Aspects that also receive attention are that of preservation of local eco-systems, pollution control, responsible usage of natural resources, and controlling of risks within the context in which the business operates.

ISO 14001:2015, as noted by environmental consulting companies such as WWISE, has a lifecycle focus. Company leaders need to approach their processes holistically to ensure that every process activity is considered during the entire lifecycle of a product or service. This includes the sourcing and collection of raw materials, the production of the product, the disposal of waste from production, the transportation of the product, the recycling and reduction of waste, the usage of the product and its treatment of the product at the end of its life cycle, and the eventual disposal or recycling of the product.

Though the new standard may seem more prescriptive than the old one, it is indeed quite an open and flexible standard to ensure that any organisation can implement an ISO 14001-compliant environmental management system. Companies that are ISO 14001:2004-compliant have three years to become ISO 14001:2015-compliant. We recommend making use of our environmental consulting expertise in this regard, including training, systems development, integration, GAP analysis, auditing, certification preparation, and compliance maintenance.