Standards, see below, are fine if a business understands they need to be seen as an tool of improvement, not of compliance, a way of reducing the ‘resource intensity’ of an organisation.
They can so easily become negative drivers of the ‘virtuous circle’ of continual improvement as this comment illustrates
Professional services are increasingly at the core of the problem surrounding Sustainable Development, as is the tendency of large organisations to use complexity to ‘divide and rule’. The need for a ‘unique selling point (USP)’ leads academics and professionals to sell every ‘tool’ as a solution.
Next the tendency is to enshrine these ‘tools’ in ‘standards’, which in turn become certifiable to create a ‘standards industry’, and work for them. This burdens businesses with ‘appraisal costs’, which make them uncompetitive. Far more insidious is the fact that it engenders a compliance culture, where companies live in fear of losing ‘ticks in boxes’
British companies welcome ubrella standard – ISO14001
ISO14001 applications set to increase as companies seek shelter from a deluge of UK environmental laws.
Applications to the British Standards Institute for ISO14001 environmental certification increased significantly in 2008, because companies can use it to simplify the process of adhering to various environmental legislation and requirements.
Nikki Sanne, BSI’s head of product marketing, says there has been a sharp increase in applications from companies for the certificate in the past 12 months, from FTSE-100 companies to SMEs and double-digit growth in the number of applications since 2005.
Large companies, in particular, are moving towards implementing environmental polices to save on energy bills, and customers and shareholders alike are showing more interest in a company’s ethical and social responsibilities.
“Stakeholders are becoming more aware of the environmental impact companies are having and they want to know all about them,” Sanne says.
Proof of compliance
The certificate proves the holder is compliant with all applicable environmental legislation in Britain for three years from the date of issue and is used by companies, such as J Sainsbury and PricewaterhouseCoopers, to help implement an enterprise-wide environmental impact reduction strategy.
Certificated companies’ environmental management systems can be reviewed as many times as the BSI sees fit.
About 130,000 companies internationally hold an ISO14001 certificate, while in the UK the BSI certifies and audits about 5,000 annually.
It says British companies are seeing the ISO14001 certificate as an umbrella standard. Companies facing increasing pressure to comply with more laws and regulations governing carbon emissions reduction, waste management and saving energy, are turning to a more streamlined solution to compliance and cost-saving measures. The standard also covers companies’ compliance requirements, including European Emissions Trading Scheme, environmental Key Performance Indicators for example, when reporting a business review and the implementation of targets under the government’s Carbon Reduction Commitment.
BSI recommends that any company considering applying for ISO14001 should first conduct a company-wide review to add up the environmental impact of the business. This should include all units and divisions, assessing everything from how each of its products impacts the environment in day-to-day operations, as well as its impact in an accident or emergency.
“The first point to address is the issue of managing and reducing. You need to know where the impacts are and only when that is established can you begin working to reduce those,” says Sanne.
Once a company has reviewed its impact, it must assess its adherence to the requirements of the standard, including implementation of an environmental management system. This system should take into account everything from fuel usage and water consumption, to carbon emissions output and climate change legislation compliance. The environmental management system’s effectiveness is then audited by BSI in order to obtain certification.
To acquire a certificate, a company must:
• Show an established and appropriate environmental policy;
• Show identification of environmental aspects arising from the organisations’ existing or planned activities, products and services;
• Identify the applicable legal requirements and other requirements to which the organisation must adhere;
• Set appropriate environmental objectives and targets;
• Establish a policy or programme to implement methods that will achieve the objectives and targets;
• Facilitate planning, control, monitoring, preventive and corrective actions, auditing and review activities to ensure the policy is complied with and that the environmental management system remains appropriate;
• Put procedures in place to deal with changing circumstances; and
• Document and maintain a continual improvement to the environmental management system
Steve Sherwood, director of infrastructure operations at PricewaterhouseCoopers, believes the international standard creates a “common language” companies can more easily adhere to, which helps businesses instill environmental discipline.
“The point of pursuing a standard is that you have to re-visit the systems and processes and manage and measure all of it,” Sherwood says. “It really helps focus your mind on the environmental management system and process priorities,” he adds.
There are a series of standards relating to the ISO14001 certificate that provide a guide for companies seeking compliance:
• ISO14004: A brief outline on developing and implementing an environmental management system;
• ISO14012: A guide to environmental audits; and
• ISO14030: Information on how to monitor and achieve targets using an environmental management system.
PwC’s Sherwood says ISO14001 is an opportunity for FDs to shout about their green credentials, as the Big Four auditor sought and achieved its own UK certificate last December.
“It’s about making that clear declaration, not just to our market but to our clients as well,” he says. “It helps the company streamline, improve and save money. It made us realise that we could be constantly learning and has given us the incentive to constantly look at our environmental management systems.”