ISO 14000: Should Your Company Develop an Environmental Management System?

Article excerpt

Integrating environmental aspects into business management systems is essential for 21 st century manufacturing, and manufacturers need to decide now on an environmental management system such as ISO 14000 to accomplish their company's goals.

This article covers several concerns that need to be addressed when making this decision. These include the following: What does 14000 require? Why are companies investing in environmental management systems? What will an environmental management system cost? Consider stakeholder needs and sustainable development concerns.

Some questions to ask before investing company time and resources in EMS development include: Are your customers and stakeholders likely to demand you have an environmental management system in place? What are the costs associated with product that was lost to the environment? Are the environmental impacts of your processes creating a liability that put you or your company at risk?

The trend has been established. Think about your company's goals and marketplace, and make a business decision now.

More and more companies today are using environmental management systems such as ISO 14000 to integrate environmental aspects into their business plans. More than 1,200 companies worldwide have registered environmental management systems in place, and many more are putting systems in place without formal registration. "Environmental issues are business issues," states the Southern Company, America's largest producer of electricity, in its Environmental Performance Strategy.

However, managers at a forwardthinking company, striving to maintain a market edge into the 21 st century, still must answer some basic questions to evaluate the environmental management system trend and decide how to respond: What do our customers want? Will this approach improve the product and increase our company's market share? And truly progressive companies are looking beyond their immediate customers to address the needs of stakeholders, including future generations, as well.

Environmental management systems: ISO 14000 requirements

Environmental management systems and the tools you choose to implement them address the environmental impacts of a company's activities and processes and identify opportunities to conserve materials and energy. There are several different environmental management system models from which to choose: Sweden's Natural Step, the Chemical Manufacturer's Association Responsible Care, and ISO 14000 are some examples.

The ISO 14000 environmental management system model was developed to meet the demand for a single international standard, and it was developed through consensus by an international technical advisory committee of industry, government, consumer interest groups, and the general public. ISO (the International Organization for Standardization), a worldwide federation of national standards bodies, issued the final specification standard in the fall of 1996. While 14000 is the series, 14001 is the actual specification that companies either self-declare or to which they register through third-party confirmation. Demonstration of successful implementation of 14001 can be used by any organization to assure interested parties that an appropriate environmental management system is in place.

The ISO 14001 environmental management system model (Figure 1) follows a logical progression of steps that begin by developing a company environmental policy. The most prescriptive part of the model, 14001 requires that the environmental policy include commitments to prevention of pollution, regulatory compliance, and continual improvement.

Next planning begins, and the first step is critical-identification of significant environmental impacts from the organization's activities, products, or services. Companies are using a variety of methods, from brainstorming to riskranking schemes, to prioritize these environmental impacts and plan budgets and schedules to address the most significant. …