Conformance to the ISO 14001 standard has become synonymous with “good environmental management” in contracts worldwide. The recognition of the standard has been achieved as an increasing number of organisations rely on its structure to systematise their actions, and trust in its name to promise the delivery of legally-compliant services. The updates published in 2015 introduced new requirements for the certified masses – this blog looks at two rather intangible new key terms that are difficult to evidence but are essential to success: “integration” and “lifecycles”.

Integration is a cornerstone of management systems, as without buy-in from both company leaders & management boards together with other employees, the system would be viewed as an “add-on”. Multiple stakeholders and champions will ensure its longevity and effectiveness. Integration’s inclusion has come at a great time, as millennials increase their numbers in the global workforce, and with this – a raised expectation of employers to be conscious of their business activities. However, proving that your organisation has ‘integrated’ ISO 14001 across the business and within its culture is a difficult task. There are 3 locations where integration is mentioned: leadership, performance, and management review. Clear guidance from this standard is to ensure that the EMS is not a stand-alone system.

Control and influence of the EMS in a lifecycle perspective is an interesting area as it is much more obvious how to evidence it in a company that makes products, in comparison to a company that delivers a service. Useful angles for these companies to take, are:

  • look at supplier spending power as ‘influential leverage’;
  • engage sales teams to ensure what is promised is delivered, and
  • work with the internal supply chain team to align the procurement and environmental policies and procedures.

Many other opportunities exist with the new updated standard. Integration and lifecycle are the two that I feel are critical to ensuring that an organisation achieves its goals when adopting a certified ISO 14001 system.

DO

  • DO conduct a gap analysis of where you are and where you need to be.
  • DO schedule a ‘sense check’ visit with your external auditing body once about 75% of the developmental phase is complete.
  • DO engage as early as possible with influencers in the organisation. Escalation for slow progress through the correct avenues will be critical to keeping to your timeline.
  • DO take the transition opportunity to streamline and reduce previously burdensome processes. This may include central document storage and access, to ensure that companies across a global system are able to support each other.
  • DO refer out to processes within your organisation that already exist. E.g. management review groups whose remit for discussion could be expanded slightly; or reporting frameworks like GRI that already establish a structured process for communicating environmental information to interested parties.

DON’T!

  • DON’T duplicate. To ensure consistency in application, especially with global multi-site certificates, its important to standardise approaches. However, along the way, keep a record of processes that are seen as duplication, and be sure to address these duplications once transition is complete.
  • DON’T tick all the boxes. There are only certain clauses which require documented evidence. There is no need in over-doing it with new processes and documented ways of working. By referring out to existing documents and even other departments which specifically own critical areas (e.g. sales teams [for lifecycle considerations in service-based companies]), you are then also able to show the level of business integration that your environmental management system has achieved.

For me, the most important ‘update’ to the system is checks on its integration into a business. As without this, and executive advocacy, the EMS will fail to prove its true value to an organisation implementing it.

Like communication, training and awareness is always an area that organisations can do better on. But what do we mean by this and what does better look like? Training has the ability to galvanise individuals and departments to achieve real results and a cultural shift in the way people work, such as RBS with the energy and waste savings that were identified.

With over 15 years of experience providing training courses at both a public level and also tailored sessions for individual organisations, there are a few tips that I have learnt along the way.

No two sessions are the same, as they rely upon the audience to provide the discussion around the structured learning framework. Interacting with the attendees allows each session to focus upon what is important to the group and deliver outputs that will work for them. Engagement is key, and it is very easy to identify those who are there because they have to – which happily is a minority.

1. Understand your audience

Content and language needs to be pitched at the right level, so understanding who is attending and what they know already is important and will help influence how the session is prepared.

Typically a mixture of face to face, on-line courses and workshop based short sessions can be used for organisations. Senior managers typically are more time constrained and looking for learning from activities, whilst middle managers and supervisors have the greatest role in delivering against company requirements.

2. Need to align with organisational strategy

A clear line needs to be provided between the organisations values and approaches and the key issues described in the training. All too often information is told to individuals to deliver against, but this misses the fundaments of behavioural psychology – that people don’t like being told what to do.

Explaining why the organisation is following its path and the role that is required will engender much greater engagement and involvement. It also provides the basis of why the decision was taken and therefore allows individuals much more responsibility in decision making. The output is greater engagement and less requests for additional support or questions.

3. Promote internal activities

Organisations have a number of processes and examples of practices which may not be fully understood individually or how they link up. This can include references to standard operating procedures, to data collection and analysis tools or reporting systems. Workshops can be built around this knowledge to help reinforce messages and embed knowledge.

Inclusion of this information provides an evidence base of what is happening, and the inclusion of external case studies can help exemplify the journey that is to be taken. Choosing which to include is therefore important as it will describe how you want the business to respond.

4. Hold an introspective session

There are a number of challenges and barriers that any organisation faces and bringing together a group of individuals can sometimes exacerbate focussing upon the negatives. However, understanding the problems is a key component to being able to solution effectively and therefore this shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand.

Capturing these challenges early through an introspective session provides a release for many allowing greater concentration and also can inform the session throughout the day. Being able to steer the conversation during this sessions can provide the starting point for later workshops when looking at solutioning.

5. Capture knowledge at the end of the day

Finally, an area that is often missed, but one where often the greatest benefit is seen. Each session provides valuable knowledge about the organisation and perceptions of progress which can be used to improve delivery. If more than one session is held, it can provide a great lens to understand the business, comparing the responses and approach between the different groups.

Often, I will insist on an individual from the organisation to attend the session, both to impart information about the company processes and approach, but also to learn about the feedback from the attendees.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but following these five areas will help to deliver a more powerful training experience for the attendees, organisation and also for yourself.

The updated ISO 14001 Environmental Management standard was released in September 2015 and represents the biggest step change in the standard since it was first introduced in 1996.

Whilst the previous approach was focussed on operational issues and was predominantly back-ward looking, the new standard is centred around an understanding of key risks and opportunities, including a forward view of these at all levels within the business.

Emphasising the context of the business, a life-cycle approach to considering impacts is advocated involving customers and the supply chain. Importantly, the standard requires full engagement of the senior level within the business, particularly for integration within the core business, accountability for the effectiveness of the system, and a demonstration that the management system influences the decision-making process.

For some, the changes have led to nothing more than tweaking the existing system, but for the majority of businesses, a fundamental shift will be required to accommodate this evolution – and for a significant minority, accreditation to the standard will be stopped.

It is important to remember that the focus of the environmental system is to demonstrate that the whole business understands its impact on the environment and, from top to bottom, is working to manage and reduce those impacts.

There is no requirement for procedures to be written, but instead for incorporation of environmental criteria into the culture of the business.

As such, systems based upon a significant amount of processes and procedures are going to be more difficult to modify. Alignment with the existing culture is critical and we are often asked to support organisations to streamline their system – removing as much as two thirds of the documentation. Our experience has seen the most time and effort spent to determine relevant suppliers and to engage them together with understanding the needs and expectations of interested parties.

Alignment with the existing culture is critical and we are often asked to support organisations to streamline their system – removing as much as two thirds of the documentation.

The new standard emphasises the importance of true engagement with stakeholders (or ‘interested parties’). Objectives include:

– understanding the strategic impacts affecting the business now and in the future, including defining ‘compliance obligations’, that may go beyond legal requirements
– easing incorporation of the system into the company culture
– keeping stakeholders informed on performance and achieving recognition.

The promotion of environmental excellence has already seen organisations being rewarded through rating agencies such as CDP and able to take market share.

Conclusion

Developing a management system in line with the new ISO14001 standard is increasingly becoming a pre-requisite as a means to best manage the regulatory and stakeholder risks and for organisations to provide a co-ordinated response. By adopting a more strategic approach, the new standard enables environmental management to be better aligned to the business objectives of the organisation, and the remaining processes can achieve synergies with other systems supporting quality, H&S, etc.