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Reasons to get an Environmental Management System in 2023

As another new year is upon us, it’s time to think about how making your business a bit greener, and a bit better organised could give you an edge this year. Think about an Environmental Management System an ISO 14001 Certification.

Introduction

It’s the start of another new year, and many of us are contemplating a new years resolution in our personal lives. Perhaps it’s hitting the gym more often, trying to drink more water, or less alcohol. This article explains why the perfect new year’s resolution for your business could be to put in place an Environmental Management System, certified to ISO 14001. If you want to know how you could be a little bit ‘greener’ and cut down on waste, whilst at the same time giving yourself a marketing edge against your competitors, read on.

What is an Environmental Management System?

An Environmental Management System (EMS) is a system that enables an organization to identify, analyse and control the environmental impacts of its activities, products, and services. Implementing an EMS enables an organisation to look at all aspects of its environmental impact, and take an all-encompassing approach to reducing it.

An EMS allows the organisation to formulate its environmental impact reduction goals, and then implement all the processes, procedures, training, monitoring, and documentation needed to achieve these goals in the day-to-day operations, at the ‘coal-face’.

ISO 14001 is the international Standards Organization’s standard for environmental management systems. Proponents would argue that it is the gold standard, as it was developed with the expertise of hundreds of industry and government bodies from more than 150 countries all over the world.

Like other ISO management systems, Compliance with ISO 14001 can be independently certified by having the system audited by an accredited certification body. Certification is not compulsory for all organisations, but it can be useful as a form of proof that your system is up to scratch.

ISO 14001 has a similar overarching structure to other ISO management systems such as ISO 9001, so if you are already operating one of those systems, ISO 14001 will fit in very well alongside.

Benefits of an Environmental Management System

What does your organisation stand to gain? The benefits range from gaining access to new commercial opportunities, to vastly improving and streamlining your risk management and compliance, to serving as a useful marketing and PR selling point.

Accessing New Business Opportunities

By getting ISO 14001 certification your business may be able to access to new markets and new opportunities. Plenty of larger companies and government bodies simply not sub-contract to companies that are not certified or will require ISO 14001 as a pre-requisite when putting work out to tender.

Even in situations where certification is not strictly required it can be a persuasive factor if you are battling against competitors to land a certain client.

Use Less, Waste Less, Save More

A large focus of most Environmental Management Systems is reducing waste – both wasted resources and wasted energy.

Resource waste is damaging to the environment is two obvious ways – throwing away precious and finite resources means more will have to be mined in future, whilst the waste itself can be hazardous, requiring treatment or special means of disposal to try to minimise the environmental damage.

Resources also cost money, hence preventing wastage becomes a common interest where the office’s ‘greenie’ and the office’s accountant can see eye to eye. Every time your organisation reduces waste it is not only helping the planet, but also helping the bottom line.

Waste disposal can also be costly and complicated. An EMS will not only aim to reduce waste, but also streamline the waste disposal processes – essentially attacking the problem from both sides, and hopefully saving money along the way.

Similarly energy costs money – and in 2023 this is true like never before. Power, water, gas – all of these are on the increase. Gas prices alone rose 20% in 2022, and are expected to rise another 20% in 2023. Even if we completely ignore the environmental benefits, there is lots of money to be saved in reducing your energy consumption.

When implementing ISO 14001, the organisation’s leadership is forced to look holistically at all processes being undertaken by the company, and this often reveals chances for streamlining workflows, saving time and labour as well as resources and energy.

Risk Management – Be Confident you are Compliant

Risk management is something which is very relevant in maintaining an EMS ever since the ISO 14001:2015 update. This update aimed to get leadership figures in an organisation doing risk assessments proactively to try to avoid problems rather than reactively deal with issues.

A good risk assessment will include looking at all relevant environmental regulations and contemplating any potential for an environmental accident. Leadership can then put in place processes to mitigate these risks.

As most business owners will be aware, a breach of regulations or an environmental accident can hit the hip pocket as well as hitting a company’s reputation.

Regulations are undeniably becoming broader and more complex. Perhaps the broadest example is the amendments to the Environment Protection Act in Victoria, which since 2021 now place a ‘general environmental duty’ on Victorians and Victorian businesses to reduce the risk of activities potentially harming the environment or human health through pollution or waste.

Other states are likely to follow down this path, and without the systematic approach of an EMS it will be hard to be sure that you are staying on the right side of the law

Penalties imposed by government are also getting more and more onerous, and the public is becoming less forgiving of companies which neglect environmental responsibilities. In an age of social media bad PR can spread faster then ever. It’s fair to say that these days the risk of an environmental incident can quickly grow into a risk to the entire solvency of the business.

Public Relations and Marketing

One of the most obvious benefits of getting ISO 14001 certification is the scope to use the certification for marketing and PR. Most certification bodies will give you the rights to use their certification logo on all your promotional material if you successfully pass the external audit.

According to a study conducted in late 2022 by Nature and The Lab, more than 70% of consumers expect businesses to do everything they can to be environmentally friendly, and around 40% of consumers will actually stop using a business if they believe it is not acting sustainably.

With numbers like these it is clearly important to convince customers that you are taking the environment seriously, and a logo from an independent certification body denoting your ISO 14001 certification can help. It can be plastered far and wide – on your website, on your letterhead, on your packaging, even on your vehicles.

How to get an Environmental Management System?

Generally when we assist an organisation who wish to become ISO 14001 certified, we break the process into 5 Steps:

  1. Organisation overview and gap analysis;
  2. Development and documentation of an EMS in conjunction with the organisation’s leadership;
  3. Implementation of the system and training of staff;
  4. Internal audit – can be conducted by a trained staff member or outsourced to us;
  5. External audit – you will need to engage a JAS-ANZ accredited external auditor.

After you achieve certification, you must upkeep the system with regular maintenance. Every year there will be a surveillance audit by your external auditor, with a more thorough recertification audit every 3 years.

To learn more, contact us, or read about how an ISO 14001 Consultant from Australian Productivity Council can help.

Conclusion

Implementing a systematic approach to reducing your firm’s environmental impact is a great resolution to start of the new year. The benefits to your business have been detailed above, but perhaps the greatest benefit is the sense of simplicity it brings to your organisation. A system brings order in place of chaos. Knowing that good processes and procedures are in place lets everyone at the organisation sleep better at night. Taking this step to improve your business and improve the environment is something that management and all stakeholders can be proud of, and would make a great resolution for the new year.