Revisiting ISO 14001

Companies that are seriously committed in taking up environmental issues and intensifying the quality of their Environmental Management Systems (EMS) usually don’t mind going through the whole tedious process of getting an ISO 14001 certification – the internationally accepted standard that addresses the ‘delicate balance’ between maintaining profitability and reducing environmental impact.

The standard helps organizations better manage their environmental impact and risk. It covers anything that concerns the environment such as climate change, environmental degradation, water and air pollution, and many others. Achieving this certification is normally considered a significant milestone.

The Clamor
The first few years that ISO 14001 was published, Asia saw an influx in the number of companies which on top of implementing a sound EMS, adopted the standard, particularly in the electronics sector. Today, regardless of what industry they belong to, many companies take the initiative  to align their operations to the environmental standard. The ISO 14000 series – composed of about 12 standards – was first conceptualized when the Rio Summit on the Environment held in 1992 generated a commitment to protect the environment across the world. The environmental field emerged as a steady growth of national and regional standards. The British Standards Institution has BS 7750, while the European Union has environmental management, auditing, eco-labeling plus the eco-management and audit regulations.

The Expected Results
Implementing an EMS generally turns the favor to the company in terms of the bottom line. Cost savings and reduced expenses, liabilities, insurance premiums, and waste management costs can be made through improved efficiency and productivity. It can also improve product quality, competitiveness, and enhance market responsiveness.

ISO 14001 verifies compliance with current legislation and makes insurance cover more accessible. Moreover, it helps produce objectives for improvement and a management program to achieve them, with regular reviews for continual improvement.

The Keys to Success
ISO 14001 requires documented procedures that are implemented and maintained, which clearly identifies the company’s environmental goals. An Environmental Policy strongly backed up by the management should be in place. It provides the foundation and direction for the management system.

In addition, procedures should be established for a continuous review of the environmental aspects and the impacts of products, activities, and services. Based on these environmental aspects and impacts, goals and objectives consistent with the environmental policy are established.

As with a Quality Management System (QMS), internal audits of the EMS should be conducted routinely to identify and address non-conformances in the system. In addition, the management review process must be in place to ensure top management’s involvement in the assessment of EMS.

Who needs ISO 14001?
The increasing awareness on environmental impact is an outcry that is far more intensified by the combined efforts of the local and national governments, regulators, trade associations, customers, employees, and shareholders.

The standard is not limiting; it is relevant to all types and sizes of organizations and is designed for diverse geographical, cultural, and social conditions. ISO 14001 is relevant to every organization, including: single site to large multinational companies; high risk companies to low risk service organizations; manufacturing, process and the service industries, including local governments; all industry sectors including public and private sectors; and original equipment manufacturers and their suppliers.

An organization implementing the standard decides the extent of its coverage. It can include the organization’s products, services, activities, operations, facilities, transportation, and others.

– Kamesh Ganeson, Country Manager, ECCI Malaysia

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