Is certification to ISO 14001 a good idea?
Many organisations have effective environmental management systems (EMS) without certification to ISO 14001. So what are the advantages of being certified to the 14001 standard? Is the extra expense and paperwork worth it?
I’ll attempt to answer these questions by outlining the benefits of an EMS, and assessing the certification question for each of the benefits.
Some organisations require suppliers and contractors to have an EMS (which may or may not need to be certified) before they will do business with them. This is fairly common, for example, among Government contracts and in export markets.
Many organisations have implemented an EMS and featured this, along with their environmental achievements, in their marketing. Certification helps establish these credentials because of the external assessment factor.
Staff morale benefits
Staff generally like the idea of working for an organisation that has a positive attitude and has runs-on-the-board in achieving environment improvement. Achievements such as “zero waste to landfill” can have a big positive influence on staff morale. In the eyes of staff, positive environmental achievements far outweigh formal certification to 14001.
Peace of mind
Senior management may see certification of an EMS as an assurance of effective environmental management, and the basis of a due diligence defence which will keep them out of jail if something goes wrong. However, while certification will help in this regard, the assurance is far from guaranteed.
Many organisations are able to cover the costs of implementing an EMS (such as staff time, external consulting fees and certification) and reap a handsome profit from good environmental management. However, while avoiding fines and clean-up costs is a tentative benefit, the real runs-on-the-board comes from cleaner production and waste reduction projects. Certification, and in particular the requirement to show environmental performance improvement, can help to drive these projects.
Getting on with regulators
Proactive environmental management, can help get regulators off one’s back. While certification can add credibility to an EMS, what matters most to an authority (eg. EPA) is diligence, good communication (with one’s neighbours so complaints are minimised, and with the authority) and a good environmental record.