Environmental Management Systems/ISO 14001
Global Environment and Technology Foundation
What is different about ISO 14000 and why is there some hesitation about accepting it in industry? ISO 14000 is different from other environmental standards and initiatives because of its focus. Other programs have concentrated on what is important to the regulatory agencies and thus have focused on environmental compliance. ISO 14000 addresses and expects compliance, but its focus is on building an infrastructure within an organization that will address compliance, improve performance, and achieve environmental objectives.
Traditionally, environmental protection departments within organizations have not focused on protecting the environment; rather they concentrate on complying with the law. To make a significant difference, organizations must change focus; get employees involved; build the infrastructure to support them; and make people aware, competent, understanding, and knowledgeable about environmental issues. Individuals must take responsibility for environmental protection within functional units and the line management also must be responsible if results are to be achieved.
To illustrate, when IBM began a solid-waste recycling program, people were sensitive to environmental issues, but the project looked big and intimidating. At the time, IBM employed 425,000 people. The question was how to motivate them all.
The IBM team created a new logo for solid-waste recycling. Mugs and T-shirts were distributed to all employees, building on a motivational approach. The corporation was not telling them to do something for itself, such as work harder, make a better product, or make more profits, but to help protect the environment. From the employees' point of view, they were involved not for the company, but for themselves, society, Earth, and nature. It was easy to get them motivated.
ISO 14000 emphasizes building the capacity of the organization to address its environmental issues, to comply. More than that, the standard aims to invigorate the employee population, to get them excited about the program, and to achieve savings and efficiencies. An organization is going to implement
ISO 14000 because it sees other benefits accruing beyond compliance with environmental regulations.
Fundamental Principle Of ISO 14000
The fundamental principle of ISO 14000 is continual improvement. It does not matter where an organization starts; as long as it starts, its overall goal will be continual improvement. ISO 14000 helps an organization to build structural capacity toward a logical framework to address environmental compliance, improve performance, and achieve other established environmental objectives, such as preventing the creation of pollution.
ISO 14000 is complementary to national environmental regulations. It borrows the quality management standard from ISO 9000, which served as a model for the ISO 14000 internal structure. The old philosophy in quality management, for example, was to focus on defects, to stress the reduction of errors in employees' work, and to make a better product. The emphasis was constantly on the quality of the product. It became evident that this approach brings only marginal improvements. A culture of quality must be created and embedded in an organization's processes and people to produce a quality product.
The philosophy of enriching and improving the structure of the system came from the quality movement, and now has been applied to the environmental area with ISO 14000.
ISO 14000 encompasses 16 standards, in addition to that on environmental management. Six standards address organizational issues and ten address products. They include environmental auditing, performance evaluation, environmental labeling, development, and site assessment. The ISO 14031 document, for example, addresses performance evaluation. It does not contain specific performance indicators, but it establishes a framework for determining the attributes needed in choosing performance indicators and establishing a subsystem for performance evaluation.
ISO 14001 is the specification document. An organization must implement the elements of this specification to be registered to the standard.
In reading the section in the ISO 14001 standard that pertains to compliance, one might think it is deficient because it says very little about compliance, but, it is not deficient. The standard requires an organization to have a policy that explicitly states that a commitment has been made to compliance, to continual improvement, and to prevention of pollution. To be registered to the ISO 14001 standard, an organization must have a procedure
and a process for determining the legal requirements that apply and must be met.
ISO 14001 has a requirement for setting objectives and targets in an organization's management system for all significant environmental aspects and for the commitments made in the policy. Once an organization does so, the standard states that it must create an environmental program to achieve those objectives and targets.
To attain these objectives, ISO 14001 expects organizations to train their employees, to allocate resources, and put operation controls in place to attain and remain in compliance. Line management must take ownership of the requirement to achieve the objective by getting employees involved. The environmental department staff no longer stands alone, for the line management has responsibility and ownership of objectives and targets, and employees are directly involved.
Organizations need a methodology and a structure in place to succeed in these areas. One requirement is a periodic check on compliance status. In effect, this means that compliance auditing must be conducted. Also, compliance must become part of a management review process. The purpose is to propel continual improvements and allow the organization to gauge whether it needs to apply more resources or make changes in the system to achieve compliance.
ISO 14001 is not a regulation, but a voluntary standard. It is a system that provides the structure and tools to permit an organization to do the best job possible in meeting environmental management goals.
Do organizations want to continually improve performance? Or do they want to continually improve the management system, structure, ability, and capacity to actually address the issues? The requirement is that organizations continually look at the system and improve it so that capacity to achieve performance goals and compliance can be improved.
When capacity is improved, the organization can decide how to use it. Hopefully, that capacity will be used to improve environmental performance. Because it is part of the management review process, top management is involved as never before and that involvement creates the impetus for continual improvement.
What does ISO 14001 imply for organizations? That they now accept responsibility and take ownership of environmental issues. Compliance is part of the system but the organization is going to identify the objectives and targets it will meet, the resources it will apply, the programs it will implement, and the training it will provide.
How are the terms of success defined? By the organization itself. The organization sets objectives and ISO 14001 is used to achieve those objectives. Organizations that do so will actualize savings and efficiencies and avoid liabilities and embarrassment.
ISO 14001 fosters understanding, esprit de corps, and commitment. It facilitates changing the internal culture of the organization, so that the
organization has an element of sensitivity to the environment that never existed before. In doing that, the organization learns how to change, and more importantly, how to change management. This cannot be done overnight. ISO 14001 is a long-term process and through continual improvement the organization can achieve its environmental goals over time.
However, there are conceptual traps to the process of shifting paradigms. The consequence can be confusion. Organizations must be careful about what is put into the standard and what is required of employees who are volunteering to take on new responsibility. If too much is asked of volunteers, they may become disenchanted with the effort.
Does it matter when all of an organization's goals are reached? In reality, an organization should never reach that point, because it will continue to improve forever.