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Going Beyond ISO 14001 to Improve Environmental Management System Performance

george, bruce, dupont sustainable solutionsIn today’s business climate, almost all organizations consider the impact their operations have on the environment, and the impact their environmental actions have on operations. Many business leaders are elevating environmental management to one of their key business considerations, alongside risk management, safety performance and financial performance. For many businesses, environmental management starts with standards compliance, specifically complying with ISO 14001, an international standard that sets out the criteria for an environmental management system (EMS). At DuPont, we provide an additional perspective to developing an effective EMS. We believe that while ISO 14001 provides a good foundation from which to build an EMS, it is critical to include elements that will help an organization go beyond compliance to driving performance.

The ISO 14001 standard maps out a framework that an organization can follow to develop an effective environmental management system, but does not provide specific requirements for environmental performance. Organizations need to set their own targets and performance measures. What ISO 14001 does is provide assurance to company management and employees — and also to external stakeholders — that the business is measuring environmental impact, ostensibly with an eye toward improving it.

ISO 14001 provides a solid foundation for organizations and business leaders to better understand their environmental performance; however, the standard will not drive environmental excellence on its own. In fact, we’ve seen a tendency for organizations to adopt a box-ticking approach to environmental management once they have achieved compliance with ISO 14001. Complying with a standard does not equate to good environmental performance and many companies still experience difficulty in achieving the environmental and business performance — and results — within their reach.

At DuPont, we view ISO 14001 as a useful tool that enables the development of good policies and procedures, but we know it’s the execution of the processes — the way an organization works on a daily basis — that is the key to driving performance. Organizations can buy an ISO-certified EMS, but not every company can perform well environmentally, which can be attributed to execution. The optimal EMS will not just comply with ISO 14001 and have the right policies in place; it also will include the key cultural and behavioral elements that are critical to driving performance and sustainability. That includes not just the performance of the EMS itself but the overall environmental performance of the business.

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3 thoughts on “Going Beyond ISO 14001 to Improve Environmental Management System Performance

  1. Thanks to Mr. George for a great article here! Too many management systems completely miss the massive opportunity for organizational change that can be accomplished through an EMS, and without all the cost and effort usually postulated as the reason for not doing more. This article points at key leverage points for any EMS, and suggests the simple ways to get complicated things done. I have been grateful to see companies embrace “real” EMS projects of the kind described here, and too often notice the reduction of resources to the project as it truly gains traction in the organization – wiring it into other standard practices (toolbox meetings, safety talks, staff meetings, etc.) can be a real key for that reason.

  2. I really like the way that this article has been laid out, there is is a lot of behind the scenes information here that makes a lot od sense and if companies took on some of these points then would make a big difference to them in helping them achieve their goals. A lot of the articles that i have read have only skimmed the surface – nice one

  3. This is very good article with crystallised and structured thought to integrate systems and also in line with annex sl of the 2015 expectation of QE ISO systems

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