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ISO 14004: Bring Environmental Management System Benefits to Your Business

ISOFollowing the new ISO 14001 environmental management systems standard, the revision of its complementary standard, ISO 14004, has reached final draft stage and is slated for release on March 1, 2016.

The revised ISO 14004 aims to help organizations integrate an environmental management system such as ISO 14001 effectively into their business management.

In September, the International Organization for Standardization published its much-anticipated updated ISO 14001. More than 300,000 organizations globally use the environmental management standard and have achieved ISO 14001 certification — and it’s saving them millions of dollars.

A survey, conducted by the UK’s Institute of Environmental Management & Assessment, found around 40 percent of businesses saved at least £10,000 ($15,238) since implementing ISO 14001, with some businesses saving more than £5 million ($7.6 million) as a result of using ISO 14001.

The majority of these savings were delivered through energy efficiency measures (71 percent of those surveyed) and improved waste management (64 percent of those surveyed). Wider benefits include improved environmental performance (38 percent), meeting legislative requirements (39 percent), enhancing stakeholder relations, and generating new business opportunities (22 percent).

Environmental Management Guidance

ISO says the future ISO 14004:2016 aims to provide guidance on the establishment, implementation, maintenance and improvement of an effective EMS.

“ISO 14004 provides guidance on all the new changes that were made to ISO 14001,” explains Anne-Marie Warris, chair of ISO/TC 207/SC 1 on environmental management systems, the technical committee with responsibility for the standard. These changes include more closely linking environmental management systems with business management systems and ensuring top management are accountable for environmental performance improvement.

EMS Benefits

In 2013, ISO conducted a global survey that asked about the benefit of using ISO 14001. Almost 5,000 participants from 110 countries responded and identified the following benefits:

  • 75 percent high or above for meeting legal requirements and improving the organization’s environmental performance
  • 60 percent high or above for management commitment and employee engagement
  • 50 percent high or above for business management, notably for meeting stakeholder requirements, improving public image, achieving strategic objectives, and integrating with business management systems
  • 60 percent moderate value or higher in the area supplier environmental performance
  • 75 percent moderate or above for providing a competitive advantage
  • 60 percent moderate value or above for providing financial benefit

As a guidance standard, the new ISO 14004 can help businesses achieve these benefits.

Environment’s Effect on Operations

While the old version of ISO 14001 looked at the environment as something the organization impacted, the new version “asks organizations to take a look at the effect of the environment on business operations — that’s one of the more significant changes,” Warris told Environmental Leader.

Warris points to the flooding in the UK, a result of Storm Desmond, as an example of the environment’s effect on operations. California’s extended drought is another. Warris says companies should ask themselves: “What does the drought do to my operations? What does the drought do to my water usage?”

The new ISO 14001 also requires companies to take a more proactive approach to environmental management. The revised ISO 14004 will help organizations make this switching from simply preventing pollution to protecting the environment, Warris says. “Now we’re looking at what can you do to redesign your processes and systems to help protect the environment,” she says.

Lifecycle Approach

Similarly, the updated ISO 14001 take a broader, lifecycle perspective on environmental management, compared to its predecessor.

“ISO 14001 has always had in it requirements for organizations to look at the environmental impacts of their products and services but it’s never really taken them all the way to thinking about these issues from a lifecycle perspective,” Warris says. “It’s longer perspective than just I’m selling this product and in developing it, it has these impacts. You’re looking at impacts further down the value chain and how to think about disposal of this product.”

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