The International Organization for Standardization, widely known as ISO, is an international standard-setting body comprised of a variety of standards organizations from a variety of nations. As a result of the Earth Summit held in Rio-de-Janeiro in 1992, the International Organization for Standardization produced the ISO 14000 series. As of 2010, ISO 14001 is now used by at least 223149 organizations in 159 countries and economies (Reference: http://www.iso.org/iso/news.htm?refid=Ref1363).
ISO 14000 is a set of standards which deal with environmental management and which have been designed to help organizations:
Basic Principles and Methodology
Plan - establish objectives and processes required
Prior to implementing ISO 14001, an initial review of the company's processes and products is recommended. This will enable the identifying of all elements of current, and possible future, operations which may have an impact on the environment. This would include considerations of both direct (elements of the manufacturing process) and indirect (use of raw materials) impacts. This review will allow the organisation to establish their environmental objectives, goals and targets, and in turn, this will assist with the development of control and management processes.
Action - implement the process
During this stage the organization will need to identify what resources are required and nominate individuals within the organization to be the environmental management standard (EMS) champions. During this stage, the organization will also be required to create documentation of all procedures and processes, including operational and documentation control as well as the establishment of emergency procedures and responses. In addition, the education of all staff within the organization will also be required in order to ensure they are competent and familiar will all processes and procedures relating to the EMS. This will also entail the recording of information generated from processes and procedures.
Communication and participation across all levels of the organization, especially top management is a vital part of the implementation phase, with the effectiveness of the EMS being dependant on active involvement from all employees (Federal Facilities Council Report 1999).
Review - monitor and measure the processes implemented and report results
Throughout the reviewing stage, performance should be monitored and measured to ensure that the organization's environmental targets and objectives are being met. In addition, internal reviews should be conducted to ascertain whether the EMS is being implemented correctly and determine whether the procedures and processes implemented are being effective.
Action - improvement
Once the checking stage is complete, regular management reviews should be encouraged to ensure that the objectives of the EMS are being met and confirm their effectiveness. In addition, the review should also be seen as an opportunity to highlight areas within the processes and procedures where improvements could be made. These improvements, once highlighted, would be fed back into the planning stage of the system to further improve and secure the Environmental Management Standards of the organization.
Overall, the EMS aims to move the organisation away from merely operational environmental measures and towards a more strategic approach on how to deal with any environmental challenge.
ISO 14001 was developed primarily to assist companies in reducing their environmental impacts, but in addition to an improvement in environmental standards and performance, organisations can reap a number of economic benefits including higher conformance with legislative and regulatory requirements (Sheldon 1997) by utilizing the ISO standard.
By complying with ISO 14001, organisations will minimise the risk of regulatory and environmental liability fines, improve overall efficiency within the organisation which in turn leads to a reduction in waste and consumption of resources as well as operating costs.
In recent years there has been a push by consumers for companies to become more environmentally friendly. This strengthens the need for ISO 14001 compliance in order to ensure the long term viability of businesses and providing them with a competitive advantage against companies who are not ISO 14001 compliant. This can also lead to a positive impact on a company's asset value as well as an improved public perception of the business.