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What is Environmental Management: ISO 14001 and how does it apply to your business?

What does ISO 14001 mean? If you are starting a business and want to be environmentally friendly, here is everything you need to know about ISO 14001.

Clea Sherman
October 18, 2022

When you set out to establish a business in this day and age, especially as a retailer that deals with international entities, you will soon come across the term Environmental Management ISO 14001.

So what does ISO 14001 mean, and what is the scope of ISO 14001?

You need to address these questions, especially when your business deals with international entities. 

What does ISO 14001 mean?

To begin with, ISO stands for Organisation Internationale de Normalisation or the International Organisation for Standardisation in English.

The International Federation of the National Standardizing Associations (ISA) was established in 1923. After a hiatus for the Second World War, the organisation was reformed and rebranded as the ISO in 1947. Based in Sweden, the ISO is a non-governmental organisation that aims to develop international standards for all fields other than electrical and electronic engineering.

It does this by issuing its extensive list of standards as well as publishing technical reports, technical specifications, publicly available specifications, technical corrigenda, and guides.

ISO standards

All of the ISO’s standards are given a number from one through to 99999. There are not 99,999 different standards, not all number brackets are complete, and the actual number of standards is closer to 22,000.

Businesses can seek certification in many of the ISO standards. Being ISO certified is a sign of quality amongst the international business community. 

The most important, or at least most relevant ISO standards to international business are:

  • ISO 9001: A standard for quality management systems 
  • ISO 27001: A standard for Information Security Management Systems (ISMS)
  • ISO 14001: A standard for Environmental Management Systems

Other standards in the 14000 family

ISO 14001 was first developed in 1996 with revisions in 2004 and, most recently, 2005. It isn’t the only ISO standard that is worth your while if you want to be a green company.

The top three other standards that the ISO recommends looking into are:

  • ISO 14004: This standard helps coordinate environmental management systems with other styles of management systems.
  • ISO 14006: A standard that is designed to work in conjunction with ISO 14001 to help integrate eco-design into other management systems.
  • ISO 14064-1: This standard helps quantify and report greenhouse gas emissions at the organisational level.

What is the scope of ISO 14001?

ISO 14001 is a framework that any company can use to set up effective environmental management systems. By establishing a set of criteria that a business would meet to maintain optimal environmental management, they lay out a system to help all businesses to meet accepted minimum standards for environmentally sound practices.

As a comprehensive framework, ISO 14001 covers all aspects of environmental management for businesses. If you want to be fully comprehensive, you can also investigate other standards in the ISO 14000 family.

Most large-scale businesses are qualified under several ISO certificates. For those that want to promote a high level of dedication/adherence to environmental management, there are other certificates under ISO 4000 family as well. 

What is an environmental management system?

According to the ISO that covers the 14001 standards: 

  • “An environmental management system helps organizations identify, manage, monitor and control their environmental issues in a ‘holistic’ manner.”

So an environmental management system is a way for your company to stay on top of environmental issues and ensure that you are working ‘green’.

As an outline for an environmental management system, ISO 14001 is particularly useful because it is designed to fit in with other ISO standards like ISO 9001 and ISO 45001.

What is the latest version of ISO 14001?

Since its introduction in 1996, ISO 14001 has been revised twice.

The latest revision in 2015 was part of a regular review to keep the standards up to date with trends and relevant to the current market.

Along with allowing for easier integration with other ISO standards, the latest version offered these improvements:

  • Requirements for environmental management to be more prominent within the organization’s strategic direction
  • Increased commitment to leadership
  • Requirements for proactive initiatives to be implemented that protect the environment from harm and degradation
  • A focus on life-cycle thinking to ensure consideration of environmental aspects from development to end-of-life
  • The addition of a stakeholder-focused communication strategy

What are the benefits of adhering to ISO 14001?

Complying with ISO 14001 can bring a number of benefits to your business.

  • Using ISO 14001 shows others that you are compliant with current and future
  • statutory and regulatory requirements
  • It allows your employees to ramp up their leadership roles and increases engagement.
  • The communication techniques outlined in  ISO 14001 will help improve your company's reputation and your stakeholders' confidence.
  • It will help your business to achieve strategic business aims by incorporating
  • environmental issues into business management
  • It will help keep your company competitive and give you a financial advantage thanks to improved efficiencies and reduced costs.
  • ISO 14001 encourages better environmental performance of suppliers by integrating them into your organization’s business systems.

Why become accredited?

ISO 14001 certification is not a legal requirement in any country, including Australia. 

However, becoming certified signifies to your stakeholders and clientele that you care about the environment and are doing what you can as a business to comply with industry's best standards. It also shows that you are confident and willing to have a third party come in and examine your practices. 

To be certified, you need to be achieving the goals and guidelines set out in ISO 14001. Therefore your certification shows that you are achieving the highest environmental goals set down by a respected international body.

If you have your company ISO 14001 certified, you would be joining over 300,000 organisations in 171 countries worldwide.

Another benefit of ISO 14001 is that you can use it to make better choices about who you work with. If you work with ISO 14001-accredited suppliers, you will have the peace of mind that they are as environmentally conscious as you are and your business’s carbon footprint will be reduced even further.

How to comply with ISO 14001

The ISO offers books, manuals, and courses through its website.

The organisation also offers some handy tips for getting started if you are hoping to implement ISO 14001 within your company:

  • Tip 1: Define your objectives. It is always wise to know what it is you want to achieve.
  • Tip 2: Have the support of all the business stakeholders, including leaders and employees. When everyone is aware of the benefits of complying with ISO 14001 you will be able to achieve more together.
  • Tip 3: Have an overview of your company’s existing processes and systems that concern environmental impact. This initial set-up will be the frame around which to build your ISO 14001 environmental management system.

An ISO 14001 case study

Major companies around the world are benefiting from ISO 14001.

One significant company that has reaped the benefits is Tata Global Beverages.

With a US$1.4bn turnover and interests in seven different sectors, Tata is the second largest tea company in the world. 

Tata Global Beverages has multiple certifications with the ISO, including ISO 14001.

The UK-based company says that being ISO 14001 certified has paid off in many ways, not least reducing their £750,000 (AUD$1.3 million) energy bill.

They say that they saved £56,000 (AUD$98,671) in the first year alone and that the constant drive for improvement created by ISO 14001 helps them to keep saving.

Tata Global Beverages says that the implementation of ISO 14001 was simple and cost-effective. The money they spent on certification was easily covered by the resulting savings.

Choose ISO 14001

It is clear that ISO 14001 is a benefit for any company operating within the global marketplace. Not only does it create positive optics for your company by showing that you care about the environment, but it also helps to save money and maximise operations.

Then, of course, there is the actual environmental benefit that can't be overstated. Many believe that the environment is the single biggest issue facing the world today. Large scale businesses and global trade are unfortunately major contributors.

By choosing ISO 14001 and other standards from the ISO 14000 family you will be doing your part for the future of the planet.

Sourcing agents

Another way you can help the environment that will fit comfortably with any ISO 14001 management system is to use a sourcing agent when you purchase goods from overseas.

A sourcing agent negotiates directly with international suppliers on behalf of your business, cutting out any middlemen and additional costs.

Quality sourcing agents will also work exclusively with international factories and suppliers that meet environmental and ethical standards. This way you know you are getting the best quality products at the best price while also helping the environment and ensuring that factory workers are well-treated.

With a sourcing agent, you can:

  • Avoid dealing with language barriers
  • Skip cross-cultural confusion
  • Work with clear timelines 
  • Ensure you’re not paying too much
  • Source quality products that work the way they are supposed to
  • Receive your products sooner and with less stress

Using a sourcing agent in conjunction with ISO 14001 is the best way for a retailer to make the most out of their business while also being environmentally friendly.

Are you ready to work with a quality sourcing agent? Contact Epic today

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