As each day passes, more organizations search for the most efficient mechanism to meet the demands of increasingly stringent environmental regulations. As of March 1999, more than 8,000 sites worldwide have decided that environmental management system registration is one of the most economically viable tools to meet this requirement. The EMS is part of a comprehensive management system that addresses how the overall business activities, including its products and services, impact the environment. The EMS maximizes company participation in environmental performance improvement now and in the future.
ISO 14000 is a series of voluntary stand-ards developed by the International Organization for Standardization to manage an organization's environmental impacts. One part of the series, ISO 14001, is the actual auditable standard to which companies may become registered. It provides the framework for an EMS that enables an organization to balance customer demands while at the same time improving internal efficiencies, reducing waste and complying with environmental regulations.
As the need for management systems to ensure environmental improvement increases, many ISO 9000-registered organizations realize the benefits of ISO 14001. In fact, many ISO 14001-registered organizations registered to ISO 9000 first. Having learned from their ISO 9000 im-plementation and registration experience, organizations that register their EMS to ISO 14001 find the process to be much less painstaking.
The decision to pursue ISO 14001
Generally, an organization should take several specific steps when deciding to pursue ISO 14001 registration. First, the organization must decide not only whether to implement an EMS that complies with ISO 14001, but also whether to register the EMS. Most companies conduct a cost-benefit analysis to determine the pros and cons of moving forward with the process.
Second, the organization should establish a cross-functional team made up of individuals with expertise in various areas, such as management, quality and environmental regulations. This team, working with a third-party assessment body (also known as a registrar), can then perform a gap analysis prior to registration. Assessment bodies may identify the gaps in a preassessment, but internal management or consultants should be sought for resolution of any issues identified during the gap analysis.
The gap analysis sets the stage for the next steps, which include developing an implementation plan and documentation. This consists of consolidating existing documents and only creating a minimal amount of new ones. Then the organization is ready for its internal audit and, finally, its third-party registration, with subsequent maintenance and continuous improvement of environmental performance and the management system.
Processes for obtaining ISO 14001 registration closely resemble those involved with ISO 9000 and related quality standards. The differences lie mainly in what the standard requires rather than the registration process.
ISO 14001 contains six main clauses:
Clause 4.1--General Requirements.
Clause 4.2--Environmental Policy. This will be appropriate to the business and its environmental impacts. It states the organization's commitment to legislative/regulatory compliance plus continual improvement and pollution prevention. The policy will provide for environmental objectives and targets, be used by employees and be available to the public.
Clause 4.3--Planning. This requires organizations to identify their environmental aspects, determine which ones have significant impact and ensure that they establish, and have access to, relevant environmental legislation/regulation. Organizations should then produce improvement objectives and targets, along with a process for achieving them.
Clause 4.4--Implementation and Operation. This provides resources for personnel, defines who does what, identifies training needs, communicates effectively both internally and externally, and documents and controls the management system. Organizations should exert effective control over the operational activities relevant to their significant environmental impacts, and consider accidental or emergency situations with associated environmental impacts.
Clause 4.5--Checking and Corrective Action. Organizations should: use accurate measurement methods and regularly ensure that progress toward objectives and targets is on track; periodically ensure continued legislative compliance; take action commensurate with the problem where nonconformance is identified; and record the operation of their environmental management system, and conduct audits to prove conformity with their intentions.
Clause 4.6--Management Review. Top management must ensure that the system continues to be suitable, adequate and effective, and should make changes or adjustments in the light of experience.
These building blocks ensure that the organization will have a strong foundation for achieving ISO 14001 registration.
Adding ISO 14001 to ISO 9000
EMS implementation can seem like a time-consuming and costly undertaking. However, organizations that have implemented ISO 9000 have a distinct advantage over those unfamiliar with the process. They have a sound understanding of the process, specifically the common elements (document control, calibration, internal audit, management review, etc.) between the two standards. Depending on the company and the situation, 25 percent to 50 percent of ISO 14001 requirements may already be in place with ISO 9000.
When performing the original gap analysis--mapping out the elements an organization already conforms to and discovering what it needs according to the standard--an ISO 9000-registered organization will find less holes and overlapping requirements. With this increased knowledge base of the common elements, the length of the registration process may be significantly reduced, and the benefits may be realized much earlier.
Many organizations seek one business management system. Likewise, ISO 9000 implementation teams have infused disciplined processes. ISO 14000 implementation teams need to understand the organization's business processes and subprocesses in order to determine process inputs and outputs. This is a critical part of the planning to accurately and completely identify the organization's aspects and impacts on the environment. This analysis forms the baseline for the organization to set objectives and targets against some of those significant impacts in order to measurably improve the organization's environmental performance.
Most third-party assessors encourage organizations to integrate their EMS with their other management systems, such as ISO 9000. The ISO 14001 standard's requirements are very much like those for ISO 9000. By integrating the quality management systems and EMSs, and with a little fine-tuning, many of the same procedures can be utilized for both systems, and organizations will simply need to focus on ISO 14001's objective elements. This will result in less documentation and lower implementation costs. Additionally, integrating the two systems will reduce the time internal and external auditors must take to assess the organization against ISO 14001.
By expanding the scope of the management system to include environmental management, the quality professionals and, more importantly, their organizations, will have already been through the cultural changes that often come with implementing an international quality standard. They will better understand the assessment and registration process. With a firm grasp on how the system works, the details it encompasses and the changes that ensue, organizations can more easily expand the business system to manage their environmental activities using ISO 14001 as a guide.
Benefits of ISO 14001
Numerous benefits come with registering to ISO 14001 or a combination of ISO 9000 and ISO 14001. The most obvious and measurable benefit is operational cost savings. The requirements, in effect, closely examine the overall business processes to determine which activities impact the environment. The registration process can, for example, prompt an analysis of the organization's waste streams and help establish procedures that can help the company to optimize its use of the Three R's--reduce, recycle and reuse.
Reducing the amount of poorly used energy and minimizing or eliminating excess solid and hazardous waste are further examples of how organizations may increase their profitability. Implementing an ISO 14001 EMS optimizes the opportunity to minimize risk and liability with a structured system and may reduce the chances of being fined by regulatory agencies.
It is important to understand the benefits an organization may realize with ISO 14001, but the organization must not rely solely on the system, relaxing its vigilance toward environmental protection. ISO 14001 is a management system standard, not a performance or product standard. It was developed with the intent of improving industry environmental performance worldwide. Therefore, the standard should not be adopted as a tool to scale back other programs, nor should organizations expect concessions from regulators or the law because they are registered to ISO 14001.
The ISO 14001 registration process also provides organizations with an excellent internal communications tool. For example, most organizations have emergency preparedness plans in place as a legal requirement, but the EMS formally defines this activity and ensures it is done efficiently and effectively. If and when an environmental incident occurs, no matter the size, the organization will be able to address the issue promptly and correctly the first time, minimizing the overall time spent on problem resolution.
An EMS can help an organization understand the issues and risks directly affecting its bottom line. The system manages current and future environmental risks; gives confidence to any party interested in an organization's continued financial and environmental health; generates cost savings through greater efficiency and less waste; identifies areas needed for further research and evaluation; creates improvements at a rate that recognizes changing business circumstances; and proves that environmental liability issues have been addressed.
The future ISO 9000 and ISO 14000
The committees that develop the ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 standards have established a joint task force that is currently working to address compatibility between the two standards series. The task force's short-term goal is to explore ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 to see how they structurally relate, leading to the mid-term goal of bringing future editions closer together, according to the American National Standards Institute. In the long run, the task force plans to revise both standards so that they have no incompatibilities. ISO 9001:2000 (CD/2), which became available in March 1999, does take considerable strides toward aligning with ISO 14001. For now, those organizations registered to ISO 9000 can greatly benefit by choosing to register their ISO 14001 EMS.
About the author
Joe Lissenden is major account manager and BSI EMS assessor for BSI Inc., the North American division of the British Standards Institution, a leading registrar of quality management systems.
For more information, contact BSI Inc. at telephone (800) 862-4977 or visit the company's Web site at www.bsi-inc.org .
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