The importance of ISO 14001 in a changing global environment
ISO 14001 is an internationally agreed standard that sets out the requirements for an environmental management system.
The aim of the standard is to reduce your business’ impact on the environment in a holistic way.
It requires you to consider all environmental issues related to your business operations like air pollution, water and sewage issues, waste management, soil contamination, climate change mitigation, and resource use and efficiency.
From this, an environmental management system can be developed – plans and processes to lessen your business’ carbon footprint and boost environmental performance.
While ISO 14001 certification isn’t mandatory, it comes with a range of benefits for your business, including:
- Reduced costs through improved efficiency
- Better environmental performance of suppliers
- Improved business reputation and more tenders
- More confidence from stakeholders
- Increased engagement and leadership from employees
- Demonstration of compliance with international standards
But there are major benefits for the environment, too, and your clients, customers, and stakeholders are expecting you to act on this and reduce your carbon footprint. In this article, we explore three environmental issues your business needs to address, and how ISO 14001 can help you do this.
Wasted natural resources
In 2012, it was estimated around 20% of the earth’s natural resources go to waste – meaning one-fifth of the minerals, wood, metals, fossil and biomass fuels we extract from the earth are not being used. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development (OECD) this equates to around 62 billion tonnes of resources.
As of the 22nd of August 2020, we have used up more natural resources the Earth can renew in 12 months (this is called “Overshoot Day”). At this rate, it would take 1.6 earths to meet the needs of the world’s population this year in a sustainable way.
This is a major concern because Overshoot Day has been falling earlier and earlier each decade. In 1970, it was December 29th. In 1980, it was November 4th. In 1990, October 11th. In 2000, it was September 23rd and August 7th in 2010.
In 2019, Overshoot Day fell on July 29th. It was the earliest Overshoot Day on record.
The pandemic and subsequent worldwide lockdowns have prevented Overshoot Day from hitting earlier in 2020. You could look at it as a golden ticket or second chance – it’s time to reduce the wastage of natural resources and push back the clock for humanity.
As a business owner, you can do your part by implementing an environmental management system (EMS). Some strategies you can use include:
- Set environmental objectives and targets to reduce waste
- Aim to achieve a Green Star Rating for your premises (if applicable)
- Swap to energy-efficient light bulbs, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning
- Swap to fuel-efficient vehicles and machinery (if applicable)
- Reduce transport costs with regular maintenance, weight management, logistics, and choice of transport (here’s a truck buyer’s guide to eco-friendly, fuel-efficient trucks)
- Install a flow metre, rainwater tanks, and water-saving devices
- Replace leaking taps and hoses
- Monitor water consumption on-site
New opportunities can be identified with ISO 14001 certification. Our team of certification experts will gain a deep understanding of your business, assess your current practices, and help implement new processes to help the environment to heal.
Increased carbon emissions and an early “Overshoot Day”
Alt: industries producing carbon emissions
Carbon dioxide levels are higher now than any point in the last 800,000 years.
Image: NOAA Climate
It is difficult to determine how much carbon dioxide businesses contribute to this problem – businesses come in all shapes and sizes. However, large companies like Shell and BP have contributed to more than 480 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide since 1965.
For some perspective, the average household produces 19.3 to 91.5 tonnes per year.
As well as being a serious environmental issue, climate change and carbon emissions are now considered a business issue. Climate change is a key factor in business competition. Carbon emissions are being scrutinised, regulated, and priced, and according to Michael E. Porter and Forest L. Reinhardt from the Harvard Business Review:
“Companies that persist in treating climate change solely as a corporate social responsibility issue, rather than a business problem, will risk the greatest consequences.”
“A company’s climate policies will be affected by stakeholder expectations and standards for social responsibility – but the effects of climate on companies’ operations are now so tangible and certain that the issue is best addressed with the tools of the strategist, not the philanthropist.”
Your client base – along with the rest of the world – cares about sustainability. For the good of the environment and your business’ reputation, it’s essential to develop a plan to reduce your carbon footprint and communicate this with your clients, customers, and stakeholders.
The first step is to achieve ISO 14001 certification and a well planned environmental management system. Contact us today for more information about how we can help you achieve this.
Hazardous chemicals in the natural environment
Hazardous waste has the potential to do serious harm to human life and the environment. Even the simplest things can be considered “hazardous waste” including solvent-based paints, garden chemicals, batteries, fuels, and computer equipment.
Other waste that needs to be considered includes:
- Asbestos. Although asbestos is no longer used, its removal is still a big issue for many businesses.
- Radioactive waste. If your business deals with radioactive material, you must have procedures in place to classify, handle, store, and dispose of it correctly.
- Medical waste. This can include blood, body fluids, or other infectious materials. The usual disposal method is to incinerate the waste, but another option is to place the waste in a container for collection and disposal by a licensed waste transporter.
- Electronic waste. Old phones, tablets, screens, televisions, batteries, and computers need to be recycled. There should be an electronic waste drop-off point in your area.
- Tyre recycling. There are accredited tyre recyclers around Australia who can deal with old tyres on your behalf in an eco-friendly manner.
- Chemicals. Business Recycling is available through Planet Ark and there are recycling points all over Australia.
Before getting ISO 14001 certified, a specialist will complete an in-depth review of your business, determine what kind of waste your business produces and how much you produce annually, and help create a practical, compliant plan to dispose of hazardous waste safely.
Achieve ISO 14001 certification with a trusted certification partner
At QMS, we are experts in ISO 14001 certification.
It is our goal to help reduce your business costs, improve performance and productivity, and reduce your carbon footprint through a well planned environmental management system.
Talk to the professionals about improving your business’ environmental performance.