These days, we are increasingly being urged to reduce our carbon footprint, by living in ‘smart’ homes, using the car less, recycling, and buying more environmentally-friendly products.
Businesses, too, are being asked to do the same thing, which has seen an increased interest in environmental management systems in Queensland, and throughout Australia.
An environmental management system, or EMS, often leading to ISO 14001 certification, is an excellent way of reducing an organisation’s impact on the environment, and enabling it to make more efficient use of limited resources.
And despite the daunting sound of words like ‘certification’ and ‘audit’, implementing an EMS is actually largely based on good old common sense.
Management Systems Consultants
I’m not saying certification is easy to achieve – if it was, every business would have it and it would mean very little. But with the help of management systems consultants, and the support of management and staff, it is well worth the effort.
The first step in this journey is to talk to a management systems consultant, preferably one that is well versed in International Standards, and offers Exemplar Global-certified training.
This first discussion will identify what your business does, and what systems you currently have in place. It will also consider the potential risks of your business on the environment. And the answers here may surprise you. We tend to think of industry ‘risks’ as chemicals, contaminants and waste. But an EMS will look at everything, even down to the power usage of office equipment.
Having identified which systems are working, the management systems consultant will help the business formulate an EMS and set it in place, including ISO 14001 environmental management system training.
Benefits of ISO 14001
The consultant will explain the main benefits of implementing an accredited ISO 14001 system, including a reduction in the amount of waste produced; more efficient use of raw materials; reduced risk of pollution; an improved reputation amongst customers and other stakeholders, and greater compliance with legal requirements.
ISO 14001 is the most widely used EMS in the world, with hundreds of thousands of organisations certified globally. In addition, many more businesses have effective Environmental Management Systems in place, but haven’t yet taken the step towards accreditation.
So, rather than seeing ISO 14001 and accreditation as paperwork or red tape, businesses should view it as a tool, a practical working document that guides the organisation and can ultimately reduce costs and increase profits.
In just the same way there is a systematic approach to implementing an EMS, there must also be regular monitoring, reviewing and revision. Indeed, the Standards themselves are regularly reviewed and updates, with the recent introducing of ISO 14001:2015.
Reflecting Global Market
The changes are made to better reflect what’s happening in the global market, and to ensure the Standard remains compatible with other International Standards, and legislation.
The latest revision of ISO 14001 sees greater emphasis on the role of management in an organisation’s environmental management, making it an integral part of the business’s overall strategic planning. You could say it’s a case of leading by example.
Increasing concern over climate change is also reflected in the revision, and the issue continues to provoke heated discussion throughout our political parties, especially as we approach the election.
Another important change is the shift from short-term to long-term planning. Rather than considering the impact of the business over, say, a 12-month period, the revision demands that the organisation considers the lifetime impact of its operations, and its products. This move should help to improve manufacturing techniques and reduce landfill.
Those initiating an environmental management system in Queensland will see these changes also reflected in how the State Government approaches environmental matters. It is up to Government to instigate environmental impact assessments on proposed developments in the State. And one of the requirements within that, is that the proposal ‘addresses environmental management for the expected life of proposals’.
All the more reason for organisations to implement an EMS, if they haven’t already, and arrange ISO 14001 environmental management system training.
The Australian Government encourages organisations to have up-to-date environmental management systems in use, allocating responsibilities to key personnel and having a sound reporting system in place.
And while the Government accepts that not all organisations will seek certification, it encourages the move, highlighting the potential trade and market advantages of doing so. Certainly any company wishing to do business with the public sector will need certification to be considered.
There are interesting times ahead for Australia, in regards to the environment. A poll carried out in May by ReachTel revealed that 66.9 per cent of voters would be more likely to vote for ‘a party that created stronger national environmental laws to protect Australia’s species and places, like the Great Barrier Reef’. And 56.4 per cent thought the Federal Government should be doing more to cut carbon emissions.
The poll sampled 2,400 Australian residents, and was commissioned by a wide range of organisations, including the Australian Conservation Foundation, the Australian Marine Conservation Society and the Australian Youth Climate Coalition.
The message is clear – environmental protection will become increasing important, with new legislation likely to be introduced, so savvy businesses will be implementing environmental management systems sooner, rather than later.