Circular Economy North East feature article published:

Manufacturing PCBs

Manufacturing replacement boiler parts at Heating Trade Supplies

Earlier this year I starting investigating the growth of the Circular Economy in the North East of England. The first company I visited was Heating Trade Supplies who remanufacture used boiler parts.  They receive faulty parts at their workshop in North Tyneside repair and test them, before dispatching them with a warranty. I publish my interview with Heating Trade Supplies on this blog, and it was picked up by the editor of Transform Magazine who asked me to write a feature article for them on the subject, so I spent the summer researching and interviewing Directors and Managers of four other business in the region who are innovating in this area:

  • Sabre Rail who remanufacture rail components

  • DC Reclamation who take used IT equipment from offices, wipe the data and sell it on before sharing profits with their clients

  • Newcastle Hospitals who are a large waste producer and have taken steps to eliminate and reduce waste, and

  • Warp It who provide a service that helps organisations to track and reuse a wide range of resources

As I learnt more about the risks and opportunities faced by these organisations driving the Circular Economy I distilled their experiences into ten lessons that would be helpful to anyone seeking to disrupt the traditional linear economy, along with one lesson for the government who designs the system within which the Circular Economy operatives.

To read about these organisation and learn the lessons, follow this link to  Transform’s website.

Environment Agency photo

ISO Transition Course for Environment Agency


In July, I was privileged to provide integrated ISO 14001:2015 and 9001:2015 transition training for the Environment Agency, near their head office in Bristol. As well as getting to know the enthusiastic internal quality and environmental management teams (featured below), it was my first visit to this green city, and a great chance to explore .


Environment Agency photo

Delegates on Environment Agency ISO 14001 and 9001:2015 Transition Course (July 2016)


One of the key themes of the course was the process approach to both quality and environmental management, and the teams mapped out various EA processes, identifying risks, opportunities and control measure at each stage.

Following the course Lex Massey (Internal Environmental Management Team Leader) wrote: “Thanks for last week, it was a really informative course and I can see lots of opportunities at the EA for the integration of both of the standards.” 


If your organisation would benefit from tailored transition training for ISO 14001:2015 and/or ISO 9001:2015 please drop me a line.


Marek Bidwell


ISO 14001:2015 – Lessons from the Early Adopters #3




NorthernMarek Bidwell interviews Kyle MacNeill from the train operating company Northern about their experience of making the transition to ISO 14001:2015.


Northern is the largest train operator outside of London. It provides more than 2,500 services every day and serves a network of 15 million people. Operating a fleet of 333 trains, it also manages 475 stations. Currently, Northern (formerly called Northern Rail) is at the start of a new franchise run by Arriva, which commenced in April 2016.

Northern Rail was the first organisation in the world to be certified to ISO 14001:2015 on 15th September 2015, by certification body NQA.

Kyle MacNeill has been the Environmental Assurance Manager for the organisation since 2012, since which time he has administered Northern Rail’s Environmental Management System (EMS) and acted as Northern Rail’s advisor for compliance, pollution prevention and nuisance.

How did you prepare for the 14001 transition and how much work was involved?

We did a Gap Analysis when the Draft International Standard came out, with the aid of your guide ‘Making the Transition to ISO 14001:2015 – From Compliance to Opportunity’.

Luckily for us, our NQA auditor was appointed as their lead person working on the transition, so during surveillance visits prior to the transition he was helping us to look ahead. However, we found that we had already implemented most of the new requirements.

What were the strengths of your existing system?

We developed a tiered management review process about three years ago [clause 9.3]. This approach allows management teams at different levels of the business to review, and contribute to, environmental performance.

In 2012, when Northern Rail’s franchise was extended for two years, we performed a context analysis as part of our environmental strategy development [clause 4.1]. The resulting actions were devolved across the business, rather than being solely the responsibility of the environmental team, and the MD chaired the top group, signed everything off, and was involved in the analysis.

Dr Karen Booth, who was then our Head of Sustainability, led the context analysis, facilitated by a former Environmental Director from another train operating company. The actual work was done by our Environmental Review Group, which was comprised of the heads of each directorate across the business. The idea behind the analysis was that if we were devolving all these actions to the business, and expecting them to deliver, they needed to help create that vision. The analysis took into account people’s perceptions and opinions on the risks and opportunities available to Northern in terms of the environment, and the risks to the environment with regard to Northern.

Because ISO 50001 (for energy management) had already been delivered by our Energy Solutions Manager at the time, Gareth Williams, we had already established a process to capture energy opportunities, which we had extended to all environmental opportunities, as part of our integrated energy and environmental management system [clause 6.1.1]. We also had a way of identifying and grading aspects that could have a positive impact on the environment.

Regarding life-cycle thinking, we had reviewed our procurement processes to prepare for the BS 8903 standard, looking at the social, environmental and financial aspects of sustainable procurement. The Procurement Team was already on board and embedding life-cycle thinking into their processes, and two of our procurement managers were assigned to work on this [clause 8.1].

What did you identify as the main changes you needed to make?

We were measuring contractual requirements with the Department for Transport and requirements from the ROSCOs (rolling stock operating companies), such as the requirement to use only certain coolants on the trains. Going forward, however, we started to capture other non-statutory compliance obligations, such as noise complaints associated with public address systems, whereby local managers made commitments either to shut engines down, or to ensure that public address systems were turned down. This was hugely advantageous to us because previously local managers had made commitments and then left the company, so that the complaints would arise again and the residents would have more information than we did; but now we do know about it and the process is more resilient [clause 9.1.2].

We also developed a process for identifying environmental risks to the business, such as flooding, landslips and track buckle associated with climate change. Each incident associated with these issues has been pinpointed on a map of the network, allowing us to identify hotspots. In the new franchise, therefore, we will be able to start focusing our adaptation work and investment in these areas, working collaboratively with our industry partners [clause 6.1.1].

What were the audit findings?

We had a corrective action against policy [clause 5.2c] – this required us to add a commitment to the ‘Protection of the Environment’, replacing the wording we had previously used, which was ‘Enhancement of the Environment’.

There was also a linked observation to amend the commitment ‘to improve environmental performance’ to incorporate a commitment ‘to improve environmental performance and the management system’ [clause 5.2e].

The other corrective action was associated with our ongoing audit programme [clause 9.2.2], which assesses operational control and elements of the environmental management system throughout the year. Whilst many of the changes we had made to the system until mid-2015 had already been subject to an internal audit, further changes had been made within the last six months that had not been captured. We therefore had to conduct an additional audit of the final changes with regard to the new requirements of the standard.

What led to you becoming the first to achieve certification against the new standard?

NQA conducted our transition audit based on the Final Draft International Standard (FDIS). When the final version came out on 15th September 2015, a comparison of the FDIS and the final version was made to identify any differences between the two documents that would fundamentally change the outcome of the audit. Because there was very little change, if any, we received a non-UKAS certificate initially, which was upgraded to a UKAS certificate once NQA had been accredited by UKAS for the new standard in November 2015.

Were there any benefits for your organisation, or for the environment, as a result of the changes to ISO 14001?

Yes, especially with the life-cycle work becoming a requirement of the ISO standard, because it gave us a great push to get things done. Even though we had already been working on it, we ensured that those changes were embedded prior to the standard being published. It also helped us to integrate the life-cycle thinking within project planning.

The new high-level assessment of environmental risk means more to the executive, and integrates with our business risk management system, which is discussed at a high-level Business Review forum.

Our MD has now embedded health, safety and the environment within the balanced business scorecard, so that all of the managers now have these criteria as part of their personal review process.

As more people implement the requirements of ISO 14001: 2015, the changes may also help us to obtain environmental information from our suppliers. We have always found it difficult to get detailed information about our scope 3 carbon emissions. Until now we have had to estimate those emissions, based on our spending in each industry sector. We are now targeting our top, high carbon contracts, to get specific carbon information.

Hopefully, the changes to 14001 will mean that suppliers will have this information readily available, as many more customers may be asking for it; currently, we are being asked to pay extra to receive it during the tender stage.

What was your experience of the transition audit?

When we retendered our certification contract about three years ago we also re-evaluated our needs. We wanted to incorporate added value audits to look at the management commitment from directors, through heads of department, to front-line management. The aim was to gauge levels of commitment at each level by asking questions such as:

  • Do you know that we have an EMS?

  • Is the EMS working for you?

  • How are you improving environmental performance?

  • Do you understand your environmental risks?

  • What environmental messages are you passing down to your staff?

  • Are you recording environmental issues in team minutes and project plans?

Our external auditor saw value in doing this, but the old standard limited his ability to raise findings in this area – this has changed with the new standard.

What questions were asked of directors during the transition audit?

The certification body checked that our environmental risks were flowing up into the Business Risk Register and the Environmental Review Group (ERG).

The assessor asked our MD, “How do you make sure that everyone who needs to deliver on the environment does so?” This allowed our MD to talk about resourcing and the environment being an essential part of our balanced scorecard criteria (good customer service, happy people working for you, a safe and sustainable environment). That is his vision for running a railway, so it is already part of his mentality.

The assessor also asked, “How do you make sure that your managers adhere to EMS requirements?” The MD said that every manager has to undergo a performance development review that includes a safety or environmental initiative; he also explained that all directors are held accountable for safety and the environment in their area.

Did the auditor spend time with other relevant departments, such as purchasing?

Yes, he interviewed both the purchasing and the estates teams.

What advice would you give to others making the transition to ISO 14001:2015?

Conduct a gap analysis of where you are at the minute, compared to the requirements of the new standard.

Create a summary for your Board of Directors, and ask them to delegate what needs to be done. That might even include some high-level actions such as specific directors taking accountability for specific areas such as design and procurement.

What is the next step for your organisation’s EMS?

There are still lots of things that we want to do.

After we achieved 14001:2015, we developed a forecasting system for environmental objectives, which uses environmental information gathered from hundreds of locations within the business such as stations and depots. This means that, rather than simply reporting ‘we have produced x amount of waste each month’, we can forecast how far ahead or behind we are likely to be at the end of the year, taking into account a variety of factors. We can therefore effect additional changes during the year if we are going off track, or at least have an early warning system [clauses 6.2.1 and 9.1.1].

The next thing we will be looking at is integrating our system with health, safety and crime.

Currently, we are awaiting a huge investment, because we are at the start of a new franchise run by Arriva. We are hoping to do a lot of work towards improving biodiversity, which is a big opportunity for us because of our geographical range.


Marek Bidwell is Director of Bidwell Management Systems, a Chartered Environmentalist and visiting lecturer in Environmental Management at Newcastle University. Marek has led the design, development and implementation of environmental management systems at a plethora of businesses across the UK. He is the author of a series of articles in ‘The Environmentalist’ on the challenges of adapting management systems to the new standard, and the author of ‘Making the transition to ISO 14001:2015’; he was the facilitator for the practitioner-led ISO 14001:2015 Road Test Group.

This is the third in a series of articles entitled ‘ISO 14001:2015 – Lessons from the Early Adopters’ . Click here for other interviews in the series.

ISO 14001:2015 – Lessons from the Early Adopters #2





Marek Bidwell interviews Nigel Sagar from Skanska UK about his experience making the transition to ISO 14001:2015.


The Senior Environmental Compliance Manager for Skanska UK, Nigel Sagar has worked in the construction industry for over 30 years. His career has comprised of two distinct phases; for the first 15 years, he fulfilled a site role on civil engineering projects, with the remainder having been spent in the environment department. During that time, he has written, implemented and maintained several management systems compliant with ISO14001.

With approximately 5,500 employees, Skanska UK is one of the UK’s leading project development and construction companies; it is known for major projects such as the Gherkin and Crossrail.

Skanska UK successfully completed the transition to ISO 14001:2015 in March 2016 as part of an audit by LRQA of their integrated quality, health and safety, and environmental management system, which is called ‘Our Way of Working’.

Give me an overview of how you prepared for the 14001 transition?

I followed the development of the standard through each draft as it came out, and did a Gap Analysis to compare the requirements of the standard with the contents of our management system.

The seminars and webinars that were given at the time by Martin Baxter of IEMA, who was on the ISO committee, were really helpful, as were the updates posted on the CRA Europe website by Bryan Hughes, who was also on the committee.

I was attempting to identify not only the new aspects of the standards, but also the way in which they should be interpreted – that was the hardest element.

What was the outcome of your Gap Analysis?

There was a gap in terms of high-level risk and opportunity [clause 6.1.1]. Within ‘Our Way of Working’ we have risk registers both at a company level and at a project level. Although we are always looking for green opportunities, this was not well covered in our processes, so we had to develop something to improve this.

In other areas, we needed to increase the effectiveness of what we already had in place, ensuring everything was running smoothly.

We had been using a life-cycle approach for a while, driven by the Skanska Color PaletteTM [clauses 6.1.2 and 8.1]. We are endeavouring to move all of our major projects towards ‘Deep Green’ by undertaking a colour palette assessment at the tender stage; this is then continued through the construction phase, with a final assessment at the end of construction.

We report on the percentage of revenue taken by the business split according to the three outcomes on the colour palette: Vanilla, Green, and Deep Green. The Deep Green criteria includes net zero primary energy, near zero carbon construction, zero waste, net zero water, zero hazardous and unsustainable materials, the way in which the product is used, and eventually the way in which it is adapted, reused or recycled at its end of life. In other words, it was all in place, although some aspects had to be linked more clearly back into the design process.

Skanska Color Palette

With regard to communication [clause 7.4], the environment team in Skanska UK has a Communications Business Partner to support us internally, and we had already implemented an external communications plan that includes events in which we participate, sponsorships, and sustainability groups on which we are represented; for example, the Business Unit President, Mike Putman, chairs the Green Construction Board. We were therefore well placed in terms of communication.

Additionally, I identified the need to formalise our process for evaluating the effectiveness of training [clause 7.2].

Another aspect of the new standard that we highlighted was defining employees’ competence to do particular things [clause 7.2]. We were using an environmental training matrix, which is categorised by job title and includes mandatory environmental courses (such as courses for procurement and design staff). However, we have further developed the competency process to include specified professional membership levels tasks. Anyone can write an environmental aspect and impact assessment, but it now has to be approved by an associate member of IEMA or equivalent; similarly, anyone can write a project’s Environmental Management Plan, but they have to be reviewed and approved by a full member of IEMA or equivalent.

Did you have any problems with the new leadership requirements [clause 5.1]?

No; historically we have had a lot of commitment from top management. Senior Skanska UK managers have always attended either the opening or closing meetings. When we conduct management system reviews, that are held in the individual business streams and feed into the Skanska UK reviews, Senior Directors attend those meetings.

Did you find that the auditor asked more searching questions of senior management during the transition audit?

We completely reversed this by ensuring in advance that a number of Managing Directors were prepared to speak to the certification body. Examples of the questions asked included, ‘How did you put your business stream 2020 strategy together? ‘How do site-based issues feed into the strategy?’ ‘What are your environmental objectives and targets?’ and ‘What support do you give to people in the business on environmental management?’ The assessor found that the Managing Directors were well versed in our environmental issues, and having that top-level support makes it much easier.

The Skanska Color PaletteTM has been in place since 2009 and is easy to understand. Our target is to get a certain percentage of our projects into Deep Green and the Managing Directors understand and promote this.

Historically, members of the Skanska UK board have had a target to give a certain number of external presentations on environmental issues at fora such as EcoBuild. This was beneficial to environment team members because it gave them an increased motivation to seek relevant information to present, which equally increased their knowledge of the issues. They easily exceeded their target, which has now been given to the next level of management.

What was your experience of the actual audit process?

It was a learning process, both for our certification body and for ourselves. Now that ISO 14004 has been published, there is a lot more guidance on how ISO 14001 needs to be interpreted.

Our auditors are covering all three standards (14001, 18001 and 9001); some have more knowledge and experience of ISO 14001 than others. Those who have an industry background are good at understanding the specific challenges we are facing.

On this occasion, they spent more time interviewing managers from our central enabling functions such as procurement, HR, design and fleet. For example, employees from the procurement department were asked about our sustainable procurement policy and designers were questioned about taking a life-cycle approach. The assessors spent a week at our head office in Maple Cross as well as visiting a selection of our projects and offices across the UK business.

What were the audit findings?

For the transition and re-certification audit, which took a total of 55 days and covered all three standards, we received only two Minor Nonconformities for ISO14001:2015, with no Opportunity for Improvements or Observations.

The first was Minor Nonconformity was related to risk and opportunity [clause 6.1.1]. We had conducted a risk and opportunity assessment at Skanska UK level, and also at the individual business stream level, as part of the development of our 2020 business plan; each issue identified is linked to one of the five strategy areas in the business plan.

When visiting a particular project, the assessor found that the risk and opportunity assessments were not in the same format as the overall business plan risks and opportunities, although there was an aspect and impact assessment and a general risk register for each project. We consider that aspects and impacts are almost 100 percent certain to happen, whereas risks and opportunities might happen. One of the key opportunities for us is taking a project into Deep Green, but we cannot do this for every project.

Another complication is that if a client wants us to use their documentation on a project we have to do so, and therefore for some projects there was no section in the documents for environmental risk and opportunity analyses. This could continue to be an issue for us when working on projects with a client who is still working to the 2004 version of the standard and we will have to agree our approach to this.

The other finding was that environmental objectives [clause 6.2.2] were not fully documented.

We have a detailed plan for environmental objectives at a Skanska UK level, but when the certification body was visiting a certain project there was not a detailed plan for achieving all of the specific project objectives – what, by whom, and when.

Do you perceive that there were any benefits for your organisation or the environment from the changes to ISO 14001?

Although we were already doing many of the new requirements, their inclusion in the standard reinforces what we are doing. The changes in the new version are very positive and are certainly a step in the right direction. This can only bring benefits in encouraging more people to become involved in environmental management, not only in Skanska UK but also in our supply chain.

The changes may also make it easier for us to obtain environmental information from other organisations in our supply chain, helping us all to manage life-cycle issues more effectively.

What advice would you give to others making the transition to ISO 14001:2015?

Undertake a gap analysis, read the newly published ISO 14004, seek advice from your certification body and speak to other practitioners who are going through the process.

What is the next step for your organisation’s EMS?

We are always looking to improve our EMS and make it more effective. Our priority in the next year is to make it more user-friendly. We will be making changes to “Our Way of Working” on the intranet to subdivide it into the different phases of the project, with the relevant processes and procedures linked to the project stages.

Another priority is to digitise more documents; for example, we intend to make documents such as inspection forms available on iPads and link them into BIM.

We are also planning to extend the use of the Skanska Color PaletteTM methodology to maintenance contracts including Facilities Management.

Through Skanska UK’s experience in the transition, we can now assist our other Business Units around the world in their transition via the Skanska ISO14001 working group, which I chair.



Marek Bidwell is Director of Bidwell Management Systems, a Chartered Environmentalist and visiting lecturer in Environmental Management at Newcastle University. Marek has led the design, development and implementation of environmental management systems at a plethora of businesses across the UK. He is the author of a series of articles in ‘The Environmentalist’ on the challenges of adapting management systems to the new standard, and the author of ‘Making the transition to ISO 14001:2015’; he was the facilitator for the practitioner-led ISO 14001:2015 Road Test Group.

This is the second in a series of articles entitled ‘ISO 14001:2015 – Lessons from the Early Adopters’ . Click here for other interviews in the series.

Hydram logo

ISO 14001:2015 – Lessons from the Early Adopters #1




Marek Bidwell interviews Andrew Robertson and Peter McAuley from Hydram Engineering about their experience of making the transition to ISO 14001:2015.


Hydram Engineering is a precision metal fabricator based in Country Durham; its clients include Caterpillar and Herman Miller. Established in 1977, it has grown substantially in the last 10 years to become one of the largest sheet metal fabrication companies in Europe. Hydram Engineering successfully completed its transition to ISO 14001:2015 in April 2016, certified by SGS.

Andrew Roberston (HSE Manager) has been with the firm for 20 years, during which time he has implemented ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001. Furthermore, his many operational improvements have included high-efficiency lighting controls, low-vibration hand tools and waste reductions.

Peter McAuley is a project engineer whose job involves managing the contract to supply Caterpillar with loader control components, and has contributed to the 14001:2015 project.

How did you prepare for the 14001 transition and how much work was involved?

It started in December 2013 when we hosted the first meeting of the ‘ISO 14001:2015 Road Test Group’. It was interesting to find out about how the other companies were dealing with the likely changes, because they were from all sorts of different backgrounds.

We found the guide you wrote about preparing for the changes, ‘Making the Transition to ISO 14001:2015 – From Compliance to Opportunity,’ very helpful in making the transition; it explained the differences between the old and new versions and what to do next. From there, we drew up a checklist, and started reviewing and updating processes, creating records, and communicating with other people in the business. Approximately three man-days a week were spent between us on the project in the months leading up to the external assessment.

Who else did you need to speak to within Hydram?

In the initial stages of the journey had a lot of discussions with the MD (David Greatorex), working on a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis. That was a really good starting point for us, and it formed the basis for the rest of the changes – David was on board all the way through. Other than that, we ensured that the purchasing, design, and commercial teams were involved and up to speed with the new requirements.

What did you identify as the main changes you needed to make?

Our main concern was the new requirements for purchasing [clause 8.1]. In metal fabrication, most raw materials are specified by the customer, and the purchasing team was initially uncomfortable with the whole idea.

So we took a step back, and asked the commercial and design teams whether they considered the environment when pricing a job. We learned that they do advise customers, where appropriate: pop riveting rather than welding to use less energy; the use of mild steel rather than Zintec (zinc-coated steel), because it causes less trade effluent during pre-treatment. If they pass this information on to the administration team, therefore, it gets cascaded to the contract review stage, and ultimately to purchasing. We have reflected this in our sustainable purchasing process.

Furthermore, where we have direct control, we buy more environmentally friendly materials, such as recycled paper and wax toner cartridges that produce less waste. An environmental purchasing inventory has been produced and is used by the purchasing team whenever there is an opportunity to buy materials from our preferred sources.

The other main change was the environmental SWOT analysis; this was performed to address the new requirement for context [clause 4.1], which fed into a risk and opportunities register [clause 6.1.1]. This identifies a greater range of issues than the existing environmental aspects register, such as the risk of not complying with legislation, and opportunities to invest in energy-efficient technology. Moreover, we approached this from an entire business perspective, rather than merely taking an environmental stance, linking topics together.

In cascading the risk and opportunities assessment to top managers, we asked them to consider environmental risks and opportunities when making business decisions [clause 5.1]. Initially, they were unsure what this meant, but I offered examples of occasions when they had done this in the recent past – such as the purchase of a new paint plant that recirculates and reuses the waste powder, which is better for the environment and saves money.

What were the strengths of your existing systems?

For the reporting of environmental information, we already had a robust set of data, but we scheduled a specific internal audit to verify the data to ensure that it was reliable [clause 7.4]. This was done by a graduate mathematician, who was fully capable of getting to grips with the numbers, in conjunction with a trained internal auditor.

In addition, we also had a documented communications plan [clause 7.4] and a detailed set of management programmes that covered ‘what’, ‘when’, ‘who’, ‘resources required’ and ‘payback’ [clause 6.2.2].

Top management commitment is a further strength at Hydram [clause 5.1]. The directors want a sustainable business; therefore, it was not difficult to secure their support.

What was your experience of the transition audit?

To be honest, it was just like other audits we have had in the past. The assessor had the opportunity to speak to the Chairman, but he did not interview him in detail. I think he was satisfied by the detailed management review minutes I had written, as well as everything he picked up from us.

He did not interview anyone in the procurement, design or sales departments; however, he asked us about these things, and we showed him evidence of our commercial team’s contract review documents, which consider the environment, as well as the Business Plan.

What were the audit findings?

We received no nonconformities, either major or minor. There were five observations, one of which was related to the new requirements of ISO 14001:2015. This was a suggestion to provide information to customers of the carbon emissions associated with our products, as well as their disposal/recycling arrangements [clause 8.1 d]. We are now collating this data to put in the product specification.

Do you perceive that there were any benefits to your organisation or to the environment as a result of the changes to ISO 14001?

The main benefit for the organisation has been the expansion of the group of people who consider the environment, from one environmental manager to all the key decision makers in the business, and this has been cascaded down to everyone who can have an impact or influence, however small. This can only help to have a positive impact on the environment.

The new changes to ISO14001 run alongside the company’s business plan and the decision makers now consider the environment prior to making a decision.

What advice would you give to others making the transition to ISO 14001:2015?

I think that the external auditors are currently slightly unsure, so the best idea is to do it now, before they become more familiar with the new standard.

Also, start at the top by discussing the environmental aspects of the business plan with the directors and creating a SWOT/context analysis.

Give yourselves plenty of time and use the opportunity to promote the environment, not only at the top level but also cascading it down throughout the business, especially to people who influence environmental performance, such as those in purchasing and tendering.

Finally, I would recommend the guide you wrote.

What is the next step for your organisation’s EMS?

There are always opportunities for improvement. We need to improve some of the administrative aspects of the system, and we have a range of new actions arising from the risk and opportunities assessment, such as investing in training for the HSE and product design teams; we also need to consider renewable energy sources.

Marek Bidwell is Director of Bidwell Management Systems, a Chartered Environmentalist and visiting lecturer in Environmental Management at Newcastle University. Marek has led the design, development and implementation of environmental management systems at a plethora of businesses across the UK. He is the author of a series of articles in ‘The Environmentalist’ on the challenges of adapting management systems to the new standard, and the author of ‘Making the transition to ISO 14001:2015’; he was the facilitator for the practitioner-led ISO 14001:2015 Road Test Group.

This is the first in a series of articles entitled ‘ISO 14001:2015 – Lessons from the Early Adopters’ . Click here for other interviews in the series.


Hope for the Gorillas of Uganda


On 19th January 2016 I was privileged to join a small group tracking a family of Gorillas, called Mubare, in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. The forest certainly lived up to its name, the total trek was over 8 hours and it took us half that time to find them. Our guides used machetes to create a path through the jungle, following the signs of the gorillas feeding, moving and their dung.

It was a profound experience when we finally caught up with the family – like peering into ancient history, a legend from my childhood coming true. The gorillas were at one with their surroundings, as nature intended: munching leaves, grooming, climbing trees, babies playing, mothers caring and the giant silverback protecting. Each individual had a unique appearance and personality.

I was keen to make this trip now, because I was under the impression that Mountain Gorillas may become extinct in the near future after read ‘Gorillas in the Mist’ by Dian Fossey. There are only about 800 hundred left, split between two forests: Bwindi in Uganda, Volcanoes in Rwanda, and possibly some over the border in Congo. In one of the most densely populated parts of Africa, much of their habitat has become farmland, and Bwindi forest is essentially an island.

However, during our stay, I met the local guides and guards who are passionate about protecting and studying them. In Uganda they have only lost one gorilla to poaching in the last 10-15 years and income from tracking permits is shared with the local community. Tourism also creates jobs for locals as guides, porters and in lodges. It is believed that the Bwindi population may have increased from about 400 to 500 in the last 10 years, and you will see from my photos that there are lots of healthy babies.

It was a coincidence that our small tracking group was joined by the Gorilla Vet (Dr Gladys), who has appeared on several television programmes, and set up the charity ‘Conservation Through Public Health’ that takes a holistic approach to protecting the Gorillas from disease by improving the health of the local community. This approach is an exemplar of sustainable conservation, creates goodwill, and gives me real hope for the future. On my reading list, is a book called ‘Wild Hope’ by Andrew Balmford who investigates similar conservation success stories.

If you like the photos and want to help protect the gorillas, you could do a lot worse than to travel to Uganda to see them for yourself. I can assure you, you will be made to feel welcome.


Our group of 8 visitors and a number of guides and guards

Our group of 8 visitors and a number of guides and guards setting off.

Our group of 8 visitors and a number of guides and guards.


The going get touch on the 8 hour trek the the impenetrable forest

The going gets tough on the 8 hour trek through the impenetrable forest due to mud, army ants, and spiky vegetation.

The going gets tough on the 8 hour trek through the impenetrable forest due to mud, army ants, and spiky vegetation.


At last we spotted gorilla dung; getting closer.

At last we spotted gorilla dung; getting closer.

At last we spotted gorilla dung; getting closer.

Finally, we see our first gorilla, munching leaves in the tree. Our guide (David) gives us some final advice, like what to do if a gorilla approaches you (as it did later)

Finally, we see our first gorilla, muching leaves in the tree. Our guide (David) gives us some final advice, like what to do if a gorilla approaches you (as it did later!)

Finally, we see our first gorilla, munching leaves in the tree. Our guide (David) gives us some final advice, like what to do if a gorilla approaches you (as it did later).


Gorilla bridge, "can I make Daddy play with me by pulling his sliver fur?"

Gorilla bridge, “can I make Daddy play with me by pulling his sliver fur?”.

Gorilla bridge, “can I make Daddy play with me by pulling his sliver fur?


Gorilla feet.

Gorilla feet.

Gorilla feet.

Eating, and playing, with a leaf

Eating, and playing, with a leaf

Eating, and playing, with a leaf.


What will the future bring for my family?

What will the future bring for my family?

What will the future bring for my family?

Despite their size, the gorillas made climbing look easy and graceful

Despite their size, the gorillas made climbing look easy and graceful.

Despite their size, the gorillas made climbing look easy and graceful

The Silverback, called Kanyonyi, moving off. Kanyonyi was named after his place of birth, meaning bird. He was born in 1994

The Silverback, called Kanyonyi, moving off. Kanyonyi was named after his place of birth, meaning bird. He was born in 1994

The Silverback, called Kanyonyi, moving off. Kanyonyi was named after his place of birth, meaning bird. He was born in 1994.


At the end, the silverback decides to call it a day, calls the females, and walks up the hill brushing past me. I can still smell his musky odour.

At the end, the silverback decides to call it a day, calls the females, and walks up the hill brushing past me. I can still smell his musky odour.

The long, steep, climb down

The long, steep, climb down.

The long, steep, climb down.

Some of our group, and Dr Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka the Gorilla Vet, happy to be back at base.

Some of our group, and Dr Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka the Gorilla Vet, happy to be back at base.

Some of our group, and Dr Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka the Gorilla Vet, happy to be back at base.

Green-Thinkers is growing!


In December 2012 I had an idea to set up a book club dedicated to sustainability issues. This is partly because I didn’t want to impose these books on my regular book club, and also because I believe the next industrial revolution will revolve around sustainable innovation, new ideas are evolving rapidly, and they are worthy of discussion.

Last night in Newcastle we held our 8th meeting to discuss the Circular Economy, and our core text was the famous “Cradle to Cradle” by Michael Braungart and William McDonough. As always, as well as benefiting from the book, I learned a huge amount as the ideas bounced around the group. For me, the key message from last night was that intelligent design of buildings, products and services is key to driving the Circular Economy, and poor design will always hamper the best attempts at reuse and recycling, as well as potentially harming the users. This of course ties in very well with the increased focus on design in the planned changes to ISO 14001.

The main reason for this post however is to share an exciting development… Green-Thinkers is growing and the first meeting of a group in Nottingham will be held on 27th March – discussing the same topic. So if you missed Newcastle, you can catch Nottingham, or event better contact me if you would like to start a Green-Thinkers where you live.

To learn more see www.green-thinkers.org 

Ask Gareth - ISO 14001 Changes Video

How is ISO 14001 Changing – Video Interview on ‘Ask Gareth’

Ask Gareth - ISO 14001 Changes Video

Ask Gareth – ISO 14001 Changes Video

I was recently interviewed by Gareth Kane (author of the Green Executive) on “Ask Gareth” about the changes to ISO 14001. Despite the rather scary initial image of me! the video contains some helpful information about draft changes to the standard.

Gareth asks me:

How will the changes to ISO 14001 affect organisations?

What are the three most significant changes to the standard?

What is the extent of the new value-chain requirements?

What are the extra requirements for senior management?

How far will these changes take organisations towards sustainability?


Act before 31st Oct 2014 to help improve ISO 14001:2015


If ISO 14001:2015 encourages organisations to consider environmental implications at the earliest stage in key business decisions (such as moving into new markets, product and services), it will help ensure a win-win for the organisation and the environment, rather that retrofitting operational environmental controls later on.

There are a number of new requirements in the Draft Standard which require greater involvement of top management for them to be fully effective. These include identification of high-level environmental opportunities for the organisation, and consideration of eco-design of products and services.

In Committee Draft 2 there was a requirement for top management to ‘give consideration to environmental performance in strategic planning‘. This requirement was proactive, and acted like fulcrum to lever other requirements, but it was removed in the DIS (Draft International Standard). The remaining requirement to ‘ensure policy is compatible with strategic direction’ is reactive, rather than proactive.

There have not been many comments on the BSI website regarding the DIS version of the standard, all comments made will make a difference. If you feel that this is important, as I do, then go to http://drafts.bsigroup.com/ and comment on the clause 5.1 of the draft standard before 31st October 2014. You have to search for ISO 14001, and then create a user name to comment.

ISO 14001:2015 FAQs

Transition to ISO 14001:2015 – Frequently Asked Questions


Your questions answered about the changes to ISO 14001 by Marek Bidwell, author of ‘Making the Transition to ISO 14001:2015 – From Compliance to Opportunity


ISO 14001:2015 FAQs

ISO 14001:2015 FAQs

1. How long do I have to make the changes to our Environmental Management System?

At the time of writing (August 2014), the Draft International Standard (DIS) has recently been published, and we are entering a consultation period, ending on 28th November 2014; however the date for the public making comments to national standard bodies is sooner – and varies by country. Following this, ISO will review comments, and either the Final Draft (FDIS) will be issued, or the standard may go directly to publication. It is expected that the new version of 14001 will be published by the end of 2015.

Certified organisations will then have a 2-3 year transition period to make the necessary changes.


2. Why is ISO 14001 changing?

There are 3 main reasons: all ISO standards are reviewed periodically (every 5-7 years); to keep ISO 14001 up to date with emerging environmental issues (highlighted by ISO’s Future Challenges Study Group); and to fall into line with the recently published common framework for management system standards, called Annex XL.


3. What are the key changes to ISO 14001?

The key changes include a new structure, increased requirements for top management, a requirement to consider the context of your organisation, determination of risk associated with threats and opportunities, and an increased focus on the environmental impacts of your products and services. I have outlined the 13 key changes here.


4. What will be the impact on my organisation?

This will vary from organisation to organisation. Those focussed on the paperwork may feel that the changes to the structure will take some time to deal with – rewriting the manual. I would argue that, if this is necessary at all, it is one of the less important issues. Ideally your management systems should be integrated with your business processes.

Of fundamental importance to many, will be the increased focus on the environmental impact of your products and services, and supply chains, and the new requirement to consider risks and opportunities.

Organisations involved with the ‘ISO Road Test’, which I facilitate, ranked the key changes by ‘relevance’ to their organisations, and the level of ‘change’ involved. The group scores for ‘change required’ were aggregated, and the top ranking issues were: 1st) value chain downstream; 2nd) structure of the standard; 3rd) value chain upstream; and 4th) risks and opportunities.

The group scores for ‘relevance’ were aggregated, and the top ranking issues were: 1st) risks and opportunities; 2nd) compliance status; and 3rd) context of the organisation.


You can evaluate the most important issues for your organisation by taking part in our survey, the anonymous results of which will be sent to all participating organisations.


5. Will the changes mean more work for me?

Yes, probably! If you are reading this is it likely that you are an environmental, H&S, quality, or sustainability manager, and be responsible for your organisation’s environmental management system.

However, I would balance this by pointing out that one of the new requirements is for the environmental management system to be integrated into the organisation’s business processes, and for top management to provide support to other relevant management roles as it applies to their areas of responsibility.

The intention is that people with expertise in disciplines such as procurement, design, or engineering, consider environmental issues, and associated controls and opportunities, as part of their day-to-day job.

The changes will also present opportunities for those looking after 14001 systems: interacting with new parts of the business, and considering the interfaces between business strategy and environmental management.


6. Are the changes to ISO 14001 the same as the changes to ISO 9001?

Some are the same, and other are unique to 14001. It is helpful to read through ISO 9001 (DIS), in conjunction with ISO 14001 (DIS).

Some of the changes are driven by the common management system framework (Annex XL). These include ‘Context of the organisation’, ‘Needs and expectations of interested parties’, and the enhanced requirements for ‘top management’.

Other requirements are unique to ISO 14001 (DIS) such as identifying and managing the life-cycle environmental impacts associated with products and services.

A few changes in ISO 14001 (DIS) are subtly different to those in ISO 9001 (DIS). One of these is in the section ‘Context of the organisation’. Both 14001 and 9001 (DIS) require consideration of how internal and external issues that may affect the quality / environmental management system. However only 14001 (DIS) requires consideration of “environmental conditions capable of affecting or being affected by the organization.” The additional requirement in 14001 (DIS) is more strategic – for the success of the organisation as a whole.

A second subtle difference is that 9001 (DIS) requires the determination of “risks and opportunities that need to be addressed”, whereas 14001 (DIS) requires “determine the risk associated with threats and opportunities that needs to be addressed”. 9001 (DIS) implies a one-stage process, whereas the 14001 (DIS) implies a two-stage process: firstly identify the threats and opportunities, and then evaluate the risks. This terminology may change in the Final Draft, and 2015 publication.


7. Is a full Life Cycle Assessment required for our products?

No. Although there is increased emphasis on both identifying, and controlling, environmental issues associated with the value chain, a full life cycle assessment is not required. ISO 14001 (DIS) Annex A states: “a simple consideration of the life cycle stages which can be controlled or influenced by the organization is sufficient”. The limiting factor therefore is whether your organisation has control or influence up and down the supply chain.

Considering procurement: it is often argued that the further up the supply chain you go, the less the control or influence you have. However, I argue, that this is not always the case. Organisations necessarily specify precise grades and types of source materials; if they wish, they may specify one or more environmental criteria, extending to primary production. However, they will not be able to control every facet of upstream organisations’ activities.

Considering the environmental impacts of products and services: you have control of design, which may include efficiency, longevity, and recyclability. However, a chainsaw manufacturer could design a low-noise, energy-efficient chainsaw, but it could not stop it being used to chop down an ancient tree.

If these life cycle requirements are taken seriously by organisations, and certification bodies, the opportunity exists to shine a spotlight on less sustainable products ­–  and either redesigning them, or drop them altogether – benefiting consumers, organisations, and the environment.


8. What is the difference between Aspects and Impacts, and Threats / Risks and Opportunities in ISO 14001:2015?

Threats and opportunities are not synonymous with negative and positive environmental aspects and impacts.

Threats are of two types: threats to the organisations (such as climate change), and threats to the environmental management system (these may arise from internal factors such as limited resources, and external factors such as changes to regulation).

Opportunities are any environmentally related circumstances that make it possible to do something that will benefit the business. Examples may include increased crop yields due to higher temperatures, design of more efficient products, and the development of new products and services such as flood-defence barriers, recycling services, or exploiting new shipping lanes across the arctic. Turning these opportunities into reality may become the focus of new environmental objectives. However, some new opportunities may also create environmental risk.


9. How can I get Top Management more involved?

The new standard will have additional requirements for top management. “Top management must demonstrate leadership and commitment with respect to the EMS…”. Nine specific areas are listed: taking accountability for effectiveness of the EMS; ensuring the environmental policy & objectives are compatible with the strategic direction of the organization; integration with other business processes; provision of resources; communication; achieving EMS requirements; directing and supporting relevant persons and managers; and promoting continual improvement.

In my experience, top management are most engaged with environmental issues when they are asked their opinion, rather than told what to do (after all the management system is their tools for delivering the aims of their environmental policy), and the discussion relates to opportunities for business development, as opposed to focussing only on compliance. The good new here is that ISO 14001:2015 will encourage this type of strategic environmental thinking.

Gareth Kane, of Terra Infirma has written extensively on this topic, see his video “How do I get my CEO engaged in sustainability”.


Making the Transition to ISO 14001:2015

Making the Transition to ISO 14001:2015

10. How do I make the transition to ISO 14001:2015?

I recommend starting with a gap analysis. You may find that you are already meeting some, or all, of the new requirements, particularly if your organisation has a strong sustainability and supply chain focus. If there are gaps: develop an action plan detailing what needs to be done, by whom, and what auditable evidence will demonstrate compliance.


You can also download my guide that explains the 13 key changes in more detail, each of the changes are identified and discussed, and compared against the existing requirements of the 2004 version.

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