Posts tagged transition guidance
Marek Bidwell interviews Helena Tinker from Manchester Metropolitan University about her experience making the transition to ISO 14001:2015.
Helena Tinker is the Environment and Energy Systems Manager at Manchester Metropolitan University. She is responsible for the University’s Environmental Management System, Policy and Strategy implementation.
Manchester Metropolitan is one of the largest campus-based universities in the UK, with a total student population of approximately 38,000 and approximately 4,000 staff. The University has pursued an environmental sustainability agenda for a number of years and was ranked as one of the top three greenest UK universities by The People and Planet Green League in 2015 and the greenest university in 2013.
Manchester Metropolitan has implemented an environmental management system using the EcoCampus framework. They achieved bronze in 2012, silver in 2014 and gold in 2015. In early 2016, they were assessed against the final stage of EcoCampus (that includes the check and review stages of the standard) achieving EcoCampus Platinum and ISO 14001:2015 simultaneously.
In May this year, Helena presented a summary of the university’s journey towards ISO 14001:2015 at the annual conference of The Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges.
Give me a flavour of how you prepared for the 14001 transition?
When we were working towards gold EcoCampus in 2015, I reviewed early drafts of the ISO 14001:2015 standard to ensure the systems we developed incorporated the new requirements, such as leadership commitment and context analysis, and then tweaked the systems when the final version was published.
I embedded the EMS across the organisation, building competency in other members of staff.
The system is split into 12 areas that link to our environmental policy and a member of staff is accountable for achieving the objectives and targets, defining roles and responsibility and ensuring legal compliance within their area.
I also integrated the EMS into other business processes across the organisation.
Environmental roles and responsibilities at Manchester Metropolitan University
What were the most helpful sources of information?
The ISO 14001:2015 consultation workshops run by Martin Baxter from IEMA were useful as they gave an early insight to the changes being proposed. Alex Hobbins from EcoCampus was also helpful; we worked together to understand the impact of the changes on our system.
What were the strengths of your existing system?
Manchester Metropolitan has been active in environmental sustainability for a number of years, so already had some excellent and challenging environmental programmes in place. The Environment Team were well resourced and staff across the university were already engaged in environmental issues via the NUS Green Impact Programme, which we had been running for a number of years. The University already had an Environmental Strategy and Policy with commitment from senior management. We reviewed and updated both documents to meet the requirements of 14001:2015. Further resources were also made available to deliver new environmental objectives and targets.
Environmental Vision, and Policy for 2020 at Manchester Metropolitan University
In early 2014, the university developed an objective to embed sustainability into the curriculum, and recruited a new member of staff to manage this work programme. This helped the University maintain our position in the People and Planet green/university league because there was greater emphasis on ‘education for sustainable development’ in the assessment criteria.
We were already delivering an excellent waste and recycling service with challenging reuse and recycling targets, but a full review of our waste streams and environmental obligations was required. We also formalised our systems and procedures to maintain compliance and increased our waste auditing activities.
What were the main changes you needed to make?
The clause/requirement we had not addressed was ‘context analysis’. To meet this requirement, I delivered a number of workshops with the eight environmental policy managers and their teams in 2015. We undertook a PESTLE analysis of internal and external issues that could affect the university achieving its environmental objectives. We then identified the associated, risks and opportunities and proposed actions to address the issues arising. It was a useful exercise as it helped us identify future challenges and our management response. I selected key risks and opportunities and our proposed actions and presented them to our Environmental Strategy Board for discussion, input and approval.
Did you find the process of identifying risks and opportunities useful, having already identified your environmental aspects?
We found it more useful than the aspects assessment exercise, especially for the travel and waste policy areas; it helped teams think about how their activities are influenced by internal and external factors. It encouraged them to think more holistically and manage our risks and opportunities.
Examples of the external issues identified included changes and developments in government policy and our continued membership of the European Union, and ongoing improvement works on the Oxford Road Corridor in Manchester creating i enhanced bus and cycle infrastructure. It was useful to discuss the actions required to address the risks and opportunities associated with them and ensure they were incorporated into our action plans.
How did you tackle the new requirements for life-cycle thinking?
We already included procurement activities in the scope of our environmental management system as we were working towards level 3 in the Government’s flexible procurement framework.
I worked with the procurement team to identify key products and services we purchased that could potentially have a high environmental or social impact. I then determined the environmental impacts associated with each lifecycle stage: Transport, Processing, Manufacture and Construction, Distribution, Use and Disposal; considered if we had control or influence at each stage; and then identified at what current actions we were working on, and future potential actions.
For example, we developed Environmental Design Principles for our building and refurbishment projects, to ensure environmental issues are considered in the design process.
Tell me more about how you worked with the University to embed sustainability into teaching and research?
Embedding environmental and social sustainability issues into the curriculum is one of our largest positive impacts, alongside offering extra-curricular activities associated with sustainability.
The University appointed an Education for Sustainable Development Coordinator who provides support and CPD opportunities to academic staff to embed sustainability into their curriculum.
For example, the Faculty of Business and Law’s mission statement includes: To develop socially and environmentally responsible ‘early career professionals’ for successful careers in management and the professions. Dr Jack Christian from Accounting, Finance and Economics has delivered ethics and sustainability lectures across the Business School for the last five years.
The University was also a pilot for the new Responsible Futures accreditation mark, an initiative driven by the National Union of Students to engage students in the sustainability agenda. The University’s involvement in the scheme helped contribute to the successful certification to ISO 14001:2015.
Did you need to make changes to your processes associated with communication with interested parties?
No, we documented current communication practices. We listed our interested parties, confirmed their needs and expectations, in terms of environmental communication and identified if it was a compliance issues.
We already published our environmental performance on an annual basis via our annual environmental sustainability report. This piece of work is led by our Sustainability Engagement Manager with input from key stakeholders across the university. Our most recent statement is available on our website.
How did the external assessment go?
Two auditors from NQA undertook the assessment, over three days.
They undertook a number of site visits and interviewed approximately 40 people. They interviewed our Director of Services, who is the Chair of the University’s Environmental Strategy Board. They spent about an hour asking about the Boards role its structure and how our environmental objectives link to University strategy, and future risks and opportunities for the University.
In large organisations, it is impossible for auditors to talk to everyone involved in the EMS, but they said they would have loved to spend more time looking at particular areas in more detail. We have therefore agreed to spend a greater amount of time on issues such as procurement, waste management and sustainability in the curriculum, in our next surveillance visit.
What were the audit findings?
We had four minor nonconformities and a number of observations. One was associated with the new requirements of ISO 14001:2015.
It was linked to our evaluation of legal compliance. We use an environmental legislation update database called ELUS to help create a register of legislation. It was recommended that we link our legal internal audits of compliance to our register of legislation. This would provide evidence of our regular evaluation of compliance.
Do you perceive that there were any benefits for your organisation or the environment from the changes to ISO 14001?
The top benefits are: senior management commitment helps ensure we have sufficient resources in place to manage and improve our environmental performance, and the new monitoring and measurement requirements ensure robust KPIs are in place to review performance and continually improve Undertaking a PESTEL analysis helped identify future risks and opportunities and ensured we had plans in place to address them.
What advice would you give to others on making the transition to ISO 14001:2015?
Always keep it simple; make sure that you have good leadership and commitment; embed the EMS into your organisation; and ensure that people are clear about their roles and responsibilities because you are not going to be able to do it all on your own
What is the next step for your organisation’s EMS?
We would like to improve our internal auditing system taking on board the comments from the external auditors, ensuring we document the root cause of any non-conformance raised. We would also like to expand our programme on climate change adaptation and business continuity, working with the Head of Business Continuity. We will continually review our energy, carbon and travel performance and continue to deliver on our challenging action plans to meet our targets.
Using our experience, the university has established an advisory service to support other organisations to implement ISO 14001:2015
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 fourth in a series of articles entitled ‘ISO 14001:2015 – Lessons from the Early Adopters’. Click here for other interviews in the series.
Environmental managers I work with have expressed concern about the increased scope of the draft ISO 14001:2015 standard, in so much as it extends to processes and departments such as procurement and design that they have little or no influence over, and especially the need for greater involvement of top management with whom they already struggle to engage on the basics of pollution prevention and compliance.
I sympathise with this view to the extent that if you (as an environmental or sustainability manager) go to your top management with the approach: “ISO now says you have to do x, y, and z in order to maintain certification”, it is unlikely to go down well — you will be banging the same old drum, only louder.
Part of the reason for this anxiety is that environmental management is seen by some business leaders to be mainly about mitigating risk and, therefore, an operational on-cost. In the same organisations strategic decisions are made at a high level to restructure the business, develop new products and services, and move into new markets, without any consideration of the environmental or sustainability implications. Leaders then get frustrated with environmental managers for raising constraints associated with capacity or regulation.
However there is another way of thinking about environmental management — it is ‘what you do’ as an organisation, as well as ‘how you do it’. Not only is this way of thinking likely to do more favours for the environment (the life cycle impacts of your product or service may be ten times greater than your operational impacts), it is much more likely to engage top management in environmental and sustainability thinking — because what you do has implications for business strategy, customers and sales. Your portfolio of products and services is also fertile ground in which to grow environmental opportunities for your organisation.
The ‘ISO 14001:2015 Road Test’ group I facilitated last year concluded that four of the key areas in ISO 14001:2015 that will require the greatest amount of change for organisations are: an increased focus on leadership and strategy; determining and addressing risks and opportunities; environmental purchasing; and environmental design and development of products and services. I believe that it is the last of these – the design of your product or service from an environmental, and potentially sustainability, point of view (that I will refer to as eco-design) – is the key to unlocking the benefits of ISO 14001:2015. In this article, I will explain why, and how to make a start on this journey.
Whether your organisation makes products, buildings or infrastructure, or delivers a service — design is king or queen. It defines who you are and what sets you apart from your competitors. Design drives every other aspect of the business from the raw materials that you purchase, operations and risk on the shop floor, to your marketing and sales strategies.
My thinking about the centrality of eco-design for environmental management is illustrated in the following diagram:
Reduce operational risks
The design of your product or service has critical implications for operational risks; I shall illustrate this with an example from my early working life in the electricity distribution industry.
As an environmental manager I was involved with a range of issues such as oil leaks from underground cables, toxic chemicals (PCBs) used in transformers, monitoring and reducing the impact of a potent greenhouse gas (SF6) used in switchgear, and dealing with groups who opposed overhead lines due to their visual and wildlife impact. Management of these issues took a lot of time, and also money. Millions were spent on retrofitting transformers with secondary containment, installing large spill kits, and remediating contaminated land.
Some of these issues were always known to have an environmental impact, such as oil leaks; others had only become apparent more recently, such as the impact of SF6. Nevertheless, I learnt that network designers made key decisions at the planning stage such as whether the lines will be overhead or underground, the route, the capacity and type of transformers used, the switchgear technology to be employed (vacuum, air, gas), and the methods used for protection — all of which had major implications for the lifetime environmental and safety implications of the network.
For this reason I was at pains to include the network designers in the environmental management process. I knew that if eco-design principles were employed, such as removing toxic materials and the consideration of lifetime management costs, then problems could be dealt with up front, eliminating or reducing the pollution risk, associated regulatory risks, and clean-up costs.
As well as reducing pollution risk, eco-design principles can substantially decrease the lifetime energy costs of a product or project. This is as true when specifying low-loss, or higher-loss transformers (that may be operating for the next 40 years), as it is when constructing a building, or designing a washing machine. The challenge here is to effectively communicate to the organisation, or customer, that by paying a little extra up front, they will enjoy many years of savings. In my experience organisations also need to join-up thinking between capital and revenue budgets.
To give an example from a different industry sector: in ‘Business Lessons from a Radical Industrialist’ by the late Ray Anderson (founder of the carpet company Interface, and frequently hailed exemplar of sustainability) he describes establishing a Toxic Chemicals Elimination team to eliminate ecologically damaging chemicals from all Interface facilities. The team had a hard time obtaining all the information they needed from their supply chain, but eventually developed and implemented a screening protocol. Not only did they screen out toxics such as lead and mercury, they reportedly saved money in the process, and reduced the number of discharges to air and water from their factories. While some of these improvements were mainly associated with the manufacturing process, they termed the initiative ‘benign by design’ — changing the substances used in their carpet tiles was a designer led process, but part of the benefits were enjoyed by manufacturing.
Build resilient supply chains
Companies are increasingly concerned about the resilience of their supply chains. The supermarket chain ASDA, for example, recently reported that 95% of their fresh produce range is at risk from climate change. As a result, they are implementing a framework to adapt to these risks that will involve looking into the detail of their most vulnerable products.
Informed purchasing departments can do a lot when it comes to green purchasing and building resilient supply chains, but there is another side to sustainable purchasing policy that goes to the heart of what the organisation does.
Last year I attended an informative sustainable procurement conference in Birmingham. There were a range of speakers who worked in sustainable procurement, from the BBC to a large ceramic tile manufacturer. These organisations had complex global supply chains, employing thousands of individuals, across several continents. There were discussions about the best way to engage with supply chains to ensure that social, economic, and environmental criteria were embedded. Techniques employed ranged from traditional questionnaires and supply-chain audits, to more innovative engagement with small groups of suppliers, using storytelling and role-play to effect change.
However, as the event progressed I was struck by the revelation that many of these purchasing managers are in a similar position to operational environmental managers. They are given a shopping list of what to buy and have to get on with it, doing their best to minimise risk. Towards the end of the day I plucked up the courage to ask a question to the panel: “Do you have the opportunity to influence what you are purchasing, or just who from?” The consensus answer was: in the main they can’t influence what they are buying because they have no role in the design of the product or service.
It stands to reason that in order to make a paradigm shift in the environmental and sustainability impact of your supply chain, some organisations may need to think about design of their product or service, with the aim of eliminating problematic product lines and materials, rather than shopping around for the least-worst procurement option.
One organisation I have worked with on environmental management is a metal fabricator – they have ISO 14001 and good environmental controls. One of their largest customers recently insisted that they switch from more environmentally friendly powder to coat their products to solvent-based paint. Although this change would mean greater environmental impact, and regulatory burden, they had little choice other than to lose the contract. A design specification made by that customer embedded greater environmental impacts in their supply chain. The purchasing department of that customer could send out a supplier questionnaire, and do monthly supplier audits – but it would never change the fundamentals of their solvent specification. The lesson is clear – the principle ‘benign by design’ also has implications for your supply chain, as well as direct operations.
A complementary way to reduce the environmental impact of your supply chain, and also increase its resilience, is to move from a ‘take-make-break’ business model, to a cradle to cradle, or circular economy model. There is a misconception that the ‘circular economy’ is primarily about operations – diverting waste from landfill at the back door of the factory. But in order to create products that can be readily disassembled so that their valuable, uncontaminated materials become the feedstock for the next products, they often need to be redesigned from the ground upwards.
Jaguar Land Rover, who also presented at the supply-chain seminar I attended, explained that learning from life cycle assessment studies of their vehicles has informed their decision to switch from heavier steel, to lighter aluminium, for car chassis. They reported that although the initial environmental impact of the aluminium is greater than steel, benefits are gained during the use phase for both the customer and environment, and the company has an ambitious strategy to work with myriad stakeholders to take back and reuse aluminium from their old vehicles to make new ones. Because recycled aluminium only has 5-10% of the environmental impact of virgin aluminium, they can potentially reuse it an unlimited number of times, reducing the environmental impact of their supply chain, whilst simultaneously creating a new source of raw materials for their vehicles – increasing business resilience.
New opportunities for product and services
Sometimes there is a perception that environmental friendly products only appeal to the niche market, and one has to suffer to use them — this is not entirely without basis. I remember buying ten, expensive, first-generation LED lights for our kitchen — they were about as effective as a candle and emitted an eerie blue glow. Needless to say, they are still sitting unloved in a box under the stairs.
However, it doesn’t have to be like this, and increasingly consumers are differentiating on issues that are complementary to the green agenda such as efficiency, and free of toxic materials, but they don’t necessarily think of themselves as green consumers. Who wants to be lumbered with toxic, heavy, inefficient products that are expensive to run, and difficult to dispose of?
Today there are a plethora of decent products on the market that tick green boxes without specifically being marketed as such: washing powders that clean at lower temperatures; lighter, more efficient vehicles with lower emissions; low-solvent paint; houses that cost almost nothing to run; and websites for sharing everything from your spare bedroom, to a drill. One of my favourite possessions that falls into this category is my portable radio — vital for an itinerant Radio 4 addict. My old portable radios often broke, and the batteries were constantly running out. I switched to a ‘Roberts’ radio that allows for the internal recharging of batteries when plugged in. It also has an unusually robust aerial, and detachable colour rims that can be switched to suit your taste or decor. I have no idea whether Roberts specifically designed this radio with sustainability in mind (it is not overtly marketed as such), but for me it ticks three eco-design boxes: it produces less waste during use, has increased durability, and has modular elements. Good design is good design – there should be no surprise when this is also the friend of sustainability.
By incorporating eco-design principles into your product or service, you shouldn’t need to compromise on performance or sustainability. Gareth Kane has convincingly made the case that greener products must compete on price, performance, and the planet. And in his book, Green Jujitsu, he explains that it is not necessary to turn members of staff into eco-warriors in order to get their input into sustainability objectives but rather appeal to each individual’s strengths and creativity. If those objectives are right objectives, they should be good for business, and stand up on their own merits.
In their seminal book ‘Cradle to cradle’, Braungart and McDonough argue that designers should aim for eco-effectiveness above eco-efficiency. The difference between the two is explained using the example of a building: an eco-efficient building is worthy but also uninspiring, it is air-tight, with humming air conditioners, non-opening windows, and tinted glass, designed to house machines, not humans; an eco-effective building, on the other hand, employs biophilic design principles of space, light, nature and ventilation – delighting users and reducing employee sickness. Both can be energy efficient, but the latter enhances the lives of the people who work there. They sum up the umbilical link between design and sustainability: “Our concept of eco-effectiveness means working on the right things – on the right products and services and system – instead of making the wrong things less bad.”
This principle can apply to products, buildings, and even cities. In his recent book ‘Happy City’, Montgomery gives example after example that residents of greener, relatively dense cities, designed for people rather than cars, enjoy happier and healthier lives. Montgomery cites studies that found people who live next to green spaces in cities not only knew more of their neighbours and had stronger feelings of belonging, but also experienced lower levels of property and violent crime. While greenery is good, the American dream of living in a detached home on a leafy cul-de-sac backfires, because of the negative effects of long commutes on health, social cohesion, and one’s bank balance. Low-density sprawl, devoid of shops and natural meeting places, has a particularly pernicious effect on the young and old who cannot drive. Therefore planning and zoning policies, dictated by city planners, can have a substantial positive or negative effect on the health and wellbeing of residents, and perhaps not surprisingly the same policies that are good for people also reduce the environmental impact of the city.
So by employing eco-design principles designers can sometimes make products and services more efficient, effective, and delightful. There is no simple formula to achieving this, but some organisations are travelling in this direction – is your organisation amongst them?
A note about services
Many organisations are one or two stages in a long supply chain and their direct environmental impacts only represent a small share of the total environmental impact of the product. With regards to a service the same logic applies; by considering the design of services you can maximise your positive influence. What is taught in a school will potentially have a far greater impact on the lifetime environmental impact of a child compared with the environmental impact of the building – however working on the two together could have synergistic benefits. The service-related environmental impact of a planning department in a council (what types of buildings and infrastructure go where) is of paramount importance compared to how much paper they use in the office. Again, the lion’s share of the environmental impact of a travel agency is about the service they provide: poor tourism practices have devastated the environment in some areas (such as Cancun in Mexico), while good practices also exist that tread lightly and are restorative.
Sometimes switching your business model from a product-based approach, to a service, can reduce your environmental impact. For example by leasing products, rather than owning them, customers are ensured that the products are maintained in top condition, and they have ready access to the latest technology. You may also be in an industry sector where a physical product is being replaced by an electronic one, such as the switch from DVDs to video streaming. This is known as dematerialisation and may also have lower overall environmental impacts.
Services don’t just happen, they are planned (or designed), and way you design them has implications for the environment.
Engaging top management
At the beginning of this article I set out a potential problem raised by environmental managers, that the draft ISO 14001:2015 standard has new requirements that are not traditionally part of your remit, and it simultaneously requires greater engagement with top management — with whom you are already struggling to engage on the basics.
However, I have argued that you can use the new focus on the design of your products and services as the key to unlocking other new requirements: building more sustainable and resilient supply chains, and identifying opportunities for your product or service, whilst underpinning traditional pollution prevention and compliance requirements — from the point of view of top management, what is there not to like? It is a new message that environmental management can add value to your organisation, as well as reducing risk — ‘from compliance to opportunity’.
I put this to the test on a recent visit to an architect’s practice for whom I provide an internal audit service. Talking to the Directors about reducing office waste and energy consumption was moderately interesting, but the conversation came alive when it turned to the subject of embedding eco-design principles (such as passive house, fabric-first, and biophilia) into their architectural process. This is not surprising because architects are normally passionate about their profession, and if eco-design can be shown to help create better buildings and happier customers then it is a win-win.
How to do it
I have set out reasons why eco-design should be central to any environmental management system but how to do it?
Some organisations are already leading the field in this area and have tools that allow them to model the life-cycle implications of design changes on-the-fly. They can ask questions like: “What happens to the carbon or water footprint of our product if we reduce the packaging weight by 5%, or change from one type of material to another?”. However a full life cycle assessment may not be the most appropriate approach for all, and the draft version of ISO 14001:2015 specifically states that a full LCA is not required.
A simplified qualitative approach may be appropriate by asking a series of questions about your product or service associated with each stage of its life cycle. The answers to these questions could then be used to develop an action plan to reduce your environmental impacts, whilst simultaneously adding value to your organisation. No doubt it would be best to use a multidisciplinary team approach and you may wish to target them with a single product or service in the first instance. Ultimately consideration of eco-design principles should be embedded into your design process so that it becomes business as usual; the earlier that these principles are first considered the better the outcome for the product or service and environment. Initial considerations can be revisited and refined as the design and development process progresses. Ideally the outcome of changes will be measureable so that you can demonstrate environmental improvement, and justify any green-claims made.
- Do our raw material / ingredient / subcontract specification embed environmentally damaging practices into our supply chain? If so can we change the specification?
- Are we maximising the recycled content in our raw materials?
- Can we incorporate reused / remanufactured / upcycled elements into our products?
- Can toxic materials be eliminated or reduced from our products and services?
- Can embodied carbon and water be reduced from our products and services?
- Does our product have any unnecessary components that can be eliminated? (Take it apart, have a look, challenge every component.)
- Can our product be made lighter? (Thus reducing the raw materials input, transport, and disposal costs.)
- Can the product be designed so that biological and technical materials (nutrients) are not mixed together (either in raw materials, or manufacture) in ways that they cannot subsequently be separated?
- Is packaging kept to a minimum, and excludes toxic materials?
- What environmental issues are our customers most concerned about with our project or service?
- Would it be more beneficial for the customer and environment if we leased our product(s) rather than selling them?
- Could we facilitate the sharing of our product / service rather than everyone owning one each? (A principle known as Factor Four – doubling wealth by halving resource use.)
- Can our product or service be redesigned so that it produces less waste when in use?
- Can our product or service be redesigned so that is uses less energy and water?
- Can our product or service be redesigned so that it is less noisy, or reduces any other environmental impact during use?
- Can our product or service be redesigned so that it is restorative – it gives back more to nature than it takes?
- Can our product or service be designed so that it lasts longer?
(A key definition of LCA is functional unit. A product that lasts four times as long, but has double the environmental impact associated with its materials and manufacture would score more highly, especially if its use phase impacts are lower.)
- Can our product or service be redesigned so that it mimics nature in a way that is beneficial to its form or function? (Known as biomimicry.)
- Do our products and services maximise the opportunities for environmental education?
- Do we provide information to our customers that explains how to get the maximum environmental benefit / reduce the environmental impact from our product or services throughout its lifecycle? (This is a specific requirement of the draft ISO 14001:2015.)
Upgrading / Reuse / End of life
- Can the product be fully disassembled at the end of its life?
- Is the product modular in nature? (Can parts easily be swapped and / or upgraded? Can the product have multiple functions?)
- Do we / can we provide a take back service for the product at the end of life?
- Have any of the changes made above inadvertently created new environmental impacts that need dealing with (trade-offs)?
- Are there any eco-design quality indicators that you can employ that are specific to your sector such as BREEAM for construction, or an EU Ecolabel? Be aware, however, that external design standards can become tick-box exercises if not used with care.
If you have read this article and want to embed some of the ideas into your organisation, what is the first step and who needs to be involved? – let me know how you get on as I would like to gather some case studies of organisations who are doing this.
By Marek Bidwell (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Marek Bidwell is director of Bidwell Management Systems, facilitator of a cross-sector group of organisations road-testing the draft 14001: 2015 standard, and author of Making the transition to ISO 14001: 2015: from compliance to opportunity: http://www.bms-services.com/iso-140012015/
- Anderson, 2011: ‘Business lessons from a radical industrialist’, St. Martin’s Griffin
- Benuys, 1997: ‘Biomimicry’, William Morrow
- Bidwell, 2014: ‘Making the transition to ISO 14001:2015 – From Compliance to Opportunity’: http://www.bms-services.com/making-the-transition-to-iso-140012015-paper/
- Braungart and W. McDonough, 2009: ‘Cradle to cradle’, Vintage
- Kane, 2012: ‘Green jujitsu’, DoShorts
- Kane, 2013: ‘Taking Green into the Mainstream’ http://www.terrainfirma.co.uk/blog/2013/01/taking-green-into-the-mainstream.html
- Montgomery, 2003: ‘Happy city’, Penguin Books
- Telenko, C Seepersad, M Webber, 2008: ‘A compilation of design for environment principles and guidelines’, Proceedings of IDET/CIE
- Weizsacker, A Lovins, L Lovins, 1998: ‘Factor four – doubling wealth, halving resource use’, Earthscan
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‘
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”.
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.
Packed with useful analysis, diagrams, and references, this guide will help you to understand the new requirements in ISO 14001, and interpret them for your organisation.
Download the Guide for only £15.
Feedback so far:
“Used the previous edition to this to provide further interpretation to the DIS standard and found it really useful. Proud to say our system has been certified to the new standard by our certification body… thanks again for the great service you provide” Kyle MacNeill, Environmental Assurance Manager, Northern Rail
“A very good read, takes the worry out of implementing the new standard” Andrew Robsertson, SHE Manager, Hydram Engineering
“A must read for the upcoming changes to this very popular ISO standard.” Dave Lloyd, Principle Partner, Signacure Resilience
“A great read from Marek Bidwell and definitely worth sharing” Dr Paul Stevens, Loughborough University, AVISO Consultancy
By way of introduction, there is a visual representation of the correspondence between ISO 14001:2004 and ISO 1400:2015. There are thirteen sections – each of the key changes to 14001 are identified and discussed, and compared against the existing requirements of the 2004 version. The text is supplemented with helpful diagrams to illustrate key requirements. This guide will help you to build up a picture of what you are already doing, in relation to what you need to do. At the end of each section there is a list of references, tools, and techniques. The guide is 8000 words.
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About the Author:
Marek Bidwell is Director of Bidwell Management Systems, a Chartered Environmentalist Assessor, a visiting lecturer at Newcastle University in environmental management, and co-founder of Green-Thinkers’ book club.Previously he worked for Northern Powergrid as an environmental advisor.
Since the beginning of 2014 he has facilitated the “ISO 14001:2105 Road Test” – a cross-sector group of organisations making the transition to the new standard.