Can ISO 14001 become stagnant for some SMEs?
Nearly three years since 2SB helped implement ISO 14001 into a print-based business in Woolwich, last week we were asked back to discuss the future of their certification.
The environmental management system within this workplace, I have to say, was particularly impressive. Implementation had highlighted areas of the business where procedures were required and these had become firmly embedded in day-to-day working practises. Measurable improvements in environmental performance had also been achieved over the years in a variety of ways.
For top management the ISO process had been a positive experience that had brought significant benefit to the business. The general feeling however was that in terms of ‘continual environmental improvement’ the system had been taken as far as it go could go. Being a business who voluntarily decided to implement ISO 14001, while their plan was to keep the environmental management system running, they were questioning whether actually maintaining certification to the standard was necessary.
Interestingly this is not unique to the business being discussed. When environmental management systems have been running for a good number of years, we sometimes see SMEs struggle when it comes to setting new environmental objectives as most obvious improvements have been addressed.
There are however a number of reasons why any business who may feel there environmental management system is becoming stagnant should retain their ISO 14001 certification. Outlined below are five reasons you may want to consider:
- 1. To maintain good working practises
Just like the client we visited at the beginning of the week, most businesses find that the procedures & structure brought to a business by the standard are highly beneficial. By not maintaining certification, businesses run the risk of letting these good management practises slip.
- 2. Legal Compliance
For many businesses the most onerous task involved in ISO 14001 is ensuring the business is compliant with environmental legislation. Without the need to maintain ISO 14001 certification, this part of the system is likely to be sidestepped making the business vulnerable to possible fines and unwanted regulatory involvement.
- 3. Our Environmental Future
Over the past 20 years concern for our environment has been one of the most prominent features on the international agenda. Due to the issue of climate change and its associated impacts, our concern over the coming decades is only going to grow. Businesses with an effective environmental management system will be better prepared to adapt to change and are more likely to absorb any negative environmental effects.
- 4. Technological & Environmental Improvements
In today’s marketplace new, more efficient and more eco-friendly products & services are constantly being produced. The benefit of having an environmental management system focused on continual improvement is that it ‘prompts’ a business to take advantage of these new technologies sooner than they would otherwise.
- 5. A Critical Friend
An annual visit from a UKAS accredited assessor is a good way of keeping your business trim and can be seen as a “health check” as to the state of your business. Your assessor visits a large number of businesses each year and can provide valuable feedback as to how well your internal business systems are working.
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