OCTOBER 21ST, 2021 BY KAYTIEDUFFIELD
Sustainability has become a popular topic for businesses. It is becoming more and more of a necessity to address and show customers that your company operates to an ethical standard by demonstrating its environmental responsibility. In recent years, we’ve seen an increase in companies exploring ISO as a path to sustainability. ISO can help make your company more sustainable, and in this article, we outline how and why ISO standards can improve your company’s sustainability.
Which ISO’s focus on sustainability? The ISO standards that primarily focus on sustainability are the following:
ISO 14001 Environmental Standard
ISO 50001 Energy Management Standard
Responsible Recycling Standard (The R2 standard available in the USA)
These standards together help support the three pillars of sustainable development. The three pillars of sustainability, as outlined by ISO, are as follows:
Economic – ISO standards help strengthen ethical business practices whilst aiding national trading and promoting the country’s national quality framework.
Social – ISO international standards strengthen the health and wellbeing of colleagues and businesses, which in return improves social welfare and civil interaction.
Environmental – ISO helps businesses manage and be accountable for their environmental impacts. Environmental sustainability includes activities such as: implementing an environmental management system, measuring and reducing greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption, and encouraging responsible consumption.
How do I know what the environmental impact of my business is? A business’s actions impact the planet, from the waste we produce to the damaging resources we use; therefore, asking yourself this question as a business owner is a crucial step to becoming environmentally aware.
So how do you understand your environmental impact? Most companies do a ‘green audit’, which finds and detects issues with the sustainability of the business. Part of this audit is looking over what materials and resources you use and finding alternative ways to use the same resources, but with sustainable materials. For example, here at IMSM, we switched to using recyclable wooden pens instead of plastic pens to cut down on our waste and plastic consumption. Small changes can have a big impact, such as filling your office with plants to add oxygen to our atmosphere. Studies show that adding plants and wildlife to a working environment increases productivity and boosts employee’s overall positivity.
What areas are reviewed in a Green Audit? A Green Audit is an assessment of your business and an opportunity to learn what impact you’re having on the environment and ways to offset it. Below are the categories you should evaluate as part of reviewing your sustainability or during a green audit:
Adapting to climate change – If you detect elements in your business that could be vulnerable to climate change and affected by an overall rise in temperature or extreme weather/floods resulting from climate change, you need to create plans to resolve these issues.
Air Quality – Monitor your electricity generation in your company, observing geographical location, how much you use, and how to reduce electrical consumption. Also, review your transportation and how much harmful gasses are being released into the atmosphere. Make a plan of preventing or reducing these detrimental effects on our planet (such as using electric cars or other fuel alternatives).
Biodiversity – Review your current biodiversity and analyse different variables that could make it unstable and have a negative effect, then examine ways to prevent those negative impacts. (Not all companies will have to do this, you most likely would if you are in the agriculture industry or have large buildings or sites that take up a lot of natural space).
Landscape – Identify if your landscape and infrastructure follow the rules of nature. This could include workplace culture, the relationship between land and man, and how colleagues treat the environment—detecting issues and acting on them accordingly.
Noise and nuisance – Comprehend how much noise your company emits (especially in manufacturing industries with loud workers or machinery) and see if the noise levels disturb the locals.
Waste management – Analyse what you throw away and whether it can be recycled or if there is a sustainable alternative to the object you use.
Water including flood risk – If there is water on your business site, measure the level of water pollution and/or any flood risks if there is substantial rainfall.
After performing your business’s Green Audit, it should be apparent which issues to act upon and resolve. The specifics of the necessary actions depend on your company and the resources you have available. The importance and priority of certain factors depend on your industry and geographical location. Leaning on management systems such as ISO 14001 can help you prioritise these findings as you review your environmental aspect.
What are the ISO 14001 Requirements for Environmental Aspects? An ‘environmental aspect’ is simply any part of a company’s interaction with the environment. After detecting these aspects, the ISO 14001 can be used as a framework to resolve the sustainability issues you may have within the company. When determining your environmental aspects, the ISO 14001 says you can consider:
Emissions to air
Pollution of land
Discharge of water
Use of materials / natural resources
Use of energy
Energy emitted (heat, radiation, vibration (noise), light)
Use of space
Generation of waste
Before acting, you should understand which issues are influenced by you and which are out of your control, then you can effectively act on these issues.
How can ISO 14001 implementation contribute to sustainability? Brundtland Report defines sustainability as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” ISO 14001 certification includes conducting a company audit to see if all the standard requirements are being met. ISO 14001 looks at your current environmental impact as well as the future, and how your business will affect the environment for the next generation. ISO 14001 helps businesses understand and measure the consumption of materials used and the product life cycle requirements, considering how the products affect the environment in the long run.
Are you interested in learning more about ISO 14001? Want to become more environmentally aware? Join the ranks of like-minded businesses and make our planet safer.