ISO 14001 – Meaningful Environmental Objectives
An issue I have come across several times – usually in a Stage 1 audit – is where a company want to obtain ISO 14001 certification but struggles to identify any meaningful environmental objectives.
I have had companies feel that they do not have much negative impact on the environment. They consider that as long as they ensure that the various documentation such as aspects and impacts register, legal register, environmental policy etc is kept up to date, reviewed and communicated as required that they will meet the Standard and be recommended for certification.
This is not enough. The company’s environmental policy must include a commitment to the protection of the environment, including prevention of pollution and a commitment to continual improvement of the EMS to enhance environmental performance. This means that they must be making improvement to the environment – whether it is reducing the negative impact on the environment or increasing the positive impacts – or both.
An example of one such company was a website designer. Staff travel predominantly by public transport and on foot to work and to clients, they produced very little office waste as all their work was done electronically, they segregated the staff kitchen waste which was recycled by the landlord, the air conditioning service was organised by the landlord, there were minimal emergency preparedness requirements. When identifying their environmental legal compliance requirements and their impact on the environment they felt that as they were not adversely affecting the environment, unlike say a factory, they would be able to be certified to ISO 14001.
I had to explain to them that they had to identify some environmental objectives to improve the environment. I gave them a couple of examples and left them to it.
A couple of months later when I returned to carry out the Stage 2, I naturally asked what their objectives were. They had decided to give all staff a day off a year to volunteer in environmental improvement initiatives such as tree planting or litter picking. This has become a great team building opportunity for the company over the last few years and they are, quite rightly, proud of the work they have done in fundraising and physical work to improve the environment.