Anyone who has ever been involved in a startup knows first-hand what a demanding endeavor it is. Everyone puts in extra hours and handles a wide variety of responsibilities, often on a minimal budget and an ambitious schedule. Members may acknowledge the importance of environmental standards, like ISO 14001, but likely no one wants to add a non-mandatory Environmental Management System (EMS) to their already long list of pressing to-dos. Entrepreneurs may feel that once the company gets on its feet and the dust settles, then there will be time to look into environmental concerns. While this view is understandable, adopting ISO 14001 from the outset offers several distinct advantages to any startup that its management should consider.
The ISO 14001 standard is designed to benefit both the environment and the organizations that adopt it. The following four benefits are of particular significance to startups:
Establishing Effective Processes
Many startups have few or no formally documented processes in place. As they grow, this lack becomes evident as the organization begins losing time and resources to inefficient, inconsistent methods. The ISO 14001 standard uses the “Plan, Do, Check, Act” model. While this model is tailored to an EMS under ISO 14001, an organization may easily adapt it to a wide variety of other processes and management systems. Additionally, meshing the EMS with other processes can improve them as well. For example, while establishing a purchasing process, the company may include relevant environmental criteria, such as the life cycles of products considered. Such an approach will start saving time and money, the two commodities ever in short supply for a startup, from the beginning.
While cost savings are, of course, important to any organization, to a startup, they can be crucial. ISO 14001 is well-known to offer cost reductions that go hand-in-hand with environmental responsibility. Utility bills, delivery charges, the price of raw materials and packaging, even travel, are all expenses which an effective EMS can help to reduce. The earlier an organization adopts ISO 14001, the earlier they can begin realizing these savings.
Reputation and Image
Startups are at a disadvantage in comparison with organizations that have already established a positive reputation and image. Startups are blanks slates. When competing to secure a contract, an established reputation often tips the scales in favor of the organization with a longer history. Adopting ISO 14001 can help a startup to level the playing field. Environmental responsibility is a great boost to a company’s image, and an ISO 14001-certified EMS demonstrates to potential clients that an organization is well-organized, efficient, and worthy of their trust.
Setting Strategic Goals
The latest revision of ISO 14001 (2015) gives added emphasis to aligning the goals of an EMS with the strategic goals of the organization as a whole. Many of an organization’s strategic goals are determined for the first time during the startup phase. Hence, by developing both company goals and environmental goals in tandem, a startup positions itself to move forward in a well-defined and productive manner.
Adopting ISO 14001 is an investment for any organization. When an organization invests at its startup stage, this investment begins producing dividends earlier and the return is greater.