Overcoming the Hurdles of ISO 14001 Implementation

environmental management ISO 14001No one familiar with ISO 14001 standards would doubt the value of implementing them in public or private sector organizations.  After all, an Environmental Management System (EMS) has been shown to reduce waste and make more efficient use of existing resources.  Additionally, having such an EMS in place is a simple way to insulate a company from litigation or even prosecution arising from environmental issues.  And, of course, many customers have goodwill toward an organization that shows a strong commitment to environmental responsibility.

Despite these obvious benefits, many organizations hesitate to implement ISO 14001.  Others treat these standards as a necessary evil rather than an opportunity.  Recent surveys of some local governments in Japan show that many of them pursue ISO 14001 simply to obtain the certificate, not actually to increase efficiency and reduce waste.  These organizations deprive themselves of the very real benefits of a meaningful EMS.  Little wonder that in many of these cases, EMS-related activities petered out once the organization received its certification.  Among those that do continue to follow their EMS, the focus is more on documentation and data gathering to be prepared for audits rather than actually taking any meaningful action.

Keeping the following points in mind during ISO 14001 implementation will help ensure that your organization sees a clear return on its investment.

1 – Don’t put off getting started

Many ISO 14001 certification efforts die before they ever begin.  Organizations repeatedly put off getting started, thinking that everything must be perfect ahead of time.  Realize that ISO 14001 implementation is an ongoing process – it’s never going to be perfect.

2 – Set meaningful goals

ISO 14001 allows organizations freedom to set their own environmental goals since each company knows best what it is capable of achieving. An organization may be tempted to take advantage of this leeway to set extremely conservative goals that they can’t possibly fail to meet, but which also offers no real benefit, to the organization or to the environment.  To get real value from the investment in ISO 14001 certification, set environmental targets for your organization that are not only achievable but also meaningful.

3 – Be prepared to do some problem solving

For many organizations, once they gain a clear grasp of the environmental concerns that affect them, implementing ISO 14001 is a straightforward process.  This is not always the case, though.  Some situations may call for an in-depth statistical analysis, which is no small task.  Go into the certification process recognizing that some problem solving may be required.

4 – Adhere to applicable regulations

Legislation is written in legalese, and it won’t do your ISO 14001 effort any good unless you can understand what each part of a given piece of legislation actually means for each part of your organization, including sites, departments, and personnel. An economical way to gain this understanding is through a legal register.  These compile and summarize regulations and laws