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Why ISO 14001 Matters
Laurel Brunner

The weekly Verdigris blog by Laurel Brunner

ISO 14001 (Environmental management systems) is an ISO bestseller and for good reason. In enshrines good management practises, that help us all to protect the environment, and it makes sure a business meets regulations. But a key principle in this document is that it requires an appreciation of the relationship between environmental aspects and environmental impacts. We tend to focus on the impacts but consideration of aspects is just as important.

Environmental aspects are activities that might have an influence on the environment: the what part of the equation if you like. Environmental impacts are the affect of those aspects on the environment. For instance energy usage in the business is a potential environmental aspect. The impact of energy usage would be the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions associated with it. Understanding the difference between these two means that a company is already thinking along sustainability lines, before any environmental impact can happen. Protection and mitigation are what it’s all about, so the thinking has to be part of the business culture.

In 2015 ISO 14001 was updated to strengthen some of its core assumptions, such as the fact that the law drives environmental management and that top management must be engaged. To this and monitoring, measurement and internal audit functions, the new version adds another key pillar: risk assessment. Compliant companies must now determine environmental risks associated with threats and opportunities facing the business. The management system must be set up to prevent or reduce potentials for external environmental conditions to adversely affect the organisation. And all of this must be fully documented.

It seems like a lot of trouble, so why bother with it? Even small and medium sized enterprises have environmental aspects and impacts to deal with, and yet they are not always able to manage either. But going for ISO 14001 compliance, even if you don’t bother with certification, imposes a useful management discipline. An environmental management framework ensures that all business activities are considered in the context of environmental sustainability. Its discipline invariably generates cost savings, and this is very good for the overall health of the business.

Compliance can also improve working methods, for instance cutting proofing cycles through better colour management, or identifying customers who don’t know how to make decent PDFs so that they can be better supported. And of course there’s the marketing benefit, which is intangible but a helpful means of raising profile. Heidelberg is very proud of the fact that it has recently been recertified for both ISO 14001 and ISO 9001, the quality management standard. All Heidelberg production and development sites worldwide, plus the associated support systems have been successfully recertified. So well done Heidelberg and let’s hope other manufacturers follow your lead.


Laurel Brunner

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