Will Certifying To ISO 14001 Make Your Business “Green”? (Series Conclusion)

This week we are wrapping up our 5-part series on ISO 14001 and corporate sustainability.  In previous installments, we defined the standard and outlined how it can help an organization improve its environmental performance and marketability.  After reading this final article, we hope that you will better understand the term “being green” and what this means to your organization.  Therefore, ask yourself what does “being green” mean to you and to your business?  If you Google the question, you will be surprised by the range of answers and opinions!

That’s because the answer to this question is somewhat subjective based on the definition of what is a “green business.  In last week’s installment, we began to address some practices that people often use to define a business as green, such as recycling.  But is a green business an organization that recycles (only)?  Or is it a company that attempts to reduce its carbon footprint?  Is it a corporation whose facilities are LEED certified? (LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is an internationally-recognized green building certification system.)

There is no one definitive answer.  The answer can be unique to the organization, its products and services, its customers and its customer’s requirements, whether legal or regulatory.  That’s why when companies say they’re green, we often ask, what does that mean?  The term “being green” is generic and is an umbrella for a multitude of philosophies, ideas and practices regarding the environment.

There are two important points that we hope you will take away from this article.  First, as a result of the most noble of intentions on the part of companies and individuals to mitigate damage to the environment, the “green movement” has also attracted “green entrepreneurs“, who add to the confusion.  There are alliances, coalitions and NGOs (non-governmental organizations) that claim that they can help you “greenify” (not a joke) your business or certify your business as green.  That’s because the field is wide open and “green” is not any one measurable concept or standard.  Often, these organizations may promote or sell programs, checklists, training and workshops.

Following a checklist and then adding a logo to your website may add little value to your business in terms of supply chain requirements.  The concept of “being green” doesn’t necessarily equate to a quality standard or quality management system.  Don’t fall into this trap and spend tens of thousands of dollars on workshops and certificates, only to find out that your best first step (and perhaps only step), should be certifying to a globally recognized and independently audited quality standard, like ISO 14001.

Second, if you’re serious about implementing an EMS, whether the need is based on a customer’s supply chain requirements or it’s rooted in a long-term corporate strategy, we suggest ISO 14001.  Why?  Let’s re-cap what we’ve covered in our last 4 articles:

ISO 14001 is the most widely recognized EMS, both in the US and internationally. Implementation can be a very wise business decision in a variety of ways, including cost reduction within your own company.  It also works in tandem with other more specialized environmental initiatives such those regarding recycling (discussed in a previous article).

ISO 14001 is a framework from which an organization can continuously improve its environmental performance.  ISO 14001 is part of the ISO 14000 family of standards.  For example, if required, an organization may decide to additionally implement ISO 14064, which is a series of three standards for reporting of greenhouse gases.  The ISO 14000 family (and ISO 14001 specifically) is an excellent foundation from which to build.

• ISO 14001 can support the organization’s claims about its own environmental policies, plans and actions.  It provides a framework for demonstrating conformity.  ISO 14001 is a standard that is audited by an independent certification body.  This is critical, because with many other green initiatives, claims are often not measured or substantiated, let alone audited.  This is one reason why many suppliers are being asked to certify to ISO 14001 (in addition to ISO 9001 and TL 9000) to enter a customer’s supply chain.

Certifying to ISO 14001 can differentiate your organization from competitors and positively impacts the marketability of your organization as evidenced by a recent study in the Journal of Operations Management.

We know from our work with supply chain executives, that ISO 14001 is increasing as a supplier requirement and this reinforces the validity of the 4 points previously mentioned. As a result, we are currently working with clients to implement both ISO 14001 & ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 & TL 9000, at the same time, thereby addressing both environmental and industry specific quality requirements.  Additionally, we are working with clients to upgrade their existing quality management systems to include ISO 14001.

Emerging supply chain trends regarding corporate sustainability will inevitably transition into required business practices in the decades to come.  You can get in front of these trends by positioning your organization to be better environmental stewards now, while potentially increasing your profitability and marketability, by implementing an EMS like ISO 14001.

For information about implementing ISO 14001 or upgrading your current quality management system, please contact BIZPHYX.