In a recent post, we discussed ISO GUIDE 64:2008, a guide for addressing environmental issues while drafting product standards. Standardization can help to increase efficiency of products and services while protecting the people that interact with them. They are also needed to protect nature. ISO GUIDE 64 is a part of standards package, ISO 14000 COLLECTION 2: Comprehensive Environmental Management Systems Collection, which measures and mitigates environmental impact whenever possible.
Lack of environmental management is not a byproduct of the modern world; it has just simply become worse in our lifetimes. Humans have almost always altered the environment in some way. Environmental destruction in recent history has been much worse than it ever was previously because of our large and rapidly increasing population, surviving longer than ever from improvements in medicine. Having more people increases our usage of any resources, which has led to advances in the tools to access those resources, expediting the process.
The original form of environmental degradation, which is still a problem today, is overexploitation. According to an article by BBC News, researchers have discovered one species of giant clam that once accounted for the majority of the bivalve population in the Red Sea. The scientists believe their findings may represent one of the earliest examples of the overexploitation of marine organisms by humans. The technology to hunt and harvest has almost always been used to extreme amounts. Animals like the sea cow have completely gone extinct from unsustainable procurement methods.
Overexploitation is just as important for non-living resources. This includes wood, oil, and natural gas. These are either used as materials for the construction of products, or they are used to create and operate products and services. Greater use of these products will obviously lead to greater use of the resources. ISO GUIDE 64:2008 and other standards in this collection encourage usage of sustainable materials and techniques. It is important to prevent overexploitation of resources, because everything in nature is connected. For example, overexploitation of trees to generate wood products would lower the amount of oxygen in the air and remove food sources of herbivorous animals. These animals are depended upon as the source of food by their predators. If they become malnourished from lack of vegetation, all other animals will suffer.
Another important consideration is pollution. Pollution can come in many different forms. Regardless of the substance that pollutes and the area being polluted, there is generally still an impact on the ecosphere. For example, pouring fertilizer into the ocean can crowd the ocean with an excess of nutrients, causing unwanted algal blooms. This blocks light that is needed for primary producers, like seagrasses, to grow. As with overexploitation, by damaging the bottom of the food chain, this can ruin the entire ecosystem. Overgrowth of algae can also lead to hypoxia, which lowers the amount of oxygen in the ocean, killing nearby marine life and leading to “dead zones”. A vastly different kind of pollution is noise pollution. This can occur from airplanes in certain airspace, altering the migratory pattern of birds. Since birds are often higher predators, this can alter the ecosystems that contain their prey. ISO 14001:2015: Environmental management systems – Requirements with guidance for use provides guidelines that support an environmental management system in which pollution is limited.
One of the most prevalent forms of pollution is emissions of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which contributes to climate change (formerly global warming). A greenhouse gas is any molecule that has vibrating dipole ends, meaning that it absorbs heat and then shoots it in a random direction. All three-atom or higher molecules meet this criterion. This includes gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, and water vapor. These molecules trap in the heat that comes from the sun and the energy that rises from the Earth’s core. However, by burning materials that release carbon in the atmosphere, such as coal, we have been increasing the amount of greenhouse gases in the air in the past 100 years. This heats the Earth, but it also alters weather patterns, hence the change from “global warming” to “climate change”. This can lead to pure environmental problems, such as species extinction and habitat loss, but it can also cause problems that primarily impact humans. For example, in areas where water is scarce, a hotter climate would evaporate a lot of the water availability. This can lead to local conflicts, including war for the remnants of the resource.
Climate change is addressed in most of the standards in the collection, but specifically in ISO 14064-1:2006: Greenhouse gases – Part 1: Specification with guidance at the organization level for quantification and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions and removals, ISO 14064-2:2006: Greenhouse gases – Part 2: Specification with guidance at the project level for quantification, monitoring and reporting of greenhouse gas emission reductions or removal enhancements, ISO 14064-3:2006: Greenhouse gases – Part 3: Specification with guidance for the validation and verification of greenhouse gas assertions, and ISO 14065:2013: Greenhouse gases – Requirements for greenhouse gas validation and verification bodies for use in accreditation or other forms of recognition.
ISO 14000 COLLECTION 2 contains 20 standards that address the wide range of issues that involve environmental management. The featured standards in the collection limit the amount of environmental degradation that can harm the Earth now and in the future.
ISO 14001:2015: Environmental management systems – Requirements with guidance for use
ISO 14004:2016: Environmental management systems – General guidelines on implementation
ISO 14050:2009: Environmental management – Vocabulary
ISO 19011:2018: Guidelines for auditing management systems