The focus of and goals set forth within ISO 14001:2015 – Environmental Management Systems – A Practical Guide for SMEs give it inherent benefits for use with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). All organizations, regardless of their size or location, must exist within the all-encompassing ecosphere that is the Earth. As awareness of the correlation between past and current development patterns and environmental problems becomes ever more evident, society is putting pressure on companies to adopt environmentally sustainable practices and demonstrate compliance with environmental requirements.
What is ISO 14001?
ISO 14001 is the international standard for environmental management system (EMS) requirements. The latest edition, ISO 14001:2015 – Environmental management systems – Requirements with guidance for use, underwent several changes, most notably the incorporation of the Annex SL structure that is shared among the different ISO management system standards for simplified compliance between the systems. If you’d like to learn more about the ISO 14001 standard, please refer to this post:
ISO 14001:2015 Released
The nonprescriptive nature of an EMS, as covered in ISO 14001:2015, allows for any organization to meet the intended outcomes of such a system. It achieves this by providing the means by which the organization can manage its environmental responsibilities in a clear and systematic manner.
The implementation of an EMS sparks some desirable benefits. These include, but are not limited to improved control and management of emissions, effluents, and wastes, reduction in generated wastes, energy efficiency improvements and cost savings, conservation of natural resources, and control in the pursuit of environmental initiatives that align with business priorities.
How is ISO 14001 Useful for SMEs?
While a smaller organization may not be equipped to wage a toll on the environment comparable to that of a larger enterprise, its presence and activities can still be linked to some amount of environmental degradation. Even while persisting at a relatively minuscule amount, it is desirable for any harm to natural resources, ecosystems, and wildlife to be subject to some type of management.
Adverse contributions to the environment can be present even without the organization responsible being aware of such things. This can be tied to a phenomenon known as “The Tragedy of the Commons”. In this, a commons is a shared natural resource, which many people draw upon. Of course, no single individual’s or entity’s actions in using such a large resource can be a sole contributor for its destruction. However, when acting in unison, all parties feeding off the commons can collectively contribute to its extinction.
Other than limiting their ecological footprint, for small and medium-sized organizations, an environmental management system can reduce costs and increase profits in pollution-related areas, create a competitive advantage by creating products with a lowered environmental impact, drive growth by opening up new customers and export markets, enhance credibility, streamline business processes, and help to comply with legal requirements.
Special Considerations for SMEs
Due to its nonprescriptive nature, ISO 14001:2015 is widely applicable, but more information may be necessary for an organization to meet its recommendations. The ISO 14001:2015 Practical Guide for SMEs document devotes much of its space to clarifying many of the clauses in the standard to assist in compliance. For example, it presents thorough definitions for such terms as “strategic environmental management”, “risk-based thinking”, “leadership”, and “life-cycle thinking”.
As for SME-specific information, the guide is comprised of twelve sections, with seven of each covering a particular stage in the EMS implementation process. Going through the relevant guidelines from the EMS standard, the guide touches upon the relevant recommendations and requirements, as well as guidance on getting started, techniques for implementation, examples, and a checklist to verify conformance.
For example, Section 2 of ISO 14001:2015 is “Understanding the Organization’s Context”. The ISO 14001:2015 Practical Guide for SMEs document elaborates on what this means and how a smaller organization can make use of it. As stated in the guide, the first step in this process should be the identification of issues that can affect achievement of the organization’s EMS intended outcomes.
Ultimately, experience has shown that small and medium-sized enterprises can implement an effective EMS and use that system to realize an assortment of benefits. However, implementation of an environmental management system presents some challenges. The information above, as well as more helpful elaborations, can be found in the extensive and informative ISO 14001:2015 Practical Guide for SMEs document.
ISO 14001:2015 – Environmental Management Systems – A Practical Guide for SMEs is available on the ANSI Webstore.