Tom Melhuish 5 min read

What is ISO 14001?

ISO 14001 is a widely used standard and accreditation for environmental management systems implemented by large businesses. ISO 14001 provides organisations with a strategic approach to improving environmental performance by:

  • Ensuring and documenting compliance with all statutory and regulatory requirements.
  • Providing measurable environmental and financial efficiency savings.
  • Incorporating environmental consideration into broader business management.
  • Helping demonstrate a company’s commitment to environmental performance.
  • Providing a framework for stakeholder engagement.

ISO 14001 is a voluntary standard that aims to assist companies in the continual improvement of their environmental management practices, with each organisation setting its targets and performance benchmarks.

What are the benefits of an ISO 14001 certification?

Businesses seek ISO 14001 certification to achieve the following benefits:

  • Reputational enhancement – Environmental concerns are increasingly driving consumer purchasing decisions. ISO 14001 accreditation is a great way to show your company is committed to reducing the negative environmental impacts of its operations.
  • Reduced insurance costs – In some industries, ISO 14001 certification is used by insurance companies as a factor that demonstrates the reduced risk of being liable for fines associated with environmental negligence.
  • Reduced business energy rates – Improving the efficiency of electricity and gas consumption dramatically reduces the carbon footprint of business activities and can save a vast amount of money, providing a positive return on investment.
  • Legal compliance – ISO 14001 provides a framework to ensure your company remains compliant with all statutory environmental obligations.

Why implement ISO 14001?

When companies consider implementing ISO 14001, they need to look beyond the apparent goal of making a business more environmentally friendly. It’s also necessary for management to weigh up implementation costs versus the expected benefits.

The financial benefits of ISO 14001 come from increased sales resulting from improved reputation and reduced costs from more efficient use of energy, as explored above.

The cost of implementation very much depends on the size of your organisation. The average time that it takes to design, implement, and certify for ISO 14001 is anywhere between 6 months and two years, with most companies being guided through the process by an expert consultant.

How does ISO 14001 work?

The ISO 14001 framework is based upon the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle:

  • Plan – ISO 14001 starts with an initial review of current operations and identifies opportunities for environmental improvements. A plan is drawn up to implement a change in process to reduce the environmental impact of current business activity.
  • Do – This second stage allocates teams and other resources to implement and document the new processes and procedures identified in the plan.
  • Check – Your organisation’s environmental performance is then measured against specific environmental targets and regularly reported to management.
  • Act – Management reviews the new environmental performance reporting and makes further improvements based on this information.

Who are the International Organization for Standardization (ISO)?

The ISO is an international organisation that develops a range of voluntary commercial standards. The ISO aims to facilitate world trade by setting standards that different companies in different countries agree to adhere to.

What is an environmental management system?

An environmental management system is a set of documented processes and practices that an organisation implements to improve the environmental efficiency of its operations.

ISO 14001 provides official accreditation of an environmental management system that a company has implemented.

Complying to net-zero by 2050

Implementing ISO 14001 is certainly a good way of anticipating any upcoming environmental regulations. ISO 14001 also facilitates businesses aiming for carbon neutrality, which goes hand-in-hand with the UK’s target for net-zero by 2050.

As a result, businesses would seek more exposure to things such as sustainable water supplies and green energy, which you may do as a company by using the AquaSwitch energy, water and gas utility comparison tool.

How can I get ISO 14001 certified?

ISO is the International Organization for Standardization and is responsible for setting the standards, without being responsible for certification.

Certification is the process of checking compliance to standards and is done by external certification bodies, which are private companies, of which a number are available in the UK.

How much does an ISO 14001 cost?

Since this is done by third parties, the price of this service varies depending on the size and complexity of your business, as well as the specific sector in which the business operates.

A small local business in the UK may get certified for as little as a few hundred pounds, while a large corporation may have to pay hundreds of thousands if not millions of pounds.

How many businesses are ISO 14001 certified?

According to ISO, only around 300,000 businesses worldwide are now certified to ISO 14001 in 171 countries. This is still an innovative practice, giving certified businesses an early competitive advantage.

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