In my profession as an independent Environmental Consultant, one of the most common challenges I face is the objection to policy change from business owners and managers. What I want to show them is that change is not so scary, it’s not so gigantic, and it brings with it a whole host of social, environmental and financial benefits that will help the business to prosper.
For me, being able to effectively communicate and persuade the advantages of ISO 14001 can mean the difference between a smooth and collaborative implementation, or a rocky and treacherous one.
With that in mind, I want to use this article as an opportunity to talk about those key benefits of implementing Environmental Management Systems.
A route towards organisation-wide sustainability
Sustainability is not just about helping the environment, it’s about putting the organisation in a position for success and longevity in social and financial terms too. Implementing Environmental Management Systems are a vital part of a broader spectrum of activities that can be done to improve sustainability, but there are few better when it comes to monitoring, data collection, and compiling the evidence to push for change and progression.
Building your reputation
Believe it or not, but you are a reflection of the community close to your estates, and as a result, those people living and working nearby will have a vested interest in how you care for and protect the environment. In recent years, a cultural change has taken place through education and media that has influenced how people view the products and services that they spend their money on. Using Environmental Management Systems to ensure your activities are eco-friendly will keep you in good favour with the community.
Easier to identify opportunities and draw up a plan
In ISO 14001, risks and opportunities are always coupled together, but since they are opposites, I want to separate them. The opportunities presented by having an EMS in place are often the ways in which the organisation can make continual improvements. Once the best opportunities to improve social, financial or environmental positioning have been spotted, a solid plan can be agreed with senior decision makers. Here’s the benefit – when opportunities are quantified, they help to visualise and create clearly defined objectives that will help the organisation move forward. That could be through policies, procedures, systems, processes or more, but once it’s down as a solid target, people will work towards it.
Quite often, you’ll need your ISO 14001 certification in order to apply for tenders and win contracts, but you should know that it works at the other end too, helping you to keep compliant as to not lose contracts or customers. With a solid framework provided by implementing Environmental Management Systems in your organisations, you have a foundation for best practice, which when followed, helps to subconsciously maintain legal compliance. Non-compliance can do serious damage to your reputation, and I’m keen to avoid that happening to my clients.
Adapting to risks or shocks
Looking to the future, towards culture and legal changes will put you in a good position to be versatile if shocks occur. In fact, I believe that being adaptable is one of the best things that people and businesses can be, as it keeps you aware, curious, and not fearful of change. In my previous article I zoomed in on straw manufacturers and raised some very real questions about how adaptable they will be during the ‘War on Plastic’. With proper EMS in place, they would have seen this coming and began to adapt their activities a long time ago – those who failed to do so will likely be out of business.
Cost control measures
Who doesn’t want to reduce costs? I know I do. I know that pretty much every business owner I know would like to reduce outgoings and maintain or increase income at the same time. That’s just basic economics. So how does that relate to EMS? There are two main ways, the first being that the increased level of efficiency will result in noticeable reductions in the use of fuel, electricity and raw materials. The second way is to prevent environmental accidents, which are expensive to resolve, both in terms of the cleanup and the resulting fines.
Losing your top talent is infuriating for businesses, and so many have been looking for ways to reduce their employee turnover. Aside from salary, the strength of the connection between the employee and the responsibilities of their job is an indicator of how likely they are to stay. If their tasks are meaningful to them, or they enjoy working for an organisation that shares their ideals, the chances their heads will be turned is reduced. Thereby, creating a company culture that aims for sustainability through reducing the company’s environmental footprint will pay dividends. Linking this back to cost control, you can save money by keeping your staff instead of running recruitment drives and training events.
The rate of success
As part of the ISO 14001 standard, you should be collecting influential data and putting it to good use. The better the data, the higher the chances that any policy or procedural changes will take effect in a positive way. For organisations who fear change, this is a good thing.
Things will progress quicker than ever before
This is my final point in this piece, the ultimate benefit to implementing Environmental ManagementSystems. For me, businesses should be scrutinising the Triple Bottom Line, the ways in which they affect people, the planet, and their profits. Often, organisations make misguided choices in pursuit of these ideals, and so their change is too slow, too drastic, too little, or simply the wrong direction. With an EMS in place, not only are the opportunities for progress presented, but the tools are there to make them happen quicker, but without being so quick that they cause friction. By demonstrating your environmental goals and principles to your employees, they will become engaged in the process, and the ultimate goal for a smooth transition is for them to begin suggesting improvements so that you don’t need to look for them.