ISO14001: Business Need to Understand Their Compliance Obligations. Does Yours?

In my experiences, most businesses don’t. But don’t fret, there’s an easier way.

Environmental legislation is not meant to be simple

Some legislation applies to businesses of all sizes, whereas some are just for small businesses, and some are just for large businesses.

Some waste legislation must be followed by every business independent of their size, from the huge corporations with tens of thousands of employees, down to the sole traders.

One example is the Waste Duty of Care, which many one-man-bands think doesn’t apply to them, but, it does.

Environmental compliance requires a magnifying glass

Part of the ISO:14001 standard dictates that you must have access to and know how to apply environmental legislation to your business. Of course, that can be tricky, so most businesses either hire someone in-house to take care of this, or they outsource to an environmental consultancy, such as Imvelo.

One of the roles we undertake here at Imvelo is looking thoroughly at a business’ operations and seeing exactly what environmental legislation applies to them.

Quite often, things get missed. For example, if you’re a kitchen manufacturer, did you know that you require a special environmental permit just to work with timber products?

What about disposing of water? Well, you need permits to discharge any sort of liquid from your business activity, even if it’s perfectly clean water. There are all sorts of legislation relating to energy and carbon too, so many that naturally, it’s confusing for businesses.

It’s not easy in England

In Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, access to environmental legislation is easy, it’s centralised, and it’s made simple for businesses.

In England, it’s much trickier to access and understand. This is why many businesses work with companies like Imvelo, so that we can take the raw legislation, decipher it, and figure out which parts apply to their operations. Then we package this information into what is known as a legal register.

Many businesses who think they are compliant may, in fact, be compromised by as much as one word in their relevant legislation. Here’s an example, if you place packaging on the UK market, at a certain amount or threshold you have to join a packaging compliance scheme.

If a piece of legislation updates and changes, as happened with glass packaging recently, you need an environmental consultant to keep on top of that changes and make sure you remain compliant.

Ensuring Compliance – Where to Start?

Firstly, establish an “Environmental Compliance Register” for your business.

This can begin as a simple document (word or excel) which will list the environmental regulations that apply to your business. Your legal register should include, as a minimum:

  • The name and year of the relevant legislation (including any amendments/ updates)
  • A basic summary of how the legislation applies to your business (in plain, simple English!)
  • How your business ensures compliance (link to procedures/ control measures and any records of monitoring & measuring)
  • An assessment of whether any particular piece of legislation is at risk of being breached (aligned to your significant aspects register)
  • Name of regulator and contact details (in case of emergency)
  • Schedule in regular dates for checking ongoing compliance with a piece of legislation

Remember that the ISO14001:2015 update draws particular focus to ‘legislation’, ‘the needs and expectations of interested parties’, and ‘other’ requirements as potential compliance obligations!

Managing your compliance

Now that your legislation register is up to date, you will invariably continue with identifying environmental aspects that affect your business, but it is vitally important that you ensure your knowledge of legal aspects is continually monitored and kept up to date.

It is good practice to set aside a regular time where you research, record, and act upon any changes in legislation that affect your business.

It is critical that you can show any certification auditor a record of what changed, how it was acted upon, and how you communicated that action within your organisation if requested.

The validity of this process may also be examined by your internal audit procedure, so best to be ready, and ensure the discipline of reviewing is maintained.

Remember – you will also need to be able to demonstrate that you are evaluating your compliance with Environmental Legislation, typically through a Compliance Auditing Programme – see our blog on Waste Auditing as an example, and what that entails!

How is Imvelo going further to support customers?

We are currently in the process of designing and building an online platform for environmental compliance, helping our customers with all of the interpretation and legal register building.

Once launched, clients will be able to download their most recent legal registers as PDFs. Currently, the updates of compliance is done every three months, with all updates being made manually. We are building a system that automates the changes and updates our clients. Watch this space for further details… 🙂