Leading Scottish organisations take the high road to enhanced environmental management

NQA recently helped three leading Scottish institutions enhance their environmental management credentials by becoming certified to ISO 14001. Rob Shepherd heads north to find out why Edinburgh Zoo, Nairn's Oatcakes and Glenmorangie decided to embark on this process and the benefits it brings to their operations.

he need to demonstrate a green approach to business activities is increasingly important. However, while environmental initiatives are usually well meaning they can lack cohesion and effectiveness, and this is why an increasing number of forward thinking companies are choosing to become certified to ISO 14001.

A certified case

For three iconic but very different Scottish organsiations - Edinburgh Zoo, Nairn's Oatcakes and Glenmorangie - this was an all too familiar situation and a desire to consolidate and 'rubber stamp' their environmental management credentials led them to contact NQA.

ISO 14001 is the international standard for environmental management systems (EMS). Martin Hockaday, NQA's energy and environment sector manager, explains, 'Becoming certified to this highly respected standard helps an organisation identify and systematically reduce any harmful effects it may have on the environment by developing processes to lower energy and raw materials use, reduce waste and pollution, and mitigate the risk of emergency situations. It not only ensures that a company is environmentally friendly, it also makes it more profitable and efficient.'

Three of a kind

Nairn's Oatcakes has been producing traditional Scottish oatcakes in its Edinburgh factory since 1880, while Glenmorangie is known all over the world for the quality of its whisky. Although it operates in a completely different sector, Edinburgh Zoo is also regarded as a leader in its field and is one of Europe's leading centres of conservation, education and research.

Prior to becoming ISO 14001 certified, all three organisations had a firm focus on being as environmentally aware as possible. Bill Bolan, lead auditor at Nairn's Oatcakes, says, 'Although we already had a number of environmental initiatives in place the decision to go for certification allowed us to involve all our staff in the design of a system that enables continual improvement.'

This desire to build upon an existing platform was shared by Glenmorangie, whose compliance manager, John McMullen, states, 'We have always made sure we were fully compliant with all legislation. However, meeting minimum legal standards is not enough - we want to make sure that we are continually looking for ways to reduce our environmental impact.'

As a globally respected visitor attraction Edinburgh Zoo considers ISO 14001 to be an opportunity to lead by example. Stuart Jenkinson, its safety, health and environmental manager, comments, 'For us the purpose of certification is twofold. Firstly, it serves as a very public endorsement of our commitment to reducing the impact of our operation and, secondly, the annual review process ensures that all aspects are thoroughly covered.'

Process and procedure

The first stage of the certification process for each organisation involved agreeing some basic objectives and devising a structure in which these could be implemented and managed.

'Engaging with stakeholders is key to achieving environmental management targets and therefore it was essential to ensure that staff understood why the whole process was being initiated and why they should buy into it.'

Engaging with stakeholders is key to achieving environmental management targets and therefore it was essential to ensure that staff understood the reasons for this action. 'We made it clear to all our staff that this is a priority for the company,' says Glenmorangie's John McMullen. 'The renewed emphasis on training is particularly important and this alone is resulting in significant improvements - we recently had a minor chemical spillage and everyone reacted immediately to contain the problem.'

This collaborative approach to achieving their objectives led Edinburgh Zoo and Nairn's Oatcakes to set up Green Teams comprising representatives from various departments. It is their job to implement agreed processes and procedures and feed back suggestions about how further improvements can be made.

Driving force

For all three organisations, one of the main drivers for achieving ISO 14001 was continual improvement of their environmental management performance.

An annual meeting with an NQA auditor allows them to assess their activities and discuss new ways that they can be improved upon. Edinburgh Zoo's 2011 target was to reduce its overall energy consumption by five per cent - a feat it achieved. Stuart Jenkinson comments, 'Our detailed measuring processes allows us to monitor very accurately the energy consumed throughout all the areas within the Zoo and see the impact of every action taken to reduce it.'

A five per cent energy reduction target was also undertaken by Nairn's Oatcakes alongside a commitment to reducing its waste to landfill by 15 per cent. Asked how successful it has been in this quest, the company's Bill Bolan responds, 'As a result of a clear focus on this area of our business, we have exceeded our waste to landfill target already and are committed to driving the figure down further.'

Leading by example

The experiences of these three forward thinking Scottish organisations clearly outline the versatility of ISO 14001 certification and the benefits it offers. They highlight how a commitment to a single standard can introduce a unified approach to meeting specific goals and ensure ongoing improvement in environmental performance.

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