Get the green seal of approval
The ISO 14001:2004 certification helps companies improve their environmental credentials. Dave Collinge, health and safety adviser at pump manufacturer Mono NOV, explains how the company acquired its certification
The ISO 14001:2004 is an environmental management standard that helps companies take control of their processes and minimise how their operations negatively affect the environment. The certification begins with the development of an Environmental Management System (EMS), which helps companies identify the resource inputs and outputs of wastes or pollutants of their business. These can then be analysed and reduced. Once produced, an EMS is integrated into business strategies to help manage and reduce negative impacts on the environment.
Environmental legislation in the water and wastewater industry is becoming more and more stringent. It is vital that treatment works understand their obligations and take the necessary steps to demonstrate compliance. Achieving ISO 14001:2004 is an excellent way for a company to do this, and it makes a powerful statement to management and employees. It also shows external stakeholders that it is a progressive and environmentally responsible organisation.
In addition to being recognised as a company that is helping to provide a healthy environment for future generations, implementing an EMS and receiving accreditation can help control and reduce costs in many different ways across a business. For example, companies that have introduced an EMS have already benefitted from overall cost savings when it comes to consumption of energy and raw materials, waste and recycling.
The ISO 14001 standard is flexible, which means that it is applicable to any organisation that wants to achieve this type of cost saving, while ensuring compliance with environmental laws and regulations. It is also designed to be compatible with other management standards, such as ISO 9001. The combination of these complementary standards can be seamlessly integrated as they share many of the same principles.
There are various stages a company must go through in order to receive ISO 14001:2004 certification - from preparation and application to audit assessment and regulation. Mono NOV's Manchester-based production plant, which was awarded its certification in May, began its accreditation process by identifying and analysing its corporate and social responsibilities, and developing an EMS.
The company set out by committing itself to act in accordance with all relevant environmental legislation - at a local, regional and national level - as a minimum-performance target, while improving initiatives, controls, provision of resources, and training of employees. Mono specifically developed the EMS to not only comply with the ISO 14001:2004 standard, but to also integrate environmental understanding and control throughout its core business and procedures.
The company undertook an initial preparatory review of its environmental effects. The data then provided the external auditor with comprehensive information on the methods adopted by the company for input processes and waste outputs at the site.
It ensured all relevant environmental impacts that may arise were identified. This included past, current and predicted future operations on the site, and a wide-ranging consideration of the legislations affecting it. The next step was for Mono to declare its primary environmental objectives - that is those that could have the most environmental impact and deliver the most notable benefits from being actioned.
With the EMS, Mono established procedures, work instructions and controls to ensure the successful implementation of the objectives, helping the company achieve certification. A planned, comprehensive periodic audit of the EMS is essential. This is to make sure it is effective in its operation and is meeting the specified goals laid down at the outset.
The audit monitors and assesses progress in order to ensure continuous improvement and efficient management of the system. Regular internal reviews of the system also provide an ideal forum to make decisions, and decide on a strategy to improve for the future.
Mono introduced 15 continuous-improvement objectives and targets for 2008. A major focus was the segregation and disposal of waste in order to control pollution.
Eighteen procedures are currently active in this area, which are split between controlled waste streams and hazardous waste streams. For example, procedures were put in place to segregate and control the following waste streams:
- Non-hazardous waste, including controlled waste - such as rubber cut-offs - builders' waste, and employee general waste
- Production coolant oils, hydraulic and lubricating oils and greases
- Scrap metals and production-machinery swarf
- Cardboard from the controlled waste stream
In addition to implementing new procedures, an important part of Mono's EMS was the training of staff. It is important that the EMS is not perceived as just a management responsibility - every member of staff has an important role to play.
As such, good communication throughout the company is a vital factor when it comes to gaining ISO 14001:2004 certification, because it enables everyone in the organisation to be aware of the objectives and contribute to its ongoing success. Mono provided training for all staff, from directors to operational personnel on the shop floor.
All staff received a formal induction - which all new Mono employees have - and regular notice-board bulletins and leaflet distribution helped to create an environmental culture across the business. This is essential, because the ISO 14001:2004 is not just about changing the way a company operates and leaving it at that. It is about continually striving to improve environmental issues, and the control and reduction of business costs. Importantly, the certification recognises that there is a delicate balance between maintaining profitability and reducing the effects activities can have on the environment, which makes it a practical long-term strategy for companies.
Mono has successfully integrated ISO 14001:2004 into its business operation. The firm says it can now look at carbon footprinting, corporate social responsibility, reporting sustainability and end-of-life strategies with the confidence that it is setting the standard for its industry.