When the going gets tough, sound environmental management can get you going

Should companies be tackling their environmental impact at a time when business is struggling against a sinking economy? David Cooper from Global Resource Management says environmental management offers surprising solutions to boost bottom line profits.

With little sign of an upturn of the European or US economies,
it is increasingly important for businesses to firstly, minimise costs
to ensure they remain competitive, and secondly, to retain their existing
customer base.

Whilst a quality management system is often seen as an essential business requirement, the development of an environmental management system (EMS) is not always given the same degree of priority, particularly when economic conditions are tough.

However, by following the principles of an EMS such as ISO 14001 or the Eco-management and audit scheme (EMAS), significant cost savings can be realised which can help businesses to remain competitive and meet increasingly stringent environmental demands from customers. Simple initiatives such as the minimisation of waste through effective design and improved efficiency in manufacturing and service processes, immediately benefits bottom line profitability, whilst achieving a long-term environmental benefit as a result of the reduction in the company’s environmental impacts.

An EMS provides a structure for managing environmental impacts which arise for example, as a result of resource use, emissions and other waste products, distribution activities, and product and supplier packaging. Furthermore, an EMS will help to ensure that a company complies with environmental legislation, and provides the means of communicating important environmental issues with employees, customers and regulators.

Global Resource Management’s stepped implementation of an EMS provides companies with a flexible approach for achieving environmental improvement. This focuses on those elements of an EMS which provide vital knowledge and understanding of a company’s environmental impacts and legal obligations. Once a company understands its own environmental impacts, an environmental policy can be developed by setting a series of simple targets and working towards an environmental improvement programme, often resulting in increased efficiency, reduced costs and better profitability.

Whiteley Ltd, a paper and board manufacturer based in Leeds, recently adopted GRM’s stepped approach to help them implement ISO 14001. “The prospect of setting up a complete environmental management system, from scratch, with no prior knowledge was daunting and, I believe, would have been difficult to achieve,” says Carol Barnes, Technical Administrator at Whiteley Ltd. “So far, we have used the GRM toolkit and stepped approach for our initial environmental review and it has been invaluable, taking us through each stage clearly and simply.”

Like Whiteley Ltd, every company can benefit by carrying out the simple task of identifying its environmental impacts. As a result, most companies identify areas of improvement which generally reduce environmental impacts and costs.

Companies seeking formal registration of their EMS by a certification body may continue beyond step three of GRM’s five-step approach. However, for most companies, progress to this stage will usually provide the environmental and business benefits required.

It is often the case that subtle operational changes to daily working practices, many of which may have been performed in the same way for many years, often bring about the greatest environmental benefits and the most significant cost savings. Therefore, improving current working practices needn’t mean major changes to existing procedures, and may make a huge difference to a company’s bottom line.

To learn more about GRM’s approach to environmental improvement and its assessment and EMS implementation toolkits, please call Sue Woods on 0113 2273 244.

David Cooper is the Consultancy and Training manager at Global Resource Management, a specialist environmental management consultancy that is based in Leeds. David writes and lectures regularly on the environmental issues facing businesses today.

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