Separating Energy Management from Environmental Management 1

Voting on a draft Energy Management System (ISO/DIS 5001) came to an end on August 26, 2010. The project committee (ISO/PC 242) will seek to resolve comments and issue the final standard by mid-2011. Companies will be able to seek certification to this standard or use it to self-declare their energy management system. It is interesting to note that this energy management system will NOT be part of the widely used ISO 14000 (EMS) series. The separation of this management system standard was supported by ANSI and Georgia Tech. They teamed up in the past to write ANSI MSE 2000 – the predecessor to ISO 50001. More…

Not so Fast! Phased Implementation of ISO 14001 Reply

Many small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) have been reluctant to use an environmental management system (EMS) such as ISO 14001.  Even though the EMS has been specifically designed to work in any size operation, it appears to be overwhelming in scope for a smaller firm.  To make an EMS more palatable, ISO plans to issue a new guidance document to help smaller companies create a phased development, implementation, maintenance and implementation of an EMS.  The final standard is expected to be issued in September, 2010.  This new standard, ISO 14005, has been in the works since 2006. 

The issuance of this guidance is not without some controversy, however. NORMAPME, a European organization that is exclusively devoted to the interests of small and medium-sized businesses, is disappointed with the current draft of ISO 14005.  This organization believes that the document is still too complex and difficult to understand for SME’s. They state that the standard focuses more on the concept of a phased approach to EMS rather than on practical guidelines for SMEs.  In their mind, it is unclear whether the standard is a stand-alone document or a guideline to help companies implement  ISO 14001. 

Maybe this is not a fatal flaw. After all, the standard setting process is one of compromise and voting.   NORMAPME and the European Commission could issue guidance for the use of the document much like ISO 14004 offers guidance for the use of ISO 14001. 

The elements of ISO 14001 should be amenable to the proper operation of an enterprise of any size if implemented with an experienced facilitator.  The ISO 14001 requirements simply represent the elements of a sound business.  Implementation guidance can be useful in providing a scope for the facilitator to use when helping the SME implement an EMS.

With large customers issuing mandates for sustainability to all companies in their supply chains, it is going to be very important that SMEs are able to internalize these requirements in a management system that will help them make these mandates part of the way they run their business.  The customers will be auditing the implementation of these sustainability initiatives.  Having an EMS with ISO 14005 should help to provide the objective evidence that these auditors will seek.

There is a need to encourage the use of an EMS or SMS in SMEs.  The SMEs that adopt these management systems will reap the benefits of increased business from their customers that are adopting sustainability programs.

ISO Tackles Packaging and the Environment Reply

Packaging is a major issue in sustainability.  It uses a lot of resources and creates waste when the shipped goods are unpacked.  Packaging also adds to the weight of the shipped goods thus increasing the generation of greenhouse gas emissions for the transportation.  Organizations have been working on this issue for years now.  Each entity has its own way of dealing with the effects of packaging on their sustainability.  The outcome has resulted in the development of parochial views of how to control packaging and packaging waste in their operations.  The development of regulations associated with the use of packaging can affect international commerce by forcing companies to comply with multiple regional and national dictates. 

In an effort to encourage trade and minimize these business disruptions, an ISO technical committee (TC 122) has formed a subcommittee to look at “packaging and the environment.”  This committee has been looking into how the use of resources can be minimized, while maintaining the function of the packaging.  They are also looking into how used packaging can be recovered, reused and recycled.  The starting point for the standard setting process is the European Union “Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive” (94/62/EC).  This directive establishes requirements that are currently used in the European Economic Area.  Included are the following requirements:

  • Packaging and packaging waste weight and volume should be minimized to the amount needed for safety and acceptance of the packed product
  • Noxious and other hazardous constituents of the packaging should have minimum impact on the environment at their end-of-life
  • Packaging should be suitable for material recycling, energy recovery, composting or reuse.

The committee is also considering a number of similar Asian guidelines.  The goal of the effort is to harmonize all standards and guidelines into a series of ISO international standards by 2012.

The United States (U.S.) has been lagging behind in its development of standards related to packaging sustainability.  However, this is about to change.  The U.S. has formed a delegation to work with TC 122.  There is stong interest within U.S. corporations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in support of this participation. 

International standards would be an important contribution to support the free movement of products in international trade.  It would also help companies that are using sustainability management systems (SMS) to make packaging an important part of their sustainability efforts. If you are a user or receiver of large amounts of packaging, you will need to follow these efforts closely for the next couple of years.

New International Sustainability Management System Standard Reply

After over five years and nearly 2,500 written comments, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has announced that it will release a final draft of ISO 26000 (international standard for social responsibility) for a two-month vote (August and September) by ISO member countries. Following the vote, it will become published as a full-fledged ISO International Standard by November, 2010.  This new standard will be in the form of a guidance document like ISO 14004 (environmental management system guidance).  You will not be able to certify to this standard.  Instead, by using the information in the document, your company will be able to convert an ISO 14001 (EMS) into a sustainability management system (SMS).

So what does this mean to you?  While the standard refers to “social responsibility,” it is really outlining what most people are calling “sustainability.”  They have taken all of the three responsibilities of sustainability and divided them into manageable “core subjects.”  For example, there are core subjects on environment, consumer issues, community involvement, labor practices and a number of other social and economic topics.  The current draft has one of the best set of consensus information on each of these topics and how they can relate to a sustainability program.  Like other ISO documents, this standard is not prescriptive.  The guidance clearly states that companies can select the core subjects that pertain to their operations and determine what each should cover.  If you wish to start with environmental sustainability, that is fine.  Social and economic core subjects can be added at a later time.

Next, the ISO 26000 guidance addresses a set of principles that should be considered when planning, implementing and maintaining a sustainability program.  This is very helpful since guiding principles are very important in adapting the program to take advantage of the company culture.  Companies that have already implemented sustainability programs can strengthen them using this new standard.

Finally, the ISO 26000 document provides guidance on how to integrate sustainability throughout the organization.  This is very important to implement a corporate sustainability program at the facility level and make it part of what every employee does every day.

We will be posting more blogs on this topic.  Since this guidance already exists in draft form, there is little need to wait until the final publication to start creating an integrated SMS for your company.