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…

Sustainability as a Regulatory Requirement Reply

Sustainability developed initially as a voluntary activity.  Some companies have even referred to their sustainability or corporate responsibility efforts as, “doing well by doing good!” however, there are some changes in the works that would move at least parts of sustainability into a company’s regulatory compliance program.  Some of your customers may be demanding that you have a formal sustainability program.  Walmart is a good example of a company who has an initiative that many retail customers are following.  It consists of a number of required sustainability elements. Walmart enforces these requirements by training and sending out a cadre of auditors to make sure that the requirements are being adhered to. 

The United States Government has also notified 600,000 government contractors that they have to adhere to the greenhouse gas emission reduction requirements articulated in the Presidential Executive Order #13514. If these contractors do not begin making progress against these established goals, they could lose their contracts.

If your firm is publicly traded, or you work for a customer that is publicly traded, there is growing pressure from investors to have sustainability programs implemented throughout a supply chain.  Investors are organizing in an effort to share information and keep pressure on their targets.  One such group, Investor Network on Climate Risk, has supported a large number of stockholder proxies at annual meetings this year.  These groups have websites with best practices and toolkits to help investors be more effective at demanding sustainability throughout a supply chain.

The Securities and Exchange Commission and other watchdog government groups are making sure that companies are properly disclosing their risks associated with climate change and other environmental, social and economic issues.  Investor groups have been relentless in making sure that their concerns are addressed in the disclosure process, such as Form 10K reports.

Corporate Responsibility Magazine reported on the “100 Worst Corporate Citizens.” As transparency is considered the holy grail of sustainability, they were looking for companies that had little to no sustainability information on their websites.  There are also demands for accountability – setting goals and targets followed by reporting on the progress being made to attain these goals.  It is amazing just how much information on a company’s sustainability is being posted on the Internet these days. This makes it easier to conduct valid benchmarking unless, of course, the data is not accurate.

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.