Firms in danger of falling short as upgrade to International Standard for environmental management looms

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In 2015 the chief standard required by public sector and large corporate procurers (14001) will be upgraded, significantly changing the way firms will have to view and apply their Environmental Management System (EMS). However, new research reveals that many companies, across a range of sectors, are in danger of falling short when it comes to the changes – and some could potentially lose out as a result:

• As many as nine in ten firms (90%) have an EMS that is not fully fit for purpose• Eight in ten firms (80%) do not have sufficient top level support to meet the new requirements – four in ten (42%) say top management have little or no involvement in their company’s EMS• Less than half of companies (49%) are investing appropriately in their environmental performance and competence• Just one in ten (11%) are maximising the benefits of EMS by ensuring it takes into account the complete lifecycle of their product or service.

New research by EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, based on a gap assessment of over 650 UK companies across a range of sectors, shows that many are missing a trick when it comes to their environmental management system (EMS).

As many as nine in ten (90%) have a system in place that isn’t fully fit for purpose, with just one in ten realising the full potential of EMS by undertaking a cross-functional review of all the political, social, economic, environmental, technological and internal issues that can impact on it. They are then incorporating this information into its design.

More importantly, in 2015 the standard for EMS (14001) – the chief standard required by public sector and large corporate procurers - will be upgraded. The biggest change and challenge for UK business will be the greater emphasis on leadership and commitment – an area where many firms already fall down.

Eight in ten (80%) do not have sufficient top level support to meet the new requirements. Four in ten (42%) will be making a standing start with top management having little or no involvement in their company’s EMS.

As well as too little time and leadership, many firms admit to too little investment in their EMS. Less than half (49%) are investing appropriately for their environmental performance and competence. Despite this, 41% of those who have it say that ISO 14001 is a critical part of their business strategy, ensuring that they are future-proofed against a changing environment and customer requirements.

At the same time, the gap analysis shows that just one in ten (11%) are maximising the benefits of EMS by ensuring it considers the entire lifecycle of their product or service. This means taking into account everything from raw material extraction, transport, manufacturing and retailing through to managing the product or service at end use.

Now EEF is urging other businesses to use its free online gap analysis tool to find out where they currently stand on EMS and what more they could or should be doing: /page-not-found?page=iso14001.

Greg Roberts, EMS expert at EEF and UK expert on the international ISO committee, says “These findings show that for many businesses and for many senior management teams having an environmental management system is simply a box ticking exercise. They are not grasping the full potential and opportunity of this powerful approach which, if treated strategically, can drive real value.

“The fact is that whether you think of the natural environment or trading environment, things are in a constant state of flux. Companies are facing new and difficult issues such as the scarcity of resource and material supply, climate change and stakeholders who want more, demand more and know more. Implementing a well-designed, fully thought-through and completely integrated EMS can help firms tackle these issues, while grasping the very many opportunities that are there for the taking too.”

ISO 14001 will continue to be a voluntary standard. However, over 15,000 certificates have already been issued in the UK and there is growing demand from customers for firms to attain it. It can also reduce the cost of an environmental permit and be a condition of getting a permit.

Companies wanting to know more about the changes and to receive updates and guidance can find out more here: www.eef.org.uk/page-not-found?page=environmentblog where they will also be able to subscribe to a free e-alert and find out details of training courses and webinars.

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