What’s the rush? Why you should begin planning your ISO14001:2015 transition now

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With the release of the new ISO14001:2015 standard, many HSCE managers likely skimmed the announcement to find that the deadline for transitioning to the new standard is September 2018. So everyone can sit back and relax for three years, right? Not likely.

Since compiling the documentation for certification typically takes about a year, that makes September 2017 the last realistic time period for health & safety or environmental leaders to start the process. Additionally, companies with their certification lapsing between now and then would be best advised to reap the benefits of the 2015 standard as soon as possible as well as ‘test run’ the requirements sooner rather than later.

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Why ISO14001:2015 is an improvement

For companies looking to cut costs and waste, cater to customers looking for a green (and 14001-friendly) supply chain and minimise risks, there is certainly a business case for transitioning to ISO14001:2015 now.

In the past, some companies could get away with having an auditing consultant come in and adjust their documentation once a year. However, a bare minimum approach of a few folders of documentation on a shelf isn’t enough for the new standard. While this new standard will be more work initially, HSCE managers will quickly see the 2015 standard is a fantastic tool for integrating environmental thinking and risk management into day-to-day operations for real bottom line and process benefits.

 

First steps to transition

For proactive companies starting to transition to (or achieving for the first time) ISO14001:2015, here are a few steps to start your journey:

  • Revisit why your company wanted 14001 certification in the first place. Your business case might be different today, so your approach and goals for the process should change too.

  • The requirements of the new standard makes certification across an entire organisation more beneficial than just implementing the system for individual sites.

  • A larger group of managers across the entire company will need to be involved this time around. Figure out who you’ll need buy-in from and get it early. Don’t underestimate how long it takes to get a non-environmentalist to agree to and implement an environmental project.

 

Who to involve

So who exactly needs to be involved? That varies by organisation, but here are a few to think about:

  • HSCE manager: Whether your company has a stand-alone environmental manager or this domain is incorporated into health & safety, this individual or team will likely lead the charge in terms of processes and documentation.

  • Corporate directors: As organisations move 14001 certification to a company-wide rather than site level, individual operations managers may become less involved and directors at the head office, more involved.

  • Managers: Managers across the company will likely need training and support to implement the new processes.

  • Staff: Part of the role of managers is to inspire staff to incorporate sustainability into day-to-day operations as this will ensure the benefits are felt long term.

  • Environmental consultant: To achieve and make the most of the 2015 standard, companies will likely need expert advice and training. And while auditing bodies sometimes have a consulting department offering compliance support, companies that are serious about reaping the EMS’s full benefits should consider the more proactive, strategic approach taken by a true environmental consultant.

While involving so many different players may seem challenging at first, there’s no telling the cross-segment benefits you could unearth. For example, I was chatting with an HR director who was facing a recruitment challenge because of the remote location of their manufacturing facility. However, as part of the company’s ISO14001:2015 plan, there was a new green travel plan that included alternative ways to access the site besides single occupancy vehicles. This resulted in an environmental solution to a staffing problem. 

 

These kind of benefits spring up across businesses, from operations to supply chain to business development, so why not proactively plan your ISO14001:2015 transition now? If you’re not sure whether you’re ready yet, take our 14001 gap assessment.

Author

Health, Safety and Sustainability Consultant

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