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ISO 14001 ...

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ISO 14001 is an international standard for environmental management systems.

by Tina V. Garner

and Rena Bass

for the Business Journal

In a day and age when organizations are looking at creative ways to cut costs and increase profit margins, organizations have begun to look at areas within the company that have traditionally been classified as operating expenses and environmental issues are typically included in this category.

Many organizations are evaluating how to minimize the amount of money spent on managing environmental issues and, additionally, how to make the most of the dollars spent.

Managing environmental issues has become more than just a matter of remaining in compliance it is a necessary task for companies to establish or maintain a competitive edge.

Additionally, the increased public awareness and interest regarding environmental issues makes it important for organizations to consider proactively managing their environmental issues.

In an effort to establish a mechanism that companies can use on an international basis for managing and improving their environmental situation, ISO 14001 was developed. ISO 14001 is a standard that sets forth elements for an environmental management system, or EMS.

Implementing an EMS is a useful tool companies can use to effectively control and manage environmental related costs and liabilities.

What is 14001? ISO 14001 is a voluntary international standard that sets forth the requirements for establishing an EMS. An environmental management system allows an organization to evaluate and plan its organizational structure, policies, practices, procedures, processes and resources to achieve its overall environmental goals.

ISO 14001 does not set specific performance criteria (i.e., emission limits, waste-reduction goals, discharge limits, etc.), however, it allows each organization the flexibility to determine how it can work toward prevention of pollution and continual improvement.

As with other management systems, such as ISO 9001, ISO 14001 is based on the basic cyclic principle of "plan, do, check, act." The ISO 14001 Standard has five major sections that follow this process.

The sections are:

1. Environmental policy, which is the foundation of the system;

2. Planning, which includes evaluating process and legal requirements and setting objectives and targets;

3. Implementation and operation, which includes defining the structure, training, communication, documentation, operational control and emergency preparedness and response;

4. Checking and corrective action, which includes monitoring and measurement, identifying and taking corrective and preventive action, record keeping and internal auditing;

5. Management review, to ensure the effectiveness of the system and evaluation for continual improvement.

What is involved in establishing an EMS? Establishing an EMS requires a commitment of time and resources, both financial and personal. The amount of time it takes an organization to implement an EMS depends on numerous factors including, but not limited to, size of organization, experience with management systems and resources available.

A typical range of time organizations have spent preparing an EMS is from six to 18 months. There are many methods to develop an EMS, and there is no one correct method. The method chosen is dependent on the organization and its existing structure and philosophy.

The following are some of the elements which should be considered when beginning the process.

?Management commitment and assignment of assignments;

?Gap analysis;

?Aspect/impact analysis;

?Develop environmental policy;

?Set objectives and targets;

?Establish environmental management programs;

?Determine practices and establish official procedures;

?Documentation of core elements;

?Training;

?EMS implementation;

?Management review.

How does ISO 14001 compare to ISO 9000? There are a number of elements in both standards that have similar, but not exactly the same, requirements, including:

?Document and data control;

?Process control;

?Training;

?Internal auditing;

?Corrective action;

?Management review.

An organization that has an existing ISO 9000 system can utilize parts of its existing programs for ISO 14001. Additionally, due to the overlapping requirements, those organizations that do not have an ISO 9000 system that desire to have both ISO 9000 and ISO 14001 can realize savings by implementing an integrated ISO 9000/14001 system.

The registration process. The ISO 14001 standard allows for self-declaration by the organization that it has developed and maintains an EMS that meets the requirements of ISO 14001. However, in many cases it may be necessary for an organization to have an independent third-party endorsement of its EMS.

This endorsement is provided by an accredited registrar. An accredited registrar is an organization that has developed and implemented a program that meets the requirements of an accreditation body to provide auditing and registration services for its clients.

What are the potential benefits of an EMS? There are numerous financial and image-perception benefits to implementing an EMS. Some of the potential benefits include:

?Assure customers of environmental commitment;

?Positive public relations or enhanced image;

?Address investor concerns and improve access to capital;

?Reduce insurance costs;

?Meet vendor criteria;

?Improve cost control;

?Reduce environmental incidents and liability;

?Conserve raw materials and energy

?Facilitate permitting and other authorizations;

?Improve relationships with regulatory agencies.

The exact benefits and the impact of those benefits will be directly related to the organization's commitment to the EMS and the level of implementation.

(Tina V. Garner and Rena Bass are the principals of Garner Bass Inc., Associates in Environmental Management.)

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