Do you know your environmental aspects from your impacts?
Updated: Feb 7
Caroline Lucas MP is part of an exclusive club. She is one of the few politicians to have increased her parliamentary majority in the three General Elections since being elected to represent the constituency of Brighton Pavilion in 2010.
She is the sole Green Party representative in the House of Commons. I follow her on Twitter. I happen to think she talks sense, which explains why I broke with tradition and voted 'Green' when the UK went to the polls again in December.
Lucas' brief is a broad one, but holding the government of the day to account on matters of the environment is a priority.
Swedish teenage activist Greta Thunberg might be better known to many of you. Her spirited, passionate and well argued position on the parlous state of our environment may not go down well in the Kremlin and the White House, but one cannot argue that she hasn't monumentally raised awareness of the unsustainable state that planet Earth finds itself in.
Lucas and Thunberg sing from the same environmental hymn sheet. They lobby governments, big business, relevant authorities, regulators, community groups, charities and other agencies.
I cannot confirm, but I suspect both are advocates of ISO 14001:2015.
The standard compels a business to become environmentally friendly, and in doing so - by way of a suitable Environmental Management System (EMS) - aims to balance the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their requirements.
In 2015, across 170+ countries, 14001 had been adopted by over 300,000 organisations. I would suggest that time, plus the growing influence of Lucas, Thunberg et al, has seen a dramatic rise in the uptake since then, and the spike is likely to continue gathering pace.
The standard follows the Annex SL structure adopted by 9001, 27001 and 45001, meaning that the adoption of multiple management systems across one organisation is easier.
Clauses 4-10 provide the well documented framework, with the Plan-Do-Check-Act model/approach being the practical driver for the ultimate objective - continual improvement of your EMS.
Plan: Establish environmental objectives and processes necessary to deliver results in accordance with the organisation's environmental policy;
Do: Implement the processes as planned;
Check: Monitor and measure processes against the environmental policy, including its commitments, environmental objectives and operating criteria, and report the results;
Act: Take actions to continually improve.
What is particular to ISO 14001, however, as is case with all standards, is a few unique terms and definitions, and acquiring an understanding of relevant EMS language is essential.
I have identified a number of terms (and their ISO definitions) that I believe will be of use:
Terms relating to planning:
Environment: Surroundings in which an organisation operates, including air, water, land, natural resources, flora, fauna, human and their interrelationships;
Environmental aspect: Element of an organisation's activities or products or services that interacts or can interact with the environment (eg. hazardous waste, solid waste, fuel storage, electricity use, water consumption, spills and leaks);
Environmental impact: Change to the environment, whether adverse of beneficial, wholly or partially resulting from an organisation's environmental aspects (emissions of VOCS*, soil and groundwater contamination, depletion of natural resources, air pollution, climate change).
Term relating to support and operation:
Life cycle: Consecutive and interlinked stages of a product (or service) system, from raw material acquisition or generation from natural resources to final disposal.
Term relating to performance evaluation and improvement:
Environmental performance: Performance related to the management of environmental aspects.
As I never tire of saying, top management can only familiarise themselves with any standard by reading it, and that means purchasing it!
Armed with that understanding, plus ethical, social and commercial reasons for 14001 certification, you are able to demonstrate leadership and commitment and begin the implementation process.
I am sure that Lucas and Thunberg wish you every success on your journey!
I am an accredited Implementer in 45001 and a Lead Implementer in 27001. I am also a Lead Auditor in 27001, 45001 and 14001. If I can be of any assistance, my contact details are on the home page.
*VOCS are 'volatile organic compounds' that can become vapours or gases. VOCs are released from burning fuel such as gasoline, wood, coal, or natural gas. They are also released from many consumer products such as cigarettes and solvents.
Their can cause eye, nose and throat irritation, feelings of nausea, and also damage internal organs and the central nervous system.