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ISO 14001 Consultancy

ISO 14001 Environmental Management Systems

ISO 14001 is an internationally recognised standard for environmental management systems and provides guidance towards implementing a systematic approach for environmental protection.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last decade or so, you’ll know as well as us that climate, environment, and sustainability are all becoming increasingly important to businesses and consumers. With the world’s focus set on tackling the Climate Crisis, customers, investors, governments, businesses, and stakeholders are beginning to make demands that organisations can clearly demonstrate their steps toward operating a sustainable concern. Impending legislation over Environmental & Social Governance (ESG) is only making these calls louder and more insistent.

Implementing ISO 14001 in your organisation can help formalise and develop your approach for tackling these demands. It can help you consider all aspects of your activities to reduce their impacts on the environment. We can help you to establish, implement and maintain an effective Environmental Management System (EMS) and support you in continuous improvement initiatives. Together, we can achieve and maintain your certification.

Answering your FAQ on ISO 14001:

ISO 14001 provides guidance on implementation of an environmental management system that considers all aspects of your organisation and improves your environmental performance. For organisations seeking to implement and operate multiple management systems – for example for Quality, Health and Safety and Energy management in addition to Environmental – they are able to recognise and work with similar core requirements while focusing on the discipline-specific elements.

The standard provides a framework for developing an environmental management system (EMS) which is suitable for any and all organisations wanting to reduce their impact and increase their sustainable credentials. It considers the context of the organisation, its leadership, planning and support arrangements and defines any other operational controls needed to achieve environmental objectives.

As with the other management standards the requirements are based on shared principles such as the identification and means of addressing risks and opportunities and the use of the Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) approach to problem solving and improvement. Like most ISO standards, it requires the setting of objectives and targets, training and communication, documentation and record control, and handling non-conformities and preventative action. ISO 14001 builds upon these common themes to consider more specifically your goals, plans, controls and performance measures relating to reducing your impact on the environment, and managing emergency preparedness and response.

Whether you’re setting out for the first time with the standard, are planning to integrate it into a wider management system, or just want the right help to make it work more effectively for you, QFactorial have the tools to support you.  We can work closely with you throughout the process and, if required, help you to  prepare with confidence for 3rd Party certification.

Scarcely a day goes by without environmental issues and climate concerns being front page news. Increasingly, organisations are in the firing line for how they manage and control their activities to meet the expectations of society, respond to environmental issues (pollution, waste management, contribution to climate change) and other pressures from energy sources and consumption. ISO 14001 is suitable for any type or size of organisation to adopt. In fact, it’s been adopted by tens of thousands of organisations worldwide who wish to structure their environmental management approach to enable them to focus on compliance with legislation, making real improvement, and providing demonstrable assurance and results regarding their environmental impact.

The environmental credibility of supply chain partners is key to qualifying for new work or maintaining existing contracts. At all levels, whether company employees, management, government, or society at large, people are looking for confidence in the environmental credibility of the organisations they deal with.  ISO 14001 is relevant to you if you are looking to establish and demonstrate a structured approach towards your environmental management. We can support you to secure the benefits of an effective and robust management system. 

No matter your thoughts on the climate crisis, or the best way to go about dealing with it, there isn’t a person, institution, government or organisation who isn’t going to be affected by it in some way, shape or form. Sustainable development is going to be key and, increasingly, business is done with those organisations that have a demonstrable alignment with all things green. If impending government legislation on corporate social responsibility and environmental governance isn’t enough to turn your head, the court of public opinion can certainly be a significant motivator. But we’re not all about sticks here, there’s a great many carrots to be found when implementing your EMS through ISO 14001 too. Aside from better communication and training, a bigger focus on waste reduction, cost efficiency, improved safety and employee health, and better relationships with customers and suppliers are all things that should be on your wish list!

If that’s got you looking for the sign-up papers, QFactorial can help you create, manage, or revamp your EMS to reap all the benefits of implementing ISO 14001 in your organisation.

We are, first and foremost, a quality management consultancy. And we are really keen on the consulting part. By engaging with us you can be assured we will listen carefully to your story and understand the details of what you want, and what you need (which are not always the same thing!). Our consultants can then offer you a uniquely tailored solution. We're Quality People, and we understand how to bend and shape the ISO framework to add value to your business.

Well, not much to be honest. The standard’s been around since the 1990s and was last revised in 2015 to better align with ISO 9001 and other management system standards.

No news is good news, right?

Except, with the world increasingly focused on environmental risk and higher compliance with regulatory and legislative requirements there is a sense of urgency for action. You may want to act now either to establish your ISO 14001 compliant system from scratch, or to establish it within an integrated management system. You may feel you have an established system but it’s just not as effective as it could be for today’s needs. Whatever your motivation we can help you to use this standard to establish a robust and effective system and support you towards certification if needed.

The standard sets out requirements for building an environmental management system (EMS) geared to protecting the environment and responding to changing environmental conditions. This includes not just documentation but also culture, behaviours and practices throughout the organisation. To get this right you must first make an effort to understand three key sets of information:

           a) The context of your organisation - i.e. the business environment in which you operate, including markets, regulations, competition, supply

               chains, etc.

           b) The internal and external issues faced by the business – e.g. political, economic, suppliers, technology, legal, economic.

           c) The needs and expectations of your stakeholders, or in ISO lingo, interested parties.

All this knowledge and understanding is used to establish, implement, maintain and improve your EMS and ensure that it is always appropriate and responsive to the world in which you operate, in other words, “live” and “relevant”.

As with all ISO’s, compliance cannot be entirely delegated. ‘Top management’ must engage actively in the EMS activities, including operating and improving the system, and being accountable for the performance and results. This can only be achieved by incorporating environmental aspects, objectives, decisions and actions into your business strategy and making it part of day-to-day operations and responsibilities.

Understanding and managing risks and opportunities is one of the core concepts in many ISO standards, including ISO 14001. If you are already doing the risk/opportunity thing for ISO 9001, you simply need to add an environmental flavouring. The standard uses the terminology of ‘aspects and impacts’ to help you focus on the environmental risks and opportunities. So one of the early activities will be to create a list of the environmental aspects of your business (including products, services and processes), linking these to their measured impacts on the environment. You will also need to link these with any relevant legal and regulatory requirements. Armed with this data set you can begin focusing your efforts and setting improvement objectives for those aspects with highest impact. In other words, maximising you environmental bang for your environmental buck. 

When identifying environmental aspect and impacts, the standard emphasises the importance of taking a life cycle perspective. This means thinking about the changing and different aspects/impacts for example during design and development, purchasing, production, marketing, use and disposal.

You also need to consider the physical and personnel resources required to maintain the EMS effectively and promote continual improvement. This means maintaining competence and awareness of personnel, whether by training education or communication. There is also the need to establish and maintain effective systems for control of documentation and records, which may of course be incorporated with other management systems such as ISO 9001. All the above needs to be evidenced for auditors to verify that there is in fact a system in place and not just a bunch of really smart people.

By now you’ll have realised that it’s not just about documentation. In fact it is more about defining key processes. However, good documentation obviously helps. We can help you prioritise areas where your business needs documentation to support its key processes, but there are some specific processes mandated by the standard, including: outsourcing, emergency preparedness and response, change management, legal compliance.

If you’re familiar with ISO 9001 you will know all about monitoring, measuring, analysing and improving. These are equally important in ISO 14001. There is no escape from compliance evaluation, internal audits, nonconformance, performance metrics (think green KPIs) and management review.

Finally, a word on other approaches to environmental/sustainability management, including schemes such as EcoVadis, B-Corp and ESG reporting. The good news is, some of your work in these area can be used as input for ISO 14001 compliance – and vice versa. Nothing goes to waste if it’s being done for the good of the environment

Any organisation, whether product or service, for profit or non-profit, large or small, can use ISO 14001 as a tool to establish and develop an environmental management system and better manage their interactions with the environment. To show that you comply you can make a self-declaration or seek confirmation of your conformance by your customer. However, certification by an independent accredited body best demonstrates that you comply with the standard. Independent certification also shows the outside world, whether customers, suppliers or other bodies, that you work within a globally recognised framework.

Using the standard as a guide, the aim is to “say what you do” and then show that you “do what you say”. We can support you to document your EMS so it meets the requirements of the standard but also reflects the way you actually work. We will identify any gaps, find any synergies with other management systems (such as ISO 9001) and recommend improvements. We will work closely with you to prepare and make any changes to bridge the gaps. Successful compliance with ISO 14001 requires planning, commitment, and resources. But we are here to help you every step of the way, and we have the expertise to fully support you as your business grows.  

Certification by an independent, accredited body is the best demonstration of your compliance to ISO 14001. Certification means that your system is scrutinised and verified on a scheduled basis through an external audit programme. It is an excellent way of confirming your application of your own system – to yourselves, to regulatory bodies and to your stakeholders.

In the UK, certification to ISO 14001 should be undertaken through one of the certification bodies accredited by UKAS, the UK’s National Accreditation Body for certification, calibration, inspection and testing services. Only UKAS-accredited certification bodies are recognised by the UK Government and major purchasers, and they operate programmes for transition to the new revision of the standard, as well as for new clients.

We can help you to choose a UKAS-accredited certification body and can support you through the certification process. We can help you however you need us to, whether by preparing documentation, training and mentoring, reviewing and auditing, or by working with you to develop and integrate your system beyond certification so that it always meets your needs as well as the requirements of the standard.

Gaining and maintaining ISO 14001 certification will demonstrate the integrity and effectiveness of your environmental management system, processes you use and the people that work within them. It will need planning, commitment, and resources and the amount of work involved will depend on factors such as your current stage of development, the size of your organisation and the number of people involved. We will work closely with you to identify your gaps and synergies against the requirements of the standard, and to develop a workable action plan to achieve your certification in the most efficient way.

Whether you are just starting out and want help to build your system from scratch, you already have an ISO 9001 based system that you need to build upon for ISO 14001 certification, or if you already have a system but need to improve its effectiveness or integrate it with other management systems, we can help you. Our effective project management and extensive know-how will support your schedule and budget with the resources tailored to help you at every stage.

Whether you are approaching ISO 14001 for the first time, or you already have ISO 9001 in place as a basis, there are requirements to define and maintain your environmental policy, your processes, procedures and records. However, the good news is that you have flexibility in how you choose to document and format your EMS as long as it is relevant and maintained and supports conformity with the standard. There are of course some mandatory requirements for such items as the environmental policy, risks and opportunities, environmental aspects, evidence of competence and communication, and evidence of monitoring, measurement analysis and evaluation results, along with such areas as internal audits, corrective actions and management reviews. You will need to retain appropriate records as factual evidence.

However, you have the opportunity to integrate your EMS with your other management systems if you require. The key is to look at such things as how you actually perform your activities, what processes you use, who is involved and how you record your results. For certification you will need to show that your system is effective in planning, operation and control of your processes and provides evidence of continual improvement.

We can help you to build or update your environmental management system to meet ISO14001 requirements in the most effective ways. QFactorial can help you to design, describe and manage your system to support your journey to certification- so that it meets the requirements of the standard and importantly works for your business.

How long is a piece of string?

You’re not a cookie-cutter company, so we don’t deal with cookie-cutter prices. But let’s talk about what makes up the cost of ISO certification:

  • Finding out where you’re starting from, where you need to be and how to get there. (GSAAP – see ‘How We Work’).
  • In house resources to manage and deliver the work plan.
  • External consultants to help with parts of the plan that are outside your skills and experience (or time).
  • Certification Body.
  • Maintenance of your certification. Not just polishing the frame.

Depending on the size, scale and complexity of your organisation, you may need more or less consultancy time. We can work with you based on a specific number of days at an agreed rate, carefully scoped, fixed price work packages, or a combination of both to suit your budget.

There is a difference between certification and accreditation. In the UK there is only one government approved accreditation body (UKAS). When your customers are asking to see your ISO certification, they expect to see the UKAS logo alongside the certification body’s logo. Without this, your customer may reject the certificate and you may find you've a costly exercise to undo the commercial damage, upgrade your system and put yourself through the certification process all over again. We can help you choose a UKAS accredited certification body to make sure you aren’t going to get any awkward questions later.

We’ve been in this game a long time now and have developed a proven system of tackling the requirements of ISO certification with you. We begin with our Gap & Synergy Assessment with Action Plan (GSAAP for those acronym lovers) which shows us how close you already are to the standard requirements. We find, usually, that there are many more synergies than you’d expect - you’re running a successful business after all, aren’t you?

This gives us a head-start when creating the EMS and gives you the opportunity to get to know your consultant and confirm you enjoy working with us before embarking on the good ship certification. At this point you’re able to take the GSAAP and run, but of course we’d like to think you’d want to keep working with us to help you with the documentation (Stage 1) and implementation (Stage 2).

We help share the load by reviewing what you create, or creating things for your review - business manuals, process maps, policies and procedures, etc. Once this is all done, there’s a desktop audit by the certification body to check all your documentation complies with the rigours of your chosen standard - and yes, we can be involved in this as your advocate, interpreter, translator or referee. Stage 1 is all about ‘saying what you do’ as a business. But you can’t just say what you do, you also need to ‘do what you say’. Stage 2 is all about those documents coming off the page and becoming a ‘real’ entity in your business. The burden of proof is on you to show that your system, as you’ve set out in Stage 1, is working as you say it should be. It takes time to gather this body of evidence, anywhere from 2-3 months, and this evidence can take various forms. Our role during Stage 2 is to provide training, mentoring, internal audits and management reviews to ensure your business is ready for the Stage 2 external audit. It’s entirely normal for a few ‘nonconformities’ to arise, especially at this stage, but we’ll be there to help you deal with them and make sure you get that recommendation for certification.

At this point you’re able to take your new ISO Certificate, pat yourselves on the back for a job well done and send us on our merry way, happiness all round. However, we recommend you stick with us for this first year. Why? So we can help establish quarterly health checks to keep things ticking over. No one wants to be thrown into a full-blown panic 11 months down the line as the surveillance visit looms and you realise things have gotten a little wobbly. With us on board that little while longer, you can be sure that the gears are turning and the processes are followed so when the auditor returns, you’re armed and, if not dangerous, at least prepared.

Interested in gaining ISO 14001 certification?

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