EHS Management

How to Use the Tools of ISO 14001


ISO Tools

The ISO 14001 standard is based on six primary sets of activities that integrate the environmental interests of each stakeholder group as well as set the stage for further interaction among the different groups.

1. Establish a Strategic Position

You should establish the current position of your company with regard to the interests of stakeholders by performing an initial review. This review is essentially a data-gathering exercise that includes identifying the following items:

  • Applicable regulatory requirements
  • Applicable financial requirements
  • Environmental aspects and impacts of the company’s current activities, products, and services
  • Customer perception of the environmental characteristics of the company’s activities, products, and services
  • Current performance with regard to internal and external standards, codes of practice, and sets of principles and guidelines
  • Existing environmental management processes, including procurement and contracting
  • Feedback from investigations of past noncompliance incidents
  • Opportunities for technology sharing, joint ventures, and strategic alliances
  • Other existing management systems that could have an effect on environmental performance

Once you have gathered and organized the information, use it as input to a position analysis, which will indicate the areas for management priority based on stakeholder concerns and interests.

2. Define a Vision and Policy

The key to defining a comprehensive vision of your company’s environmental commitment is to include the views, perceptions, and requirements of the stakeholders. This can be easily accomplished by using the results of the initial review to determine the guiding principles and values to which the company should ascribe. Active communication with stakeholders can help you clarify their interests and perceptions.

Top management should then codify the company’s environmental commitment and values in a documented policy. The policy should be relevant to your firm’s activities, products, and services, while taking into account the data from stakeholders. You should then make this documented policy available to all interested stakeholders, thus ensuring an accurate perception of your company’s commitment to environmental excellence.

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3. Develop a Plan to Implement the Policy

Once your policy commitments have been established, you then define the activities necessary to fulfill the policy commitments. This second analysis is an in-depth use of the stakeholder information from the initial review. It is based on the fundamental drivers of environmental change that the company can control and over which it has an influence.

These drivers of change, and their associated environmental impacts, are prioritized according to the stakeholder criteria obtained from your initial review. You develop a set of objectives, targets, and programs, which serve as milestones against which the performance of the EMS can be measured. As such, stakeholder management is implemented by establishing a measurable set of performance outcomes.

4. Develop the Capabilities and Support Mechanisms

The focus is on how the objectives, targets, and programs become translated into reality. You must first define the accountability for specific actions within the EMS, and secure the resources to perform these actions.

The actions required by the EMS include reporting on its performance to top management, as well as ensuring the interests of specific stakeholder groups are adequately addressed. Management also creates an awareness of the environmental commitments it has made to all personnel in the organization, as a result, ensuring motivation to achieve stakeholder interests. This awareness is usually coupled with a training program that is related to the prioritized environmental impacts defined in the planning activities. Each person in the organization is required to know his or her role and responsibility in achieving the environmental policy and satisfying stakeholder interests.

An important EMS activity is establishing communication procedures with stakeholders, both internal and external. The communication program ensures that stakeholder requirements and perceptions are actively monitored and that management is given the opportunity to positively influence perceptions.

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5. Measure and Monitor Performance

A key activity supporting performance measurement is the establishment of a records management system. If an environmental incident should occur, this system allows you to recreate the data and perform a root cause analysis, supporting fact-based decision making and accurate communications to stakeholders. Summary reports can be generated from verified records, ensuring the integrity of reporting and communication activities. Effective records management processes can greatly assist you when they define stakeholder strategies by providing a documented historical record of communications with the stakeholders, as well as other relevant information.

Another measurement tool is the performance of EMS audits. The audit reports give you an accurate picture of how well the EMS is fulfilling its function and managing stakeholder interests and provide you an early warning system before significant issues arise that could negatively impact stakeholder perceptions and fulfillment of stakeholder requirements.

6. Review and Improve the Systems

In order to close the EMS loop, management reviews the EMS performance at predefined intervals. These reviews look at the internal strengths and weaknesses of the EMS, as well as the opportunities and threats resulting from the changing perceptions and requirements of its external stakeholders. This review can result in a complete revision of the original set of stakeholder data based on what information the EMS has generated. The fundamental concept underlying this exercise is that it reestablishes the strategic position of your firm and sets the stage for possible revision of the policy, development of new plans, and movement around the circle of continual improvement. The review is the essence of proactive stakeholder management, as it requires a redefinition of stakeholder requirements and perceptions at regular intervals.

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