14000 Environmental Management:
Benefiting Companies, Saving the Environment
James E. Haklik
Published in: Business Access Online:
ISO 14000 is a set of international standards for improving the environmental
performance of organizations. It includes the new standard for environmental management
systems (EMS) called ISO 14001. This standard was published October1, 1996, so it is new
on the international scene. Some countries and companies are quickly embracing it, while
others, including the United States and most American companies, are waiting to see if it
becomes a requirement for doing international business and if there are benefits to
adopting it. Many American companies already have EMSs that may be different than ISO
14000, so their reluctance is understandable since they have invested in their existing
systems. For those companies who have no system, their reluctance is also understandable,
since they have no experience with the benefits such a system can provide.
This article presents some of the benefits of an EMS and ISO
14000. These are divided into five categories: increased profits, operations, marketing,
regulatory compliance, and social. They are taken from the world wide web site
www.trst.com/ which specializes is sharing information on the benefits of ISO 14000.
is the most important of these benefits, and may be the most surprising for those
unfamiliar with environmental management. Reducing the cost of goods sold is one way that
EMSs contribute to increasing profits. Many companies are finding that an EMS can help
reduce the quantities of materials and energy used to make products when the management
system includes analyzing the raw materials, byproducts, and waste. Changes to product
design, formulation, manufacturing processes, and packaging can reduce the quantity of
material inputs, byproducts, wastes and, therefore, costs. For example, Wilton Armetale, a
foundry in Pennsylvania, found that the quantities of some raw material inputs to the
manufacturing process could be reduced or eliminated. Many companies recognize that
pollution is also a cost since its components are purchased in raw materials. ISO 14000
improves the cost-saving function of existing EMSs in many ways. One is the requirement
that everyone in the company be knowledgeable about pollution prevention and their
individual contribution. This harnesses the efforts and creativity of everyone in the
There are many ways that an ISO 14000 EMS can
improve the operations of a company, thus reducing costs. An
EMS can identify instances of redundancy in day-to-day efforts for regulatory compliance.
These can be eliminated, thus making the organization more efficient. ISO 14000 requires a
common terminology which improves the communication of goals, procedures, environmental
impacts, and solutions. Improved communications can mean greater efficiency in decision
making. For example, the severity of an environmental impact can increase with time, so an
efficient notification system can reduce the time it takes to respond, and thus the
impact, risk and liability to the organization.
An ISO 14000 EMS can help a company market
to customers, investors, creditors, suppliers, employees, and the public. A 1990 Gallup
poll found that 52% of those surveyed stopped buying products with a poor environmental
image. Establishing a strong environmental image can help attract environmentally
conscious customers and provide an advantage over competitors. Workers may be attracted to
a company with a plan to protect the work environment and the surrounding community.
Finally, community support for a facility could be increased by demonstrating concern for
the local environment through an EMS. ISO 14000 adds to the credibility of an EMS because
a company must be certified by an independent auditor.
In the United States, there are many laws and regulations designed to protect the environment. They may carry
financial and/or criminal penalties if not observed. ISO 14000 requires evidence of
working processes to maintain compliance with existing laws. These processes can help
companies identify where they are out of compliance and take action. Improved compliance
with legislative and regulatory requirements could reduce penalties and remediation costs.
Regulators may even favor companies with ISO 14000 EMSs.
Finally, society in general
benefits when companies reduce pollution with the help of ISO 14000. Natural resources
last longer since less are being used. Landfills receive less waste so they last longer.
Air, water and soil are cleaner. These benefits to society indirectly benefits the
companies that are a part of it.
These are just a sample of the benefits
available to companies, but they show that the effort to implement ISO 14000 can be
worthwhile. Each company is different, with unique products, customers, and markets. So,
the benefits will be different, too. One key to success with ISO 14000 is to identify and
obtain as many benefits as possible by pursuing all those that relate to the unique
attributes of the organization.