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Urban Myths and Common Mistakes

Let's be clear

There remains some confusion in the market around ISO management systems. Here are a few of the ones we've seen, hear or read. If you need help overcoming a specific challenge, 14000registry.com can help you overcome challenges in a number of ways. Contact us and let's see how we can help you or direct you.

All or not at all?

While the real value comes from integrating all the requirements, you can benefit from specific support offered by sections within the standard. Their intent is to enhance the management of an organization. An organization may simply use those elements that it needs to improve its business practices related to the environment; maximum benefit comes from use the standard in whole. It's a management system.

The specification standards are voluntary. It is the responsibility of the adopting organization to determine how it integrates the requirements of the standard to optimize its business. However, there is no requirement in ISO 14001, or ISO 9001 for that matter, to obtain external verification of any kind. This applies to any management system standard developed by ISO. You would be amazed however, how many companies and business organization cling to the myth that you must be certified to adopt the standard. It is an urban myth of global proportions. The credibility of an organization's EMS is in its design, maintenance and continual improvement. Confidence in the market can be reinforced by the use of qualified professionals hired to review the system. Think of it as a fresh pair of eyes.

A Chink in the Supply Chain, a Common Misunderstanding

There is no such thing as 'self-certify'.

You can only self-declare. If you see this option in a procurement document, while their heart might be in the right place, the writer is not ISO savvy. Is this a picky point? Perhaps. But in the interests of being clear, the correct request or acknowledgement for this option is "self-declaration", there are four recognized options. There are four options in ISO 14001:2004 captured under what is referred to as conformity assessment. If you want to know the details on this, contact us.

While we are on the procurement issue, we also note that many of the procurement documents we have seen where there is a request for a supplier to have ISO 14001, it's not uncommon to note that it is used as a checkpoint. The buyer is not actually exploring what that means nor how to take real advantage of the supplier's EMS. This is going to change as the competition for better environmental management heats up. Watch for blogs on this in the near future.

Does the EnviroReady Report Compete with Certification or Registration?

No. The EnviroReady Report does not replace the work or the need for good registrars. There are many organizations who are comfortable with third party registration or certification because of history, quality of service, level of risk and market demand. The Report was specifically designed for small business, although any organization can use it. The EnviroReady Report is to serve a market that certification by and large does not address.

Do you comply or conform to the standard?

Both terms are used by ISO to describe an organization's adoption of the standard. However, those who are very familiar with ISO 14001:2004 tend to use the verb to conform when referencing their use of the standard. The verb 'comply' is used when they are referring to the legal requirements that a business must meet, which are part of their commitment to compliance.

It's about process

Have you heard "ISO 14001 establishes performance expectations that are too hard to meet?" Not so.

It's another one of the perceptual barriers or urban myths that surround the standard. While ISO 14001 sets out expectations, it's completely up to you how the standard is applied to better your business. You set the bar that you have to pass. ISO 14001 is a process standard.

While ISO 14001 does not set performance expectations, there are four commitments it exacts, to:

  • legal compliance
  • compliance with other requirements to which the organization subscribes which relate to its environmental aspects,
  • prevention of pollution
  • continual improvement

ISO 14001 is designed to be practical, useful and usable for companies or organizations of all sizes, in any business sector. Its presence is as important to government and non-governmental organizations as it is to the private sector.

Is ISO written for rocket scientists or just in 'geek'?

Standards are written following certain protocols, which don't make them "page-turning" novels. A quick tip is this - if you see the word 'shall' within a requirements clause (in ISO 14001: 2004 that's clause 4) it's a 'must do' to get the value you need. If you see the word 'should', it's (highly) recommended. The company that adopts the standard is the entity responsible for how it applies the requirement.

Is ISO only for formally managed companies?

No. If your business is run very informally, you may find the requirements a bit stiff. A little common sense and some insight on what is actually being said, and you're away to the races.

It is important to note that ISO 14001, as other ISO management system standards, will bring a higher degree of formality into your business. This is actually a good thing. It has been proven that increases in formality can make your business more productive. Increases in productivity brings improved profitability. Profitability enhances prosperity. A good EMS can not only help your bottom and top line, it can reduce your environmental footprint at the same time.

Do you need to use a consultant?

The answer lies with you. Do you need help? There are some really good consultants out there who have helped organizations integrate EMS into their core business. There are also those who have absolutely no experience or expertise that you want to stay away from. Here is a tip that has two sides to it. First, don't try to outsource your EMS development onto a consultant. Your EMS will not return the value you need to have from it. It also will not be as robust and credible as one that is integrated into the core of the business. At the same time, a good consultant will act as a coach and help you understand what an EMS can do to enhance your management controls that is specific to your business. He or she can also support your efforts where you don't have internal expertise.

"I am so small that what I do is not important". Stop! What you have or do does make a difference!

While a small business is unlikely to be the cause of a devastation as BP's oil spill or the Exxon Valdez, everything you do has an environmental impact and a cost consequence.

The biggest single challenge for small businesses can be the determination of what it is your organization does, or what it has that causes impacts on the environment. It is one of the primary reasons that brought countries and businesses from around the world together to address environmental management. In the standard, the focus of the EMS is to better manage environmental aspects.

These aspects have a cause and effect relationship; environmental impacts being the impact or consequence.

Not everything your organization does is negative; not all impacts are significant.

Determining the causes of these inefficiencies and better managing them eliminates cost and risk to your bottom line. At the same time you can reduce your organization's impact on the environment. The combined outcome is the primary benefit that underpins an environmental management system.

Starting the process can be daunting at first, for you need to change behaviours. However, there are some simple tools that can help any small business do better with less. There are tools that even the one-man operation or one-woman shop owner can apply quickly, giving you insight into how to reduce these impacts and enhance productivity. Figuring this out is money in your pocket.

Do you need help to start?

14000registry also works cooperatively with other organizations with the common goal of breaking down barriers, whether perceptual or real, to the adoption of ISO 14001. 14000registry.com works very closely with www.goingforthegreen.net, a site dedicated to helping small business go green. Goingforthegreen.net will be offering a number of support tools that can be used to build an EMS. These tools include guides, calculators, an online coaching service hosted by experts (at the price of a service call) and high end video-based training at rates that are affordable for small sensible pockets and budgets in conjunction GFTG TV. GFTG TV is web TV. GFTG TV enables on demand pay per view programming using High Definition broadcasting. Programmes are typically offered for the price of a night at the movies for two, you have to supply your own popcorn. It's personal theatre at its best.

If you have concerns or questions, doubts or disagreements about what a section of the standard is asking you to do, you can contact 14000registry for help. There is also a formal interpretation process that the Technical Committee responsible for ISO 14001 offers. Contact your national member body and ask them a question that is formulated to give you a clear yes or no.