ISO handbook brings environmental management to SMEs

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Por Sandrine Tranchard
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Implementing an environmental management system can be challenging for small businesses. ISO’s new handbook has been designed to assist SMEs in improving their environmental performance using ISO 14001.

The benefits of addressing environmental issues are not only linked to the protection of the environment, they can also be found in a company’s business performance and profitability. The handbook ISO 14001:2015, Environmental management systems – A practical guide for SMEs has recently been updated to take into account the latest edition of the standard, published in 2015.

ISO 14001:2015 in figures
  • Implemented in more than 180 countries
  • More than 300 000 certificates issued worldwide at end 2015
  • 8 % increase in certifications compared to 2014

Susan L. K. Briggs, the author of the handbook and leader of the ISO/TC 207/SC 1/WG 5, the group that led the revision of this standard, says: “With the revised standard being issued, several new requirements were incorporated such as a focus on the organizational context, risks and opportunities, and leadership requirements. To facilitate expanded uptake of this standard, it was important to demystify these concepts for small and medium-sized enterprises that are by far the most numerous organizations in most economies, particularly as many companies increasingly insist that ISO 14001 requirements are respected within the supply chain.”

For SMEs, implementing an environmental management system can be a real challenge as technical and financial resources, in addition to staff time, is often limited. “I hope this handbook, which contains technical expertise, tools, templates and lessons learned from implementing these systems myself, will support SMEs in conforming to the requirements. The hope is to reduce the financial burden of hiring technical experts… but SMEs will still need to invest time,” says Briggs.

“The key for SME success is to leverage their informal management structures and decision-making processes, not replace them with overly complex and bureaucratic methods.” The author sums it up in a nutshell: “The standard provides the ‘what’, while the handbook provides the ‘how’. ISO 14001 is a set of environmental management requirements that an organization must satisfy. The handbook provides practical help, examples and guidance on how to meet those requirements.”

Although the handbook has been designed with SMEs in mind, organizations of all sizes will find the information helpful when implementing or upgrading their environmental management system to ISO 14001:2015.

Acting ISO Secretary-General Nicolas Fleury comments: “We hope that this new edition destined to help achieve the benefits of ISO 14001 will be of practical use to small businesses, whatever their activity and wherever they may be in the world, but especially in developing countries and economies in transition. ISO 14001:2015 is a tool that helps support the Paris climate agreement and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals that make up the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It is our hope that this handbook will encourage further uptake of the standard, helping organizations to mitigate their environmental impact.”

ISO 14001 is one of a number of International Standards that help support better environmental management and tackle climate change. Other ISO standards focus on the management of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and helping organizations report their GHG emissions or reductions in order to comply with applicable national regulatory requirements, participate in the carbon emissions trading market or demonstrate their commitment to corporate social responsibility.

The handbook is available for purchase from your national ISO member or through the ISO Store.


Benefits of ISO 14001:2015 for SMEs
Small businesses can achieve the same results from environmental management as larger companies. Having an ISO 14001 management system in place:
  • Enhances business practices
  • Minimizes environmental impacts while increasing productivity
  • Affords a competitive edge, opening new business opportunities
  • Improves operational efficiency and saves costs, particularly with regard to energy consumption and waste management
  • Gives credibility and confidence to regulatory agencies and other interested parties, including customers

Incentives for implementing ISO 14001 differ from country to country; they can range from decreased inspection frequency to lower insurance premiums or government subsidies.
Sandrine Tranchard
Sandrine Tranchard

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