Emily Reeves, Environmental Scientist
Customer expectations, tender requirements and increasingly stringent environmental legislation have driven the need for organisations of all sizes to address their environmental impacts effectively. Robust and well implemented environmental management systems (EMS) are proven to help organisations meet their environmental goals, maintain legal compliance and ultimately save money. So what happens when your organisation has addressed its most significant impacts and has a firm grip on the operation of its EMS? What does it really mean to strive for continuous improvement if it is perceived to be no longer cost effective or practical?
The next step
The next step is about looking beyond your certification and reaching for long term goals while maintaining momentum and collaboration within your team. It can be easy to push your organisation’s EMS to the bottom of the agenda once ISO certification is achieved, after the boxes have been ticked for managing your paper use and you have put in your best efforts towards reducing mileage. So what’s next? Well, the new ISO14001:2015 has helped to answer this question for many environmental managers; however, in reality an EMS is just the beginning of the journey to becoming a responsible organisation.
The value of integrating your EMS with your underlying strategy
The integration of your EMS into wider company strategy is one of the components that have been welcomed into the new ISO14001 standard, and as an environmental scientist working in sustainability, I am glad to see it. Alignment with wider company operations and business strategy are all processes that will enable your EMS to evolve. Ensuring your EMS is integrated and alive within the business is key – this means it is less likely to be shelved away never to be seen again. Empowering your organisation’s decision makers and identifying environmental issues from the get go can generate excitement within your team. Keeping relevant impacts at the forefront of each and every decision can help put environmental matters into the solution rather than problem.
Going beyond your EMS is a natural progression in the journey. There are a range of methods to help you look beyond how your operations have an impact on the environment, and that will give you a chance to focus on where you could make a positive impact in the community and engage with a wider audience.
Sustainability reporting can be one way of continuing the process of identifying environmental and social impacts and thinking about your organisation’s material aspects from a more holistic perspective. This is often a challenge for small companies – but given that your EMS has already done half of the work in documenting data and identifying environmental impacts, communicating your impacts openly and setting further objectives related to your wider social, ethical and economic responsibilities can prove a valuable exercise.
Sustainability reporting identifies and forces action on the elephant in the room, whether that is by addressing an environmental impact, partnering with the local community or seeking out new and innovative business ideas to create change. By reporting and acknowledging these issues, organisations can front up to the market and pave the way to become leaders in their industry. Harvesting a workplace culture where impacts, objectives and material issues are discussed day to day can be difficult, as many organisations shy away from this ownership, but if your leaders are forward thinking innovators encouraging a sustainable environment then you’re well on your way. It can even help attract staff – Colmar Brunton’s 2014 Better Business Report stated that 70% of New Zealanders want to work for a sustainable company.
Effective stakeholder engagement
Effective stakeholder engagement will add value to your EMS objective and target setting, and will aid you in embedding sustainability into processes, principles and policies. Stakeholder engagement can help your organisation to leverage its EMS and broaden the scope of your intention to strive for continuous improvement. Use your EMS as the brainstorming medium, identification tool and system baseline upon which your organisation can develop into a truly sustainable hub – then you will be well on your way to going beyond your EMS.
To discuss how you can effectively embed sustainable practices into your organisation’s strategy, principles and operations, send us a message: