ISO 14001: How To Create An Environmental Management System

CLR worker weighing a blue container

By Gabby Hernandez, Social Media & Communications Coordinator

Becoming ISO 14001 Compliant

Becoming ISO 14001 compliant helps businesses reduce waste, reduce costs, and improve their marketability against competitors, but it’s not easy. Certification requires a commitment to continuous improvement and the adoption of a custom tailored Environmental Management System (EMS). ISO requires preparation of several documents and records before an EMS can be considered ISO 14001 compliant. You must create records of internal training and audits to ensure your EMS is operating efficiently and safely. Once you’ve implemented an EMS and created all mandatory documents and records required by ISO, you must hire a registered third party to certify your business in ISO 14001.

Although planning and implementing an EMS can be intimidating, many businesses have become ISO 14001 certified and reaped the benefits of an efficient EMS. A huge team and unlimited resources aren’t needed to achieve ISO 14001 certification; with careful planning and execution, a team of any size can create an EMS that runs like a well-oiled machine. In this blog, you will find a breakdown of how you can get started, and how Closed Loop Recycling (CLR) can help you achieve and maintain your ISO 14001 compliance.

#1: Make Sure Leadership Buys In

A company can’t implement an environmental policy until senior management agrees upon an environmental policy. Create a list of reasons why it is important for your organization to have an EMS. Clearly communicate the benefits of an EMS to senior management, and explain how a long term investment in sustainability will pay off far more than short term investments in quick-fix solutions. An EMS is bigger than one person – it takes several people in different departments working together to achieve success.

#2: Create Attainable Goals

Once you have the support needed to begin a new program, identify what areas of your operations to focus efforts on. Should waste reduction start in one department then branch into others? What is the most urgent waste stream that needs to be resolved? Most businesses find it difficult to implement a zero-waste goal right off the bat – shoot for a goal to reduce waste by 20%, or eliminate one or two waste streams a month.

#3: Inventory Current Processes

Before beginning to improve a system, ask team members, not just management, to take inventory of all their current practices and waste streams. Use this data to identify areas of improvement and assign a sustainability champion to each area to improve accountability. Get the data from each department and sub-department in your operations, big or small. Look through purchasing records, maintenance logs, waste disposal contracts, and production logs. Question everything: are you using the most sustainable, environmentally-friendly options? What happens to every by-product generated in your facility?

#4: Go For Low-Hanging Fruit

Often, some of the largest sources of waste are front and center in operations: laundering personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves and sleeves can drastically reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills and extend product life. Switch from disposable towels in the plant to reusable, sturdier shop towels, t-shirt rags, or microfiber wipers. Sign up for a commercial composting service and stop sending coffee grounds and napkins to landfills. Choose waste streams that are easy to update but have a relatively large impact. Having big wins early in the implementation of an EMS will boost morale and encourage healthy competition between each sustainability champion.

#5: Choose Vendors With Free Reporting

You’re paying for a service, why not get free waste reporting with that service? Many vendors or service providers offer complimentary reporting. CLR offers monthly sustainability reports, breaking down the amount of solid and liquid waste diverted from the landfill every month. You automatically have someone else crunching the numbers and taking a bit of the data gathering off your plate. It’s a win-win!