As environmental management systems become an area of focus for an increasing number of businesses, Lucy Mowatt speaks to Risk Management Adviser Rebecca Dingle about what’s behind the shift and how businesses of all sizes could reap the benefits of putting their own systems in place
According to 2016 figures from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), there are 16,761 organisations in the UK with ISO 14001 certification. This is up from 6,070 a decade before, while the worldwide figure stands at 346,189, up eight percent year on year.
“I think we’ve all become more aware of safety and environmental issues,” says Risk Management Adviser Rebecca Dingle – or Bec, as she’s known in and around ABG. “There’s interest in it across the board now.”
It’s quite a shift in attitudes from when Bec started out in Health and Safety Enforcement with Truro Council in 1999, having completed her degree in Health, Safety and Environmental Management at Nottingham Trent University.
“Perceptions have definitely changed,” she continues. “In my experience, there is a more positive attitude towards health and safety in today’s work environments. When I first started out there was more resistance of the profession and sometimes it was viewed as a waste of time.
“I’ve grown into the role over time too. My experience has developed through assisting a diverse range of clients. This has enabled me to have a good awareness of workplace issues across a wide range of industry sectors.”
Supporting the ISO 14001 certification process
Thanks to her background and qualifications, Bec is able to carry out environmental audits and support organisations aiming to achieve ISO 14001 certification. This includes helping them develop environmental management systems, so they can improve their green credentials and work towards becoming ISO accredited.
“People aren’t so resistant to the idea now. If a company has an interest in ISO 14001 they’re normally already engaged with the idea when they speak to me. The companies I work with want to realise the benefits of doing it.
“The main challenge is that it takes significant resources to put arrangements in place. It takes time to develop systems, to set objectives and targets and to start monitoring energy consumption or mileage, for example.
“But that’s where we [Alan Boswell Risk Management] can help. We have the resources and tools to assist and support the ISO 14001 certification process. We take the headache away. For instance, environmental management standard requirements are written in a technical way and can seem confusing. Plus, there’s a lot of environmental legislation. We can provide support and help simplify the process. When it’s explained to businesses, much of the time they say: ‘Oh, we can do that. We’ve got that. We have that information. We already have tracking devices on our vehicles for example’.”
We have the resources and tools to assist and support the ISO 14001 certification process
ISO 14001 benefits
With businesses that face resistance from key stakeholders, Bec is keen to point out that there are lots of benefits to encourage the implementation of environmental management systems and meeting ISO 14001 requirements.
“Quite a lot of the time there is a cost-saving benefit to making these improvements. If you install limiters on your vehicles, for example, you will save on fuel. That makes lots of businesses take notice.
“If you’re an ISO 14001 company, you’ll be looking to work with other companies that also demonstrate environmental awareness. You might even consider setting targets. For example, making sure that at least 50% of the companies you work with have it too.
You’ll be looking to work with other companies that also demonstrate environmental awareness
“You will be looking at the impact you have on the wider society. By working with other certified companies, you are demonstrating your environmental credibility. You can say: ‘We’re only working with people who are going to do their best’. It will make you more attractive to other companies.
“Plus, a big focus of ISO 14001:2015 is leadership within organisations. Company directors have to be involved. They have to demonstrate leadership, attend meetings and be aware of the progress. You can’t just be doing it for the sake of it. They have to be active in the process and this has to be proven.”
Wider environmental considerations
It’s not just ISO 14001 certification that can be used to highlight an organisation’s environmental commitment. The Contractors Health and Safety Assessment Scheme (CHAS) accreditation does that too.
“CHAS is a scheme that lots of contractors sign up to,” Bec explains. “You have to demonstrate your company’s commitment to health and safety. Part of this is completing the assessment process, which involves providing evidence of your health and safety policies, risk assessments, training records and so on.
“CHAS also requires information on environmental activities. It does not affect your accreditation, and they can’t fail you if you don’t have arrangements in place, but this information is publicly available. If a company wants to work with you, they can visit the CHAS website and see if you give consideration to the environment and if you have emergency arrangements in place. Plus, the fact that it’s there makes me suspect that it’s going to be a mandatory requirement in the near future, rather than an add-on, so it’s good for companies to think about arrangements now.”
The mention of CHAS is a perfect opportunity to ask Bec about how environmental management systems fit in with her wider role, offering risk management and health and safety advice.
“Environmental risk management and health and safety go hand in hand. At times I’ll be out doing a health and safety audit, but I’ll be pointing out environmental risks too. Things like waste management, fuel and chemical storage and emissions are all related to health and safety.
Environmental risk management and health and safety go hand in hand
“Across the board, you’re looking to make ongoing improvements rather than focusing what you’re doing wrong. Trying to do better, continually improving and making steps with it. Ideally, that’s what we’re doing on the health and safety side of things too.
“In fact, ISO has already created a combined management system to support business looking to implement both environmental risk management and H&S because they work so well together.”
External environmental assistance
With all of these processes, Bec and the wider Alan Boswell Risk Management team can provide assistance.
“We’ll help you to record evidence and document your systems, and help you put them in place if they’re not already. Getting the processes in place is often the biggest job. Things are easier to maintain once they’re in place.
“To maintain ISO 14001 certification, you will need to regularly audit your processes. We are able to assist with these audits and help you get ready for a review by a UKAS-accredited body [the body you chose to sign you off as ISO 14001 compliant]. We can even help you find a suitable UKAS-accredited body.
“By doing all of this and providing ongoing support, we help train our clients up. They understand ISO 14001 requirements and get to a point where they can do it themselves. We want to help our clients understand their own issues. We want to assist them, so they can help themselves, or be at a point where they can look after themselves.
We want to help our clients understand their own issues
“Working with companies and seeing them achieve 14001 is great. It’s a real sense of achievement. We work together towards something and within a set timeframe. We get results. We can see something tangible.”