Environmental management systems after 14001
The idea of resource conservation in the operational process is in the foreground when applying the ISO 14001 standard. In addition to an environmental audit, the installation of a structured environmental management system and its integration into comprehensive management activities are required. This standard gives companies information and assistance on the elements of an effective environmental management system. Analogous to EU Regulation 1836/93, it is pointed out that environmental and economic objectives should not be in conflict with each other.
An environmental management system designed in this way should enable a company to introduce environmentally relevant procedures and then assess their effectiveness. The aim is to bring environmental protection measures as close as possible to the company's environmental policy objectives. In addition, environmental protection should be promoted in line with socio-economic needs.
It is clearly stated that the environmental management system follows the principles of the DIN EN ISO 9000 series for quality management. This should facilitate integration into mostly existing management systems.
The introduction and certification of environmental management systems (EMS) according to ISO 14001 has met with a broad response in the German-speaking countries, measured by European and worldwide figures.
However, in terms of the total number of companies that could be validated (in the manufacturing sector this is about 180,000 company locations in Austria, with about 560 certificates currently available), the participation in these voluntary standards is still rather subdued. The reasons for this restraint are certainly diverse. A common argument against introducing an EMS is the cost, especially of those companies that really have an environmental problem!
However, it is overlooked that tangible economic benefits can be achieved by installing an EMS within a relatively short time. These savings effects can be illustrated by a variety of concrete operational examples and studies. A collection of 1000 concrete cases from 100 companies can be found eg in a press release of the ISO.
The key to identifying the savings potential lies in the systematic inventory of the material and energy flows. This point is one of the cornerstones of introducing an EMS.
Both the Eco-Audit Regulation and ISO 14001 require this inventory, which focuses on:
• Energy and water consumption
• Use of raw materials as well as operating and auxiliary materials
• Waste generation
• (waste for recycling, waste requiring supervision and special monitoring, packaging material)
• Emissions (air pollutants / noise)
• Transport and traffic
In the systematic determination of these data, the first direct indications for the optimization of energy and resource consumption usually arise during the survey. By further targeted evaluations, the savings potential can be determined concretely. Helpful in this context is the formation of key figures (eg energy consumption per product quantity). Comparisons with sector-specific indicators (if available) can be used to identify weak points and potential for improvement.
Another economic advantage, although not directly quantifiable, is the risk selection.
Differences and future development
Most companies that have built an environmental management system have had their systems both EMAS certified and ISO 14001 certified. Because the differences are small. The most important differences:
Validity: While the validity of the EMAS is limited to the EU area, ISO 14001 is known and accepted around the world.
Location reference: The EMAS regulation stipulates that the environmental management system applies to an entire company location, but only for this location. On the other hand, according to ISO 14001, organizations or parts of organizations - for example a company including branches or only a certain part of production - can be certified.
Environmental statement: Who wants to build his environmental management system according to EMAS, must publish an environmental statement, which must be made available to anyone on request. ISO 14001 knows no environmental statement. Some companies that are afraid to use the environmental data of the competition to make sensitive company data accessible, therefore prefer the ISO 14001. On the other hand, if you want to improve your image with your neighbors, you should opt for EMAS.
Participation: While EMAS is currently limited to certain sectors - industry, commerce, and for some time banks and certain service sectors - ISO 14001 is open to everyone.
Funding: Another possible change, which relates only to Austria, concerns the funding. Previously, these were only for those companies that built their system according to EMAS.