The ISO 14000 series of environmental management standards are intended to assist organizations manage the environmental effect of their business practices. The ISO 14000 series is similar to the ISO 9000 series published in 1987. The purpose of the ISO 9000 series is to encourage organizations to institute quality assurance management programs. Although ISO 9000 deals with the overall management of an organization and ISO 14000 deals with the management of the environmental effects of an organization, both standards are concerned with processes, and there is talk of combining the two series into one.
Both series of standards were published by ISO, the International Organization for Standardization. The purpose of ISO is to facilitate international trade and cooperation in commercial, intellectual, scientific and economic endeavors by developing international standards. ISO originally focused on industrial and mechanical engineering standards. Now, it has ventured into setting standards for an organization’s processes, policies, and practices.
The environmental standards of ISO 14000 deal with how a company manages the environment inside its facilities and the immediate outside environment. However, the standards also call for analysis of the entire life cycle of a product, from raw material to eventual disposal. These standards do not mandate a particular level of pollution or performance, but focus on awareness of the processes and procedures that can effect the environment. It should be noted that adherence to the ISO 14000 standards does not in anyway release a company from any national or local regulations regarding specific performance issues regarding the environment. Some of the standards in the ISO 14000 series are:
Although the ISO 14000 standards are similar to the ISO 9000 standards, the nature of the environmental standards creates a need for people who are technical environment professionals in addition to those required to maintain the documentation necessary for certification.
The Benefits of ISO 14000 Certification
The benefits of acquiring ISO certification go beyond the satisfaction of doing a good deed. Adhering to the standard may result in better conformance to environmental regulations, greater marketability, better use of resources, higher quality goods and services, increased levels of safety, improved image and increased profits.
The environmental awareness and the documentation that are required by the ISO 14000 standards assist a company in conforming to environmental regulations. This means that a company, by diligently adhering to the standard, is less likely to violate environmental regulations and is always ready for inspection by a regulatory agency. In addition, the certification and documentation may aid a company in acquiring capital, in defending itself during environmental litigation and in receiving insurance or permits.
A wider market for a company’s goods and services may result from certification. Many corporations and governments will be looking for suppliers that are ISO 14000 certified in order to maintain their own certification and environment-friendly image.
Producers of consumer goods may find that many consumers not only try to purchase goods from environment-friendly companies, but will spend a little more if they feel they are helping the environment. In order to reap this benefit, a company must make their environmental efforts known through advertising and labeling.
The process analyses that go along with ISO 14000 certification may result in streamlining processes and more efficient use of resources and raw materials and subsequently reduce a company’s costs.
Reducing the amount of potentially dangerous substances in an end product may result in less use of dangerous chemicals in a plant. This leads to a safer internal environment for employees and the possibility of reduced insurance premiums. Improved employee morale may result when employees feel that the workplace is safer and they are contributing to the environmental effort
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