ISO 14001 update – are you ready to ‘think lifecycle’?

The release of ISO 14001 2015 in September last year included new requirements for companies to meet, with three years to ensure they comply with the new standard. 

The five key requirement changes to the globally recognised environmental management system standard were expertly laid out by Greg Roberts from Ramboll Environ in a recent IEMA webinar that ecosurety attended, and are: 

  • Leadership and commitment
  • Understanding the context
  • Identifying and communicating with stakeholders
  • Risks, opportunities and actions
  • Think lifecycle 

According to a poll in that webinar, ‘think lifecycle’ is the change that most concerns companies aiming to achieve the ISO 14001 update. Indeed, many companies are now beginning to think about the lifecycle impacts of their products or services for the very first time. 

So what exactly does ‘think lifecycle’ mean? 

‘Thinking lifecycle’ requires a company to think beyond the site on which it operates to consider other stages in the delivery of their product or service. These stages are applicable to most companies’ lifecycles:

ecosurety product lifecycle

ecosurety has held ISO 14001 for four years and it is in the process of analysing how it can meet the new standard. So, as a case in point, how does the update impact our business? 

‘Thinking lifecycle’ as a service based organisation 

As a service based organisation, ecosurety clearly does not have much of a product impact to consider, but importantly services must not be overlooked when it comes to lifecycle effects. ecosurety has always taken consideration of its impact on the environment and has taken a number of steps to reduce its impact already. 

Reducing the impacts of transport

Commuting is an obvious area that we can focus on improving. Working from home is encouraged and a great initiative we have implemented is joinmyjourney. As a small company we found it difficult to get everyone car-sharing to work with only a pool of 50 employees who are based all over Bristol and the surrounding area; so we developed joinmyjourney in partnership with our local council to unite the 8,000 people that work on our business park - maximising the potential of finding someone to share a journey to work with. 

Essential business travel is another key source of our environmental impact, with both our business development and client services teams traveling around the country to visit existing and prospective members. Sustainable business travel is promoted internally, but it can be difficult to travel far and wide efficiently using public transport alone. However, online meetings are used where possible and our business development team now run a ‘miles-per-gallon-challenge’ when driving is unavoidable, to see who can drive the most efficiently and get closest to the manufacturer’s guide MPG. Everyone loves a challenge and it is surprising just how competitive they can be! ecosurety has also recently purchased an electric vehicle to lessen its impact further – watch this space for more news about that.

Lifecycle analysis: the pitfalls 

This gives you just a small flavour of ‘thinking lifecycle’ - as you can probably imagine there are far more opportunities to reduce your impact than you might at first think. No matter what improvements your report identifies however, it is extremely important to present a lifecycle analysis correctly and without being misleading. There are a myriad of online calculators, both for a full lifecycle and carbon footprint (a form of lifecycle analysis which examines greenhouse gases only) which will probably only give you a very rough idea of some elements of your impact. Be aware that one of the most important considerations of any lifecycle impact calculation is to understand, and be transparent about, all of your assumptions. 

Lifecycle analysis can also be used for the wrong reasons. It is not a claim of how environmentally friendly or otherwise a product, service or company is. Instead, it is a benchmark by which you can identify areas to make improvements and subsequently measure those improvements in future analysis. Greenwashing gives valuable assessment tools a bad name!

Olivia Green

Key account manager

Olivia joined Ecosurety in October 2014 as a Graduate account specialist. Now, as a key account manager, her role involves working with our members to provide support across all aspects of the company.

Written by Olivia Green Published 25/05/2016 Topics Sustainability

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