How can ISO 14001 drive ESG and grow your business?

David Picton, SVP, Sustainability

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Written by: alcumus
15th February

Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) programmes are a growing and crucial priority for organisations of all shapes, sizes and sectors. Our recent research revealed that ESG is having a large or very large impact on most businesses across the UK, with the majority of them expecting that effect to increase still further in the next few years. Most companies are taking action to integrate ESG into their business strategy and decision-making, but many are unsure how to base those programmes on international best practice. That's exactly where the ISO 14001 Environmental Management System can swing into action.

Countless studies and statistics link consumer choices, employee opinions, investor decisions and media coverage to the ESG claims and long-term success of an organisation. However, much of that focus tends to zero in on the environmental credentials, and stakeholders are increasingly asking questions about the credibility of those elements. Businesses have taken various approaches to tracking and reporting mechanisms, including balanced scorecards and corporate social responsibility (CSR) reports, but leading businesses are now turning to ISO certification to back up their public statements.

ESG is an umbrella term that can be extended to cover the elements of your responsible business that don't neatly fit into your financial report. Depending on your approach, it could replace the balanced scorecard and CSR. ESG was initially a set of criteria that investors used to assess a company when making investment decisions, so it’s something that needs to be quantifiable, which is not always the case with the balanced scorecard and CSR. Now, it’s being adopted internally by companies as a set of measures to indicate non-financial performance. Nearly all large companies around the globe now report on ESG.

Whilst it's key to have a balance to the ESG ambitions of an organisation, it's fair to say that the ‘E’ pillar - the Environment - has garnered more attention than the S and the G. A 2020 survey found that 72% of consumers paid attention to whether a business acts in a climate-friendly way. A 2021 survey found that 1 in 3 consumers claimed to have stopped purchasing certain brands or products because they had ethical or sustainability concerns. COP26 - the climate summit in Glasgow - showed that much of the world was united on the need for climate action, and environmentally focused products are growing fast. The market capitalisation of Elon Musk’s Tesla electric car company is now higher than the GDP of many countries.

So yes, the ‘E’ pillar is a big thing. But many organisations are struggling to understand what management approach to take

Best Practice

This is where the ISO 14001 comes in. In one fell swoop, this internationally agreed environmental management system, perfected over 30 years, can help you pull together all the strands of your business that impact on the environment, take control of your operations, and enable you to measure and improve your performance.

Best of all, because it’s internationally recognised and so widely adopted, there are thousands of consultants and qualified individuals out there who at a moment’s notice can help you implement the system and get up and running. Elements like an ‘aspects and impacts’ register can draw out blind spots, risks and mitigations across your organisation that enable you to develop credible, focused action plans.

Organisations which learn, improve and eventually become certified to ISO 14001 are subject to third party audits. There’s nothing quite like an experienced, qualified auditor poking their nose into the detail of your operations to not only keep you on your toes, but to bring the wisdom and shared experience of auditing many other organisations like yours. Wider benefits include waste reduction, improved resource efficiency, lower costs and improved profitability – whilst also providing assurance that environmental impacts are under control, which increases stakeholder and client trust.

The rapid rise in popularity of ISO 14001 is remarkable. The number of certificates issued globally is around 350,000 as companies cotton on to the commercial imperative of certification. Organisations are finding that if they already have a management system like ISO 9001 or ISO 45001, then adding ISO 14001 is easier than they anticipated. Indeed, 95% of Alcumus ISOQAR’s clients hold at least one other standard alongside their ISO 14001 certification.

The ideal starting place is with the free Guide to the Requirements of ISO 14001 and ISO 14001 Gap Analysis.  Then get in touch to see how we can get you certified quickly and efficiently.