In her book The ISO 14001 Implementation Guide: Creating an Integrated Management System
(John Wiley and Sons, 1997), Sue Jackson highlights many Keys to Success in ensuring that your environmental management system (EMS) is effective and beneficial to your business. Although the full range of topics is too extensive to include here, there are a few universal concepts that are critical to the overall success of your ISO 14001 implementation. These are:
1. Build on Existing Systems.
Every organization in business today already has some systems or parts of systems in place. At a minimum, you have financial systems, systems for producing product or delivering services, and systems for meeting whatever regulatory requirements are necessary to stay in business. You can build on these existing systems, and use them as a starting point. ISO 14001 is not intended to specify a new "ISO" system for your business; the standard only tells you what elements need to be in place in order for you to have an effective and complete system. There's no need to start with a blank sheet of paper.
2. Do What's Right For Your Own Business.
This sounds obvious but is by far the most common - and costly - mistake that organizations make when using ISO 14001. The standard was written in a way that provides plenty of flexibility so that your EMS can meet the unique needs of your own organization and business. Too many companies disregard that flexibility and end up with a system that adds bureaucracy and brings little value to their business. You shouldn't do anything in the name of ISO 14001 that doesn't add value to your business. If you think there's a requirement of the standard that's non-productive for your company, you're probably interpreting the standard too narrowly.
3. Focus on Effective Systems, Not on Registration.
Many organizations get so caught up in the goal of becoming registered to ISO 14001 that they lose sight of their ultimate goal: to increase profits and build their business. The ISO 14001 standard should be viewed as a tool to be used for improving internal processes, rather than an end itself. I've seen many companies develop ineffective systems because they were doing what they thought the registrar wanted to see. Forget about registration. If you focus on what works for your own organization - and meeting the minimum requirements of ISO 14001 - you'll end up with an effective system. Ultimately, that's what counts with the registrars; they'll be auditing your system to make sure it's effective.
4. Keep Systems Simple.
Everyone has heard the old KISS principle, but few organizations actually put it into practice. The biggest stumbling block to an effective system is overly complicated processes. Yes, the ISO 14001 standard does require documentation - but only to the extent needed by your company. Make simplifying processes an integral part of your management systems, and you'll experience wonderful gains in productivity.
These principles may seem simplistic, but they are often lost in an organization's enthusiasm to get registered to ISO 14001. Companies don't set out to implement complicated, costly systems; it happens when they lose sight of these basic tenets. Much of the bureaucracy put in place "in the name of ISO" stems from misunderstanding the requirements of the standard and the degree of flexibility available. Start with solid information on the requirements of the standard, remember these Keys to Success, and you'll end up with an EMS that helps to improve your business.