Compliance with environmental legislation and regulation is becoming increasingly complex for the construction industry. It’s reaching the point where businesses are measuring its cost not just in fines for non-compliance, but also in terms of the costs of keeping abreast of changes to remain compliant, as well as opportunity costs to consider, where environmental performance is insufficient to win business.
Businesses that adopt a robust Environment Management System (EMS) to develop effective systems, strategies and processes to manage environmental performance avoid many of these problems and benefit from a number of significant advantages:
Cost savings from reduced waste output and energy use
Lower administrative burden
Ease of demonstrating compliance to potential clients
Improved reputation through consistently meeting legal obligations
The recently released update to the ISO 14001 EMS standard, ISO 14001:15 has been designed to help businesses reduce the cost of compliance as well as identify and capitalise on opportunities. Construction businesses, whether they are adopting the standard for the first time or updating from an existing standard, will find in ISO 14001:15 a suite of useful measures aimed at enhancing their ability to address their environmental impact. At the same time, it should help them take into account the increasingly complex challenges which construction businesses frequently encounter, such as responsible waste management.
Improve Performance, Not Just Compliance
This new version of the standard increases focus on environmental performance through the development and use of a planning process, rather than just a compliance procedure. It encourages the business to think about a broader range of factors that affect the environment and the risks associated with those factors. In this way, continual improvement is extended to the EMS, where its effectiveness for delivering enhanced environmental performance is consistently monitored and reviewed.
Strategic Focus and Leadership
ISO 14001:15 requires that environmental management informs the business's strategic planning processes. Senior management will need to become more actively involved with the EMS, ensuring that the organisation's environmental objectives align with its strategic goals, integrating environmental management into core business processes and fostering a consistent approach across the organisation and the supply chain. Environmentally-sensitive areas such as waste management can longer be left to chance - senior management will be required to take a leadership role in spreading best practice.
Better Evaluation of Environmental Impact
ISO 14001:15 helps construction businesses better identify the scope of their environmental impact and as a result manage preventative actions more effectively.
One way is to encourage businesses to consider the context in which the EMS operates. Businesses are required to identify exactly who their environmental performance affects and how to mitigate its impact. All effects, direct and indirect on all stakeholders are taken into account, as well as legal, social, economic or political issues and all other aspects of the environment that are impacted by the business's environmental performance. This means that businesses must extend their scrutiny to outsourced processes, such as waste management to ensure that best practice is adhered to.
The other way is to require businesses to adopt a 'lifecycle' perspective for environmental performance. This means that businesses will need to think about how their actions influence actual and potential environmental impact occurring both up and down their supply chain and work out how to control them. Environmental issues relating to design, transport and delivery, use and end of life treatment of the business's products and services will now have to be factored into the EMS. Again, best practice in waste management will be a significant issue.
How ISO 14001:15 benefits Construction Companies
Overbury is one of the UK's leading fit out and refurbishment specialists and an early adopter of ISO 14001:15. They unlocked a number of key benefits as they transitioned to the standard. Initially, they improved legal compliance and delivered greater efficiencies in their environmental management, especially in waste management. According to Neil Pike, Head of Business Improvement, the standard's revisions supported their focus on achieving complete client satisfaction. Furthermore, through increased risk-based thinking, the business was able to identify that its supply chain was both a risk and an opportunity. They recognised that by upskilling their supply chain, they could win more work. Now they had a new competitive edge to help grow the business.
Neil Pike best sums up the advantages of ISO14001:15:
'It really does give you the freedom to embrace effective management, focus on what your organisation’s outputs should be and bring efficiencies across all areas of the business.”
- Construct businesses who adopt an EMS benefit from lower environmental compliance costs as well as increased business opportunities.
- Adopting or transitioning to ISO 14001:15 helps businesses improve environmental performance throughout the organisation and the supply chain.
- The standard requires senior management to take a more active role in spreading waste management best practice.
- Businesses will need to develop a greater understanding of their context and life cycle of products and services, which will involve closer consideration of their outsourced processes like waste management.
- Early adopters of the standard are already developing a competitive advantage.