How to boost efficiencies by establishing sustainability goals

In today’s trying times, it’s crucial to establish sustainability goals in your operating model regardless of business size or industry. Here, we speak with EMCOR UK and Ordnance Survey about the benefits of earning ISO 14001 Environmental Management accreditation

Last Updated: 19 Oct 2022

These are challenging times for businesses. Financial instability has followed on the heels of the pandemic, while the energy crisis is increasingly acute.

When times are tough, it’s important to have robust processes in place, and the positive news is that businesses can navigate these trying times by adopting a framework for success and resilience.

BSI, the global standards body, partners with thousands of organisations to put these critical frameworks in place. The goal? To improve processes, develop best practices, push for continual improvement and power growth.

There are few more pressing issues than achieving a sustainable future, and ISO 14001 Environmental Management is the world’s most recognised environmental management standard. It is aligned to the UN’s Sustainability Goals by helping businesses reduce their environmental impact, and supporting growth, compliance, reputation, perception, and lifecycle.

But it is much more than just a management system. Throughout the auditing process BSI share expert knowledge with organisations on how to best manage stakeholders, customer expectations, staff wellbeing, emergency responses and relationships with their local community. Continuing assessment visits over the standard’s three year plan also ensure continual improvement is embedded into the business.

Here, two organisations – one that has been certified for almost a decade, and another that was certified last year – share their experiences of what earning ISO 14001 Environmental Management accreditation means to them.


Achieving a sustainable future

A BSI survey found that 60% of its ISO 14001 clients agreed that obtaining the accreditation boosts trust in their business, while 76% reported improvements in regulatory and industry compliance in their business.

These are compelling numbers, but what do they mean in practice? Fortune 500 facilities management company EMCOR UK has had ISO 14001 for almost a decade as part of its commitment to creating a better world at work.

“Environmental Management is critical, because sustainability really is front and centre of everything that we do,” says Jonathan Gawthrop, executive director of wellbeing, sustainability and assurance at EMCOR UK.

“We are wedded to the UN Sustainability Goals and we operate in highly regulated technical environments. We need to show our customers that we are managing their estates and all of their environmental attachments with rigour and within the regulations. The ISO 14001 standard allows us to accurately say that we are an authority in this space.”

Ordnance Survey (OS), the national mapping agency for Great Britain, is a recent convert to ISO 14001 Environmental Management. Ella Cowen, environment and property lead, was brought in to deliver the certification, which was received in August 2021. Part of the work OS does with government and private enterprises is to support them on their net zero plans, examples include optimising locations for renewable energies and helping startups meet sustainability goals.

“We’re helping organisations shift to a more sustainable way of conducting operations, so we needed to make sure our own house was in order,” says Cowen. “A lot of government and private companies insist on partners having Environmental Management as standard. We also increasingly expect companies we partner with to be certified, as it shows a commitment to sustainability issues, and we know they have thorough processes and systems in place.”

OS formally started the process towards certification in February 2021, introducing a robust governance structure that received buy-in from the leadership teams. “BSI has been brilliant at giving a lot of feedback,” says Cowen. “If you're not doing something right, or if you're not hitting certain parts of the standard, BSI will tell you so that you have the opportunity to deliver that improvement.”


Structured working practices 

As a result of ISO 14001, OS has put a three-tier structure in place that gives all levels of employees a platform to engage in sustainable processes, such as refitting the company headquarters with LED lighting. “Having that structure means we're reviewing every two months, which means we don't let things slip and we do take the opportunities as they come,” says Cowen. “It’s been brilliant.”

Having the BSI Mark of Trust brings credibility to an organisation, and the certification means companies have rigorous and clear requirements they can check against.

“You have to keep up with changes in industry regulation on Environmental Management, and that would be difficult without the BSI framework to operate within,” says Gawthrop. “As you get audited and re-audited, there's a requirement for you to be combat-ready at all times. So there are some really significant benefits from adhering to the frameworks.”


Creating an ecosystem of standards 

EMCOR UK takes a systems approach to certification, firmly believing there is strength in numbers when you integrate different standards to build an ecosystem.

“Standards shouldn’t be taken in isolation as a silver bullet,” says Gawthrop. “It has to be worked in with other elements of the way that the organisation operates. Without that, it's highly unlikely that the organisation will succeed anywhere near as effectively.

“We see all of our accreditations as a systems approach, with each standard connected with the next one – such as Environmental Management with Quality Management – to create a whole that ensures business is done responsibly across an entire organisation.”

For Ordnance Survey, ISO 14001 has been the start of its accreditation journey. Only 15 months in, it’s safe to say it’s been a success. “This has kind of been our pilot standard to test the experience,” says Cowen, “because it's gone well, other parts of the organisation are looking at other standards, and things are moving quickly in that space now.”


Discover how ISO 14001 can benefit your business here