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Is ISO 14001 right for you?
by Larry Hands

Every company has an environmental management system ( EMS ) at some level. At what level is your company performing? Does it make good business sense to improve and upgrade your EMS ?

Is ISO 14001 right for you at this time, or are there better ways to proceed? We at Hands & Associates, Inc. work with companies to develop and improve their Environmental Management System (EMS) through a number of tools. We can help develop an EMS that is sized right for your company. Four different EMS sizes are presented below:

bulletISO 14001 certification
bulletClean Corporate Citizen
bulletStealth EMS™
bulletFile- Logic™

If your company is already ISO 14001 certified, or if your customers are saying that you need to get ISO 14001 certified, or if your company has decided to approach ISO 14001, then ISO 14001 is the way to go. Many people say that this system is bureaucratic and costly. We see that the work has good payback once you embrace the process. The focused scrutiny and clarity of vision that the ISO 14001 process requires, leads a company to improve its performance, operations and profits. Also, remember that ISO 14001 requires a plan, do, study, act, repeat approach. Once certified, it requires continual improvement. Is it time to start or improve on what you have done before? If you make improvements, will profits increase? Note that all EMS development processes take a commitment of internal and external resources. Just like when you start a preventative maintenance program, things get worse before they get better.

The Clean Corporate Citizen process is an option that does not necessarily call on third-party registration. This Michigan program provides a few regulatory "carrots." It does require that you declare to the world that you have a good EMS in place through a public notice process. It is simple to make this declaration after you have confidence in your own EMS . Also, if your company is already ISO 14001 certified, you should consider the Clean Corporate Citizen program.

If your company isn’t ready to declare to the community that they are operating an EMS , another option is a Stealth EMS. This looks like ISO 14001 or Clean Corporate Citizen, but is all internal. A Stealth EMS is right for a company that sees the benefit to having a strong EMS but does not see sufficient benefit to tell the world about it. Get top-management commitment, develop your environmental policy, prepare procedures, conduct regular Operation Reviews to measure improvement and use File- Logic as a recordkeeping system.

As a very simple start for developing an EMS , we offer the EMS in a box—File-Logic. Yes, File- Logic is a robust EMS ! File- Logic is a structured method of organizing, storing and retrieving valuable documents and information so that you can find them when needed. Because of its low cost, it is an excellent method to develop a bottom-up EMS system. We deliver a pre-packaged hanging-folder system with instructions, ready to be dropped into your letter-size-filing cabinet. Work this system as a continuous improvement process. Use it to develop and prioritize environmental improvement projects. You need to get involved! Don’t all those empty folders provide the same information as a gap analysis? How long will it take to see that the environmental processes are moving more smoothly than before File-Logic?

So—Where ever you are along the EMS continuum, Hands & Associates, Inc. is ready to assist you in improving you performance.