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Your Impact On The Environment – Who’s Looking At You Kid?

The ISO 14001 environmental management systems standard has always encouraged businesses and organisations to really take a look outside of themselves and think of just who might want to know about their environmental performance and credentials –  whether the business considers the interest to be justified or not.

The 2015 standard has given much needed reinforcement of this idea and made it a formal requirement giving the concept its own sub-clause (4.2).

And why should this be so important to include in an effective environmental management system?

I’m sure some of you out there with responsibilities for guiding your business through the EMS development and implementation will have sat down with your business managers and leaders and really thought this one through.  Others may have sat down (or have had to sit down) on their own and come up with a few interested parties just to tick the box for ISO 14001 certification.  But this requirement is so important to making the EMS truly useful to your business. A genuine understanding of interested parties concerns can prioritise your attention on those environmental impacts which may have more business risk.

Putting the effort in to recognise those interested in what you do, finding why they are interested in you and engaging with their concerns can prevent or mitigate current and future risks to your business and may even generate some unexpected opportunities.

Knowing about interested parties who may have taken an uninformed view of (mistaken or otherwise) your environmental impacts can cause problems.  Engaging with these same interested parties can help to prevent misconceived prejudices and perceptions, prevent and manage business disruptions and also help you to identify and focus on future societal trends.  Every generation from the 1960s onwards – and probably before – has worried about the state of the planet.  Climate activists have recently sprung up from seemingly nowhere – again.  I’m sure David Attenborough’s BBC series “Blue Planet” was the hot topic of conversation in packaging firms up and down the land.  Some of those companies who had been listening would have a “plan B” to respond to the new environmental pariah – plastics – whilst others wouldn’t have a plan at all.  Environmental activism seems to be reigniting across Europe with new Members of the European Parliament about to take their seats.

On a staff engagement level I know of many businesses who have reached out to local charities, schools and wildlife groups providing some relatively inexpensive materials and time to make a difference to their local communities.  Businesses spend a fortune these days on team building, staff engagement and improving internal work cultures – perhaps a lick of paint, a bit of wood and allowing your employees to give some of their time to a worthwhile cause could be an answer to engendering a positive work culture, making internal bonds and re-energising your people.

Businesses need to listen to the prevailing discussions within society as these voices are your current and will be your future customers and employees.  Understanding what is being said should inform your business direction and not to listen can be a fatal mistake for some businesses.

And finally, my apologies to film buffs everywhere for the (not so subtle) twist on what is a classic Humphrey Bogart line…

Wendy Bowman, Senior Consultant.

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