The international organisation for standardisation 2004 (ISO 14001) is the most widely used standard on which an EMS based (Environmental Management System).
The most recent edition ISO 14001 (2015) provides a framework that any company can follow to implement an effective EMS. Using the ISO proves to both employees and external stakeholders that the company are taking their environmental responsibility seriously through policies to measure and manage impacts.
The basic principles of the standard are based on:
PLAN - DO - CHECK - ACT
Establish what your objectives will be and the processes required. You should identify where your company is currently performing and where it needs to be.
Put your plans into action. Identify what resources will be needed and who will be responsible for what. Any potential risks and how they will be managed will be considered.
Measure and monitor all processes and report how the EMA is performing.
Respond to the results by taking action to improve performance of the EMS.
Whether you follow the criteria of ISO 14001 or not your EMS needs to include:
- An environmental policy
- An audit of the company’s current activities to see where improvements can be made
- Realistic targets and objectives
- Controls to ensure the policy is adhered to
- Staff training and allocation of specific environmental responsibilities
- A regular review of performance to see whether the system is achieving the stated aim.
As a part of your EMS your business should undertake an audit to identify what needs to be changed in order to reduce the environmental impact.
Areas that need to be considered include:
- Which environmental legislation applies to your business
- Whether an environmental policy exists or needs to be written
- How many resources and how much energy is already being used
- How much recycling and waste disposal currently takes place
- What the sources of your emissions are
- Whether colleagues are trained in environmental management or need further awareness training
- If a system is in place to deal with environmental emergencies, such as hazardous waste spills
It’s crucial that you understand the management system and the auditing process of your workplace. Knowing this, you can contribute where necessary and do you part to uphold good practices.
An environmental policy will provide your company with clear objectives and the steps that will be needed to achieve them.
The policy should include details on how the company will:
- Comply with the relevant environmental and codes of practice
- Minimize the risk to the public from its operations.
- Conserve resources and minimize emissions and waste.
- Protect the natural environment.
- Train and supervise staff to ensure they act with due consideration for the environment.
- Require contractors to meet the same standards of environmental care as the organization itself.
- Assess the environmental impact of any new site development.
- Regularly assess the environment impact of operations.
Training in environmental awareness
You and your colleagues need to understand why environmental awareness is important if your company is to achieve targets and objectives. The level of training your staff should receive is at the discretion of the company, but it’s also recommended that the following aspects are included:
- details of the environmental policy and objectives.
- Information on how work activities impact the environment.
- The benefits of improving environmental awareness.
- The actions employees are required to take in order to help the company meet its environmental objectives.
- The training sessions can also involve allocating specific responsibilities to members of staff.
Managers, team leaders and supervisors should ensure that the environmental strategy is correctly implemented in their department and that any targets are being met. However, anyone should be able to get involved and take responsibility for an environmental management plan in their workplace.
Who is responsible for energy efficiency?
Basically, everybody is.
We are all capable of reducing energy consumption. All it takes is educating ourselves and cooperating with energy policies so we can adopt positive changes to the way we use energy on a day-to-day basis.
Workplaces may have an energy manager, whether they’re in-house, or an external consultant. This may be a dedicated position, or simply a role of the company’s facilities manager. They should ensure that energy usage is constantly and continuously monitored, and that the energy reduction methods remain effective and up-to-date.
Did you know studies show that about half of the offices in the UK leave their lights on overnight and at weekends? This accounts for around 75% of the hours in a week, and is a serious waste of energy and money. With businesses in the UK losing a total of approximately 7 million pound every single day.
Energy management and where to start
To get started with helping your business achieve better energy usage consider the following:
- use accurate records of energy usage being kept, for example, through metering.
- Are your colleagues conscientious about the way they use energy?
- Is there an energy policy in place?
- What areas can be addressed to improve efficiency?
There are numerous opportunities to improve energy efficiency in your workplace, and they don’t need to cost a fortune. The best place to begin is with a free, or low cost energy saving methods, since these are easy to implement. Examples of these include:
* better operations, maintenance, and good housekeeping.
* This will reduce our nation’s overall energy consumption and you may see bigger reductions in energy use than you would expect. Something small will lay the foundations for promoting energy efficiency.
When the business has the budget to implement long-term changes, you’ll already have the foundations and the support of most people in the company.
So basic behavioural changes. Everyone in the business should start by adopting good habits. These good habits seem obvious, but are often overlooked because people aren’t aware of their impact.
Good habits could include
- turning off equipment overnight when it’s not in use. For example, printers, computers, monitors, et cetera.
- Setting your computer to go into sleep or hibernation when it’s not in use. You can also set some equipment to energy saving mode.
- Not overloading plug sockets.
- Turning lights off when you leave a room and only using them when necessary.
- Dressing for the season by wearing warmer clothes in the winter and lighter clothes in the summer. This reduces the need for air conditioning and heating.
- Keeping windows and doors closed, if you’re using the heating.
- Not overfilling the kettle, it will only have to use a necessary amount of energy to heat the water.
Lighting is often poorly controlled because it’s difficult to sense when there’s too much or too little. The eye can adapt to a wide range of lighting, so we don’t always notice poor lighting conditions.
Providing the right amount of lighting is not only important for reducing wasted energy, but also for improving productivity and performance.
Poor lighting can lead to headaches, migraines and eye strain.
Ways to improve the company’s use of lighting can include:
- making full use of daylight and task lighting.
- Having a daylight sensors that automatically switch off lights.
- Having occupancy detection sensors in place, so lights switch off when they detect no movement.
- Turning off lights manually when they are not in use. Keeping light fixtures clean and free from dust.
- Having lights automatically switch off at the end of the working day.
- Using LEDs for lighting, these can last up to 25 times longer than other bulbs.
Did you know turning down the heating thermostat step by one degree could save you 10% on your yearly energy bill?
Some ways you can help to improve your company’s use of air conditioning:
- turning the thermostat down to the lowest comfortable temperature possible, having it around 20 to 22 degrees is recommended.
- Avoiding heating and cooling at the same time.
- Encouraging people to dress appropriately for the season.
- Keeping doors and windows closed when heating a room.
- Improving areas where heat may be escaping, for example, cracks in the fabric of the building or poor insulation.
- Avoiding the use of portable heaters, as well as central heating. Efficient heating will prevent the need for both.
- Regularly inspecting boilers and air conditioning systems.
Preventing heat loss is essential for maximizing energy use. Heat can escape through various routes, including the fabric of the building.
As an employee, you can help make simple changes to prevent unnecessary heat loss. If you identify any drafts around doors, windows, the flooring, the ceiling skirting, and the eaves, you should report them to your energy manager. They can arrange to have them draft proofed, or repaired in the case of cracks and other forms of damage. They may also arrange to upgrade windows that aren’t double glazed as this will make a huge difference to the heat retention. This will minimize the amount of energy required to warm a room. It will also keep it at the desired temperature, and you won’t have to rely on air conditioning as much.
Did you know a crack as small as 1/16th of an inch around a window frame can cause the room to lose as much heating as leaving a window open three inches?
Corporate Social Responsibility. (CSR)
This refers to the duty that all businesses must fulfil.
It requires them to conduct themselves in an ethical way through practices that are environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable.
Businesses should follow a sustainable strategy that considers the potentially damaging impact that they can have and their aims to limit this.
This strategy may focus on one or all three of the main sustainability categories:
environmental, social, and economic.
It may include introducing energy efficient measures such a:
- sensor lights,
- giving back to the local community and charities by getting involved.
- Socially responsible investments.
- Listening and responding to colleagues and customer requests.
Your CSR is an important step in evidencing how your company is acting sustainably. This also has benefits in terms of presenting your brand’s image in an attractive way to potential customers and employees. You have the opportunity to build trust by being honest about your company.
Some ways to get your staff included in some strategies for raising awareness in the workplace.
You could form an action group at your workplace, possibly a committee, and your actions could include competitions, word of mouth, presentations, posters and stickers, reward schemes, training, emails, newsletters, and meetings.
It’s important that you give everyone a chance to put forward their own ideas and listen to what the other colleagues think. Having a discussion like this is likely to engage them and make them feel even more invested in the company’s environmental policy.
Running an awareness campaign allows you to gain momentum and maintain in the long term. Dedicating a whole week to sustainability will show how committed you and your company are to being environmentally aware. This gives your action group an opportunity to motivate people and get them thinking about the consequences of seemingly small actions on the environment.
You may wish to consider getting people excited about the weeks ahead by letting them know what’s going on ahead of time. You could send emails or announce what you are preparing in the meetings.
How you’ll keep the content interesting, obviously, don’t overdo the statistics. Hosting competitions and quizzes, as well as running interactive seminars and discussions is always a great idea.
Being seen as green is a highly desirable trait for companies to have and promote a positive, caring image of the company, and this is likely to attract both customers and new employees.
You can start to go green right now. No specialist environment equipment is needed for the basics. Here are some quick and easy ideas that you can use at work and at home to save energy and be more environmentally friendly.
- Think about how green your current energy suppliers are.
- Do they offer renewable energy? If not, it’s possible to switch to a supplier that does.
- Use equipment that is energy efficient, such as low-watt light bulbs.
- Turn down the thermostat. Turning your temperature down by one degree can save you 10% on your yearly bill.
- Keep heat in by closing windows and doors.
- Turn off computers, printers, fax machines, et cetera when not in use.
- Switch off the lights if you’re the last one to leave the room.
- Don’t overfill a kettle. It so unnecessarily uses so much energy.
According to a report by the Global Action Plan, computers and other related technology account for a worrying 3% to 4% of the world’s carbon emissions.
When replacing electrical equipment, find an environmentally friendly company and look for hardware that uses fewer toxic chemicals. Consider how recyclable it will be in the future. You may be able to find a suitable refurbished computer rather than a brand new one.
Look at the packaging that comes with the equipment. While computers, for example, need protection from potential drops during shipping, some still come with an unnecessary amount of packaging. You could also request that packaging is returned to the supplier on delivery for reuse, or use the supplier that uses packaging made from recycled materials.
Whatever business you’re in, you can switch your electricity supply from carbon fuels to clean renewable energy, such as wind, solar, or hydroelectric power.
You could suggest the following: using refillable ink cartridges, recycled paper, non-toxic pens, non-toxic cleaning fluids, and biodegradable products.
Introducing a read-only screen policy in your workplace so that people only print out things that are essential and send emails rather than printing documents where possible. When printing, set your machine to print double-sided, to reduce the font size to have fewer sheets of paper, and choose black ink.
Remember the three Rs, reduce, reuse, recycle. You should always be thinking about your consumption of resources and how to minimize the waste.
To put a recycling policy into place,
- you can find a provider who collects the different types of recycling that you produce. This may include glass, plastic, tin, or food waste, depending on what sector your company is in and how much of each you create. Your provider could be your local council, but they don’t always collect all types of recycling.
- Choose a provider that’s local if possible. This reduces your company’s carbon footprint because the waste doesn’t have to be transported far.
- You may also be able to find a provider that is carbon neutral, reducing the environmental impact from emissions. Providers typically supply large recycle bins to be kept outside.
- You and your colleagues may find it easier to use recycle boxes in the office, then it can be transferred into the larger bins.
- Don’t forget that you should also recycle batteries, ink cartridges and electric equipment too, although you must ensure that you do it correctly.
Does your company have a policy in place to ensure electrical equipment is always safely disposed of?
It is likely that your company will have to dispose of electrical equipment at some point, so there is a clear procedure in place and is followed correctly.
Waste electrical and electrical electronic equipment recycling, called WEEE, is a specialist part of the recycle industry.
It aims to safely recycle electrical goods to avoid them ending up in landfill. It’s estimated that 2 million tons of WEEE items are discarded by companies and households every year, some of which may contain hazardous materials, such as arsenic, lead, and mercury. If these are not disposed of correctly, then there is a chance they could contaminate the environment to potentially poisoning fish and other species.
If your workplace has electrical equipment it no longer needs, it’s essential that it is disposed of correctly. Often, local recycling centre’s will have recycling bins especially for electrical equipment.
Your company can start to reduce their contributions to pollution through simple steps.
Even the smallest of changes will make a difference.
- For example, if your company supplies fruit for its staff, you can encourage them to make sure that it’s locally sourced, such as from a nearby farm.
- You can also reduce your company’s food miles sustainably, by suggesting a switch to fair trade products. Some colleagues may also be inspired to change their buying habits at home.
Try to select new machinery that produces low emissions or retrofit emission-reducing equipment to existing machinery such as filters or catalyst converters.
Ensure that if you work in an industrial setting near to water, you have the correct drainage systems, and that the risk of spillages or leaks is minimized.
Dispose of all waste products safely and have the right procedures in place.
Encouraging colleagues to ditch their commute by car can be a bit of a challenge.
To make these changes appealing to colleagues, you could suggest to management the possibility of introducing incentives or subsidized schemes. For example, get your company to join the Cyclescheme, which is a government subsidized initiative, giving workers the chance to buy a bike tax free.
Make sure your colleagues are aware of other benefits, especially if your company is unable to offer financial incentives.
This can include highlighting to them the difference in a journey time increased by rush hour conditions, the cost of running a car, and the social aspects of colleagues sharing a car or using public transport.
On average, CO2 emissions per passenger for train and coach are a massive six to eight times lower than car travel.
Saving water is a simple task and often requires only small changes.
Some strategies you could adopt include;
- repairing any dripping taps. Leaks can cause as much as 60 litres of wasted water a day.
- Collecting rainwater from the roof or for a sustainable and free way of storing water for use in the business. It could to be used for watering the plants.
- Using a water meter to keep track of how much water your business is using.
- Installing water efficient fixtures in restrooms and staff rooms such as high efficiency toilets and motion sensor taps,
- avoiding running dishwashers or laundry facilities until the load is completely full.