What does achieving ISO 14001 mean in the world of logistics?
“ISO14001 is the international standard that specifies requirements for an effective environmental management system (EMS). It provides a framework that an organization can follow, rather than establishing environmental performance requirements.”
The words you have just read are an official description of what ISO 14001 is. However, what it means to any business in the world of logistics, freight and cargo, holds much more weight than its description.
An ISO accreditation of any sort is universally recognised as a quality standard in business. Achieving ISO 14001 within a freight organisation is a benchmark which sets out our objectives for the environment. It also shows our seriousness as a company to execute sustainable practices throughout our organisation across every aspect of our business.
So why does this matter?
Although it is not currently essential, sooner or later governments will act to ensure businesses take full responsibility of their environmental impact. Those businesses that have not already begun a process of authentic action that is on-going, accountable and measurable, will struggle and undoubtedly fail to reach the standards required, or meet them within the timeframes set out by any new legislation.
Adopting and implementing measures in a large organisation that directly impact their environmental footprint requires a process that drives continual improvement. We use the ‘Plan, Do, Check, Act’ cycle. Complying with the requirements of the standards set out by ISO 14001 is not something that is achieved and then dispensed with. It is a continual process of setting objectives, documenting processes, implementing procedures and developing systems to meet those objectives.
In our industry we can’t avoid an environmental impact, it would be foolish to believe otherwise, but we can lessen our footprint. The importance of our industry in the scheme of life mustn’t be underestimated, we are the logistic network behind the fabric of modern living in one way or another. So the challenges of carbon reduction and strong environmental practices must go hand in hand without disrupting modern life, or it must at least be comfortable with evolving and adapting to new ecological practices. The pursuit of improving standards and reducing environmental damage is a goal for everyone in our industry of ‘moving things’.
Who actually benefits from ISO 14001 accreditation?
In a nutshell, we all do. Obtaining ISO 14001 gives our customers confidence that we have systems in place to ensure a consistent high level of practices that meet international standards. This is achieved through implementing an effective environmental management system that works and keeps evolving. Customers can also be assured they are working with a competent, trustworthy and reliable business. Our ISO accreditations certify that we are working to an integrated management system that is audited by an external source several times a year, providing reassurance that we continue to meet and exceed the requirements of the ISO standards.
‘Environmental management’ must become the buzzwords of the industry as we move forward and as a greater understanding of environmental ‘responsibility’ becomes the focus of governments, media and people in general. The UK government have already committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions to almost zero by 2050 over fears of reaching the threshold for dangerous climate change. Legislation will form an important part of the discussion, and it is at this point that companies need to be ahead of the curve, for many reasons. There exist some old adages used in business, such as ‘fail to plan, plan to fail’, equally ‘fail to act’ and ‘act to fail’ could be applied as the environmental challenges we face increase. The environmental roadmap will become tougher to negotiate as the topic of global warming intensifies.
Legislation by its very nature will bring changes to the way our industry operates. Therefore, if we already have internationally recognised standards and procedures in place, we can prove that we not only care about the environment, but we have daily practices that show a deep level of understanding and responsibility to the environment on behalf of our customers.
Environmental awareness is growing in the developed and developing world, and as Priority Freight continues to operate on a global platform, this issue, which affects us all, will take an increasingly important role in how we conduct our business. ISO 14001 certification shows we are serious about our environmental impact and that we have taken strides to tackle aspects of our business where we can immediately make and prove a difference.