By: John Fraser, QMI-SAI Global Environmental Product Manager
ISO 14001 is state of the art for managing environmental impacts, but occasionally a concern with very specific management needs will arise. For some organizations, that recently included the identification, collection, storage and disposal of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Today, it is more likely to be reducing and reporting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
The development and adoption of ISO 14001 has been rewarding for many organizations. These management systems have brought a rigorous approach to maintaining comprehensive environmental practices to companies who in the past often relied on isolated programs geared towards single-issue compliance needs. As a result, there are now over 8,000 organizations in North America who are benefiting from improved performance, savings, government and community relations and customer assessments. These organizations are also well positioned to deal with new emerging environmental issues.
Climate Change is everywhere. It’s in the news, it’s in legislation and it’s on the public mind. Next, your customers will be asking you about your GHG footprint as they collect data throughout their supply chain as they begin to provide GHG “nutrition labels” on their products. GHG is emerging as the most highly resourced and visible environmental metric, being used to report into regulated cap and trade programs, voluntarily into offsets and inventories/footprints and disclosed to those interested in your liabilities (the ISO 14064 series of standards were developed in response to these market needs). The current capabilities of your environmental management system (EMS) to support these demands are not enough.
Remember your EMS implementation? You probably did some research, bought a copy of the standard, secured senior management commitment, took some training or maybe hired a consultant, scoped out the structure and design, developed a detailed project plan and then implemented it. The biggest challenges were getting a full understanding of the requirements of ISO 14001, figuring out how to use existing practices to fulfill requirements and getting up to speed on some of the technical requirements, . The rest of the challenges were the usual ones that come with any project implementation – assignment of responsibilities, obtaining time and resources, etc. Implementation for GHG is not so different, especially given that you’ve already been through a management system implementation. Although the pressures are primarily to report and verify your GHG data, it begins with a GHG management system. In the absence of an ISO GHG management system standard*, consider your ISO 14001 management system as a basis for generating accurate GHG data.
If you have more than one management system in place, for example ISO 9001 and ISO 14001, then when implementing the second one, you likely scavenged any useful practices in the first when building the second. ISO 14001 has plenty to offer in assisting the management of GHG emissions, including the opportunity to you to use processes such as:
The most common pitfalls in GHG management – collected from QMI-SAI Global’s experience with verifications for pulp & paper, utilities, oil & gas, mining, manufacturing, chemical and government sectors – are likely to be omissions in identifying GHG sources, errors in calculations, and units and misapplication of calculation methodologies. Be very conscious of these and other stumbling points as you build your implementation plan and design your GHG management system. Well-managed GHG data can ensure you are in compliance with programs like Alberta’s Specified Gas Emitters Regulation (SGER) or California’s Assembly Bill 32. This data can also fulfill membership requirements like those of The Climate Registry, meet customer supply chain expectations, reinforce your credibility in the marketplace, inform the financial community, underpin improvement efforts and satisfy shareholder interests.
While ISO 14001 certainly expects your performance data to be accurate, complete, consistent, relevant and transparent, these principles are not explicitly mentioned. As this is the case in most GHG reporting programs, you will need to upgrade your management system to these enhanced data requirements. ISO 14064-based reporting programs like The Climate Registry and Alberta’s SGER provide a framework for what to report, how to report and how it will be verified. Your challenge is how to best leverage all the work you put into your EMS and the best practices you have in place to meet this new challenge.
* ISO 14064-1/2/3 are a series of standards addressing how to quantify, report and verify GHG emissions from facilities and projects. It does not define a system to manage GHG emissions.