The world has only until 2030 to stem catastrophic climate change - but can companies be part of the solution? And, if so, how?
A report published by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” are needed to avoid disastrous levels of global warming.
Whilst often seen as culprits, businesses can actually set a positive example.
What is ISO 14001:2015?
ISO 14001 enables companies to put in place an effective environmental management system, and is designed to address the balance between a company’s environmental impacts while maintaining profitability.
Environmental issues are growing in prominence; energy efficiency, environmental compliance, environmental impact, and carbon footprint are widely discussed. In implementing an environmental management system, companies can effectively control these issues, and ensure that they are fully compliant with environmental legislation.
They also join in the fight against climate change. Being ISO 14001 certified proves to stakeholders, customers, suppliers etc. that you are environmentally credible.
So what’s the link between ISO 14001 and climate change?
One of the major challenges that face us all is that of mitigating and adapting to climate change. Internationally, work has progressed from the formation of United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to the Paris Agreement which came into force on 4 November 2016.
Under the Paris Agreement countries agree to hold the global temperature increase due to increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, to below 2 °C, aiming at 1.5 °C. This commitment is realised through a commitment at national level to reduce national GHG emissions. Additionally, countries agreed to support action to adapt to the consequences of climate change.
For users of ISO 14001 the question is ‘How does ISO 14001 help organisation to mitigate and adapt to climate change? The diagram below shows the link between key clauses in ISO 14001:2015 and climate change mitigation and adaption. It shows that users of ISO 14001 CAN address climate change challenges through their management system:
ISO 14001 deals with the need to adapt to any change in environmental conditions and hence include matters such as the need to adapt to other environmental consequences which are not due to climate change, for example loss of ecosystem services and biodiversity.
Additionally ISO 14007 and ISO 14008 help companies provide a ‘value’ and ‘determine the costs’ for the GHG they emit and to ‘determine the cost benefit’ in their company for any action they take to adapt to climate change.
So UN Sustainable Development Goals - can ISO standards help? Yes!
Eight out 17 UN SDGs directly link to the focus of ISO 14001, such as those related to clean water and sanitation; affordable and clean energy; decent work and economic growth; industry, innovation and infrastructure; responsible consumption and production; climate action; life below water; and life on land.
The UN SDGs cover both mitigation of environmental impacts and adaptation to changes in the environment – both topics are covered by ISO 14001.
Four out of 17 UN SDGs – while relating to human and social issues – are areas where ISO 14001 by, among others, reducing harmful emissions reduces the impact on human health as exemplified by the goal on zero hunger and no poverty.
Which UN SDGs and targets may be considered by a company using ISO 14001 will depend on many and diverse factors such as what the organisation does, its resources and its overall business aims.
How does ISO 14001:2015 support achievement of UN SDGs?
ISO 14001 in relation to environmental matters cover issues such as:
Protecting the environment
commit to proactive initiatives to protect the environment from harm and degradation;
protect the environment can include prevention of pollution, sustainable resource use, climate change mitigation and adaptation, protection of biodiversity and ecosystems, etc.
continual improvement focus on improving environmental performance
extend its control and influence to the environmental impacts associated with product use and end-of-life treatment or disposal
Strategic Environmental Management
increased focus on environmental management within your company’s strategic planning processes and understanding your context focus:
If you run a business and care about climate change and - more importantly - want to do something about it, then getting and effectively operating ISO 14001 is definitely for you!
As isolation is eased and people return to work, governments across the UK are requiring organisations to complete risk assessments as part of the permission to resume normal service.
Health and safety law requires employers, who continue to operate under current circumstances, to do ‘what is reasonably practicable’ to protect their staff and members of the public.
As an employer, you’re required by law to protect your employees, and others, from harm. Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, the minimum you must do is:
To fulfil this duty in addressing the risk from COVID-19 all companies must review their risk assessments and put in place measures to ensure the guidance available from their respective governments (in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales) is implemented.
Risk assessment covering exposure to Covid-19 will be different from one organisation to another. Healthcare workers, retail cashiers, home delivery drivers, utility engineers and construction workers have different exposure to this risk.
A risk assessment should recognise the virus as a hazard. It should also reflect that the virus is spread in minute water droplets that are expelled from the body through sneezing, coughing, talking and breathing.
The virus can be transferred to the hands and from there to surfaces. It can survive on surfaces for a period after transfer (depending on such things as the surface type, its moisture content and temperature). The risk assessment should conclude that if it is passed from one person to another, while many survive infection, some may die from the disease. It should be regarded as a high hazard.
The safety hierarchy of control can serve you well in considering what can be done. Any mitigation controls devised and implemented must reduce exposure of employees and anyone else who could be infected by your employees.
Control considerations must include identification of those who may have the disease, preventative measures and what to do if you find if an employee has contracted the disease. In other words, there may be elements of management systems design to think about. Decisions about what may be done must be realistic and reasonably practicable: achievable given the resources available.
Elimination is the best form of control. Can we eliminate the virus? Only through vaccination, so there is little that can be done by organisations. They are reliant on government response. Organisations should monitor vaccine availability and the priority of their workforce in any future vaccination programme so that arrangements can be made promptly. Social distancing and staying at home are not forms of elimination, but an administrative control.
Next in descending order is substitution: replacing the virus for something less harmful is not possible. Engineering controls place a physical barrier between the person and the hazard, or provide mechanical reduction of the hazard. Placing screens between people (e.g. cashier points in shops) will interrupt the flow of air from one person to another and therefore provide protection.
Providing ventilation is also an option. Recent research has shown that downward ventilation onto a patient’s bed considerably reduces the exposure of healthcare workers to infected droplets suspended in the air. Care must be taken if ventilation is to be considered. The fundamental question is where the potentially infected water droplets are ventilated to. It’s no good if they are blown onto other people or surfaces and increase exposure elsewhere. But as a principle it is worthy of some consideration e.g. ask whether the job must be done in a workshop, or can be done outside.
But then also consider exposure to ultraviolet radiation and other risk. Ventilation is a good control if it takes infected air away from people and transfers it to somewhere where the virus will not do harm.
Administrative controls provide the best options for most organisations. The risk assessment must consider how you will keep the workplace and equipment clean, adjust your working practices and ensure people are safe.
As an ISO consultancy obviously there is a big focus on taking a risk-based approach and the assessment of risk, evaluating effectiveness of control measures, complying with regulations, legislation, etc.
As businesses start to mobilise they’ll have the twin issue of new, immediate significant risks which will have arisen due to the pandemic alongside dealing with budget constraints and limited compliance resources.
We’ve been helping businesses in these scenarios, assessing their risk and conducting a review with the aim of identifying core compliance requirements. Much of this has been driven by their own clients requiring supply chains to undertake a proper Risk Assessment of current working arrangements.
Significantly, the crisis may have caused companies to find new suppliers that have not been fully vetted due to time pressures. Likewise, the pandemic may have caused substantial risks to employee safety associated with reopening businesses, such as effective social distancing. This emerging risk will likely call for the development of new policies and procedures that will require close oversight by senior management.
Our review will usually entail a historic review of internal procedures and controls to identify past activities or other problems to determine where the biggest risks reside. At this point we undertake a detailed COVID-19 Risk Assessment. External industry risks such as enforcement actions are considered as well.
But for those businesses who simply want to undertake their own detailed assessment, we are giving away the template we use for free. You can simply download it here.
There is no catch, we won’t ask you to sign up for anything, simply download, conduct the Risk Assessment and get back to work!
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