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ISO: 14001: How to build a robust environmental management system for a changing workforce

February 16, 2022


By Tony Panter
EHS Manager, EMEA, CWT

Just as organizations have systems to manage human resources and finance, it is equally critical that they have an Environmental Management System (EMS) for managing environmental issues.

Like all organizations, we have a duty to implement practices that protect our planet. For an organization of our size and scope - comprised of 12,000 employees with a physical presence in 140 countries – it’s a moral imperative as it is a business one.

In January 2022 CWT’s UK EMS was awarded an ISO:14001 certification for “The organization and booking of corporate travel including hotel, car hire, rail and air travel booking.”

As an experienced Environment, Health & Safety (EHS) practitioner I’ve learned that the secret to success in system terms is to constantly course correct as things change, and then adapt accordingly. The EMS is not something you dust down once a year, pre-audit. This does not go unnoticed by experienced external auditors. They are grateful to see that we keep our system alive year-round, and this is reflected in our retention of this certification. But creating and adapting an EMS in these uncertain times is no mean feat. Here are three tips to help boost your organizations’ commitment to the environment.

Change is inexorable

If properly implemented an EMS can help reduce operating costs and enable better management of environmental risks both now and in the future. It demonstrates your commitment and may even open up new business opportunities. It’s critical to stay agile.

Translating a passion for the environment into effective action has been made even harder by the pandemic.  As a service sector we encountered a mass move to home working which impacted normal operations. Ultimately this has distorted our consumption over this period. Energy and the cost burden has fallen to remote workers. We have had to think laterally around things like waste disposal because some functions have been particularly busy throughout the pandemic and generated special waste which we have needed to dispose of through approved contractors. It’s most definitely a project and all internal stakeholders must be fully engaged, mobilized and open to change.

Have a measurable plan of action

Our Environmental Management System (EMS) is built around the elements of the ISO14001:2015 standard. This requires us to understand and be able to describe the context in which our company operates. We have also identified our environmental aspects (cause) and impacts (effect), as well as risks and opportunities. The standard requires us to set measurable objectives, which our operating procedures help us manage. Our stakeholder analysis helps us understand who we are engaging with through our communications. It’s important to ensure adequate, well-trained resources. Our management review process is fed by an internal system audit that drives continual improvement. The external verification audit is the grand finale to each year’s endeavours.

Engage employees

Training and empowering local representatives is critical to success. We have appointed Responsible Business Champions (RBCs) to act as contacts for employees at a local level to facilitate activities linked to global campaigns like ‘Environmental Awareness Week.’ For all new employees - both home and office based - we provide welcome presentations giving links to all our policies. At our locations we guide employees to a dedicated internal resource where they can access training and, more importantly, they are encouraged to complete our Environmental Viewpoint survey which tells us what they really think, so that we can plan further improvements to our system.


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