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The link between ISO 14001 And Climate Change

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.

Environmental performance

continual improvement focus on improving environmental performance

Lifecycle perspective

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:

  • needs and expectations of interested parties (including compliance obligations)

  • local, regional or global environmental conditions that can affect, or be affected by, your company

  • actions to mitigate adverse risk or exploit beneficial opportunities are integrated in the Environmental Management System (EMS)

  • Leadership - promoting environmental management within your company

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!

Article originated on The Ideas Distillery Blog

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