Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Anniversaries: ISO 14001 is 10

Stumbling across ISO 14001 certification figures a few days ago jogged my memory to the days when it was first released - I must admit that discovering 14001 was released 10 years ago this past June was a bit of shocker - time flies!

It was controversial back then. The standard had the backing of governments and many businesses were stongly incentivized to get on board with it. I remember when Ford and GM joined forces a year or two later and made it mandatory for any company providing products or services in their supply chain to become certified under ISO 14001.

But pushback came from companies and environmentalists who said that the standard was causing weaker performance - not stronger. Some companies in Japan, the US, and western Europe had already adhered to high levels of environmental management, and the ISO standard - built with wide global uptake in mind - actually lowered the bar instead of raising it. Of course, there were the to-be-expected complaints of cost and burden as well.

Some say that ISO 14000 has been a solution to many problems: unintentional trade barriers created by environmental standards; the inefficiency of command and control regulations; and the plethora of permits, inspections, regulations and standards faced by companies trading across international borders.

I think the standard has done much for environmental management overall - not the least by creating a standardized set of vocabulary, expectations, actions, and (10 years on) a worldwide infrastructure of practitioners that can help companies cope with their environmental risks.

But is it actually improving performance? Does anyone out there know of any studies or impact assessments of ISO 14000 certifications?

1 comment:

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