Global Warming – What can be done? Can ISO 14001 help?

One of the front page headlines in the Monday, June 13, 2005 edition of USA Today read: “The debate’s over: Globe is warming.” The sub-title paragraph declared: “Politicians, corporations and religious groups differ mainly on how to fix the problem.”

While there will always be hold-outs, fewer and fewer knowledgeable people are denying that global warming is a reality resulting from an increase in the amount of greenhouse gases being generated. What remains in debate are the causes of this phenomenon. Is it man-caused, perhaps a by-product of the growing demand for energy, much of which is produced from fossil fuels? Is it a product of natural events like volcanic eruptions or the digestive processes of animals? Is deforestation part of the problem? Is it a combination? Are there other, yet undefined factors at work?

Much work needs to be done to answer these questions. Depending upon the answers, environmental scientists will then turn their focus from cause definition to mitigating the effects of global warming, and instituting corrective and preventive action. Does this sound like the same language used by those involved in quality and/or environmental management system? Of course it does! Quality and environmental professionals have been using the tools of problem prevention and corrective action for years to predict problems before they occur and to correct problems if and when they occur and institute actions to prevent recurrences.

As individuals, each of us can contribute to the solution. As a start, we can choose to drive vehicles that are more fuel-efficient. We can plant more trees. We can recycle where practicable. We can take stock of our energy consumption practices and try to reduce them by some factor.

But, what steps can your organization take to help? The answers are varied, depending upon the size of the organization and the related environmental aspects and impacts. But no matter how simple or complex the business, each can benefit from the implementation of a management system based on ISO 14001:2004. This international standard has as its focus the prevention of pollution, accomplished by a teamwork approach to identifying those aspects of the organization’s processes that have the potential for harming the environment and the development of ways to reduce or prevent this harm. In the process, many organizations have found ways to reduce costs by elimination of scrap, changes to their waste disposal processes or reduced use of natural resources. It is the application of the system approach that has proven to be successful. And, once the system is in place, it is logical and beneficial to have that system certified and registered. This provides added assurance that the management system remains effective and also provides public recognition to numerous stakeholders that your organization is committed to the prevention of pollution.

Smithers Quality Assessments has many clients certified to ISO 14001. Those that have been certified for some time are reaping the benefits of reduced costs, and in their own, perhaps limited way, have made a contribution to the reducing one or more of the suspected causes of global warming. If you want to be part of this movement, just call me directly. I’ll be happy to discuss this further with you.