Exploring the steps to environmental management

Third-party certifications assure stakeholders and provide a framework for managing environmental responsibility.

Third-party certification, where an independent auditor reviews a company’s practices against the requirements of a standard, is a powerful way to show your customers, suppliers and other stakeholders that you’re serious about your efforts and that you meet, or go above and beyond, environmental regulatory requirements.

In terms of sustainability in the label and printing industry, two of the most recognized are ISO 14001 and the Sustainable Green Printing Partnership (SGP).

“Third-party certifications provide an invaluable system of assurance to stakeholders”

As brands, investors and the public increasingly expect companies to behave in an environmentally responsible manner, operating with an environmental management system in place signals that you are committed to responsible practices, thereby leading to a better reputation with your customers. This is on top of the clear operation efficiency gains, risk management and regulatory compliance.

In this column, I will explore the steps to take to implement an environmental management system in your facilities.

ISO 14001

Let’s look at ISO 14001, the internationally recognized standard for environmental management systems (EMS).

All management systems follow a continuous improvement model of Plan, Do, Check, Act on an annual basis to establish policies, goals and processes to meet certain objectives. For ISO 14001, it looks something like this:

Plan: establish environmental objectives and processes necessary to deliver results in accordance with the company’s environmental policy.

Do: implement the process as planned.

Check: monitor and measure against the environmental policy, including commitments, objectives and operating criteria, and report the results.

Act: take actions to continually improve.

ISO has many management systems, including environment, quality, and health and safety. A strong benefit of using ISO 14001 as your EMS is that if you are currently using another ISO standard, such as quality, you are already familiar with the ISO structure and can use the same core management system functions for all your ISO programs. In addition, ISO is not written for any one type of organization or industry; it’s generic, and thus requires each facility to build the scope and content of its EMS from scratch. It is common for companies to enlist the help of ISO 14001 consultants to assist in navigating the requirements.

ISO 14001 requirements for content include the following categories:

• Context of the organization • Leadership

• Planning

• Support

• Operation

• Performance evaluation

• Improvement

Auditor Wendy Nadan, who has presented at TLMI functions numerous times, recommends the following steps for companies:

1. Have senior management declare certification as a clear goal.

2. Incorporate the EMS into every area of the business – sales, purchasing, shipping, logistics and manufacturing.

3. Integrate and include elements into everyday operations.

4. Utilize already existing methods, policies and procedures like your mission statement and sustainability policy.

5. Give authority and responsibility where necessary, adding new policies and procedures to your operations.

6. Employee training and active participation is key.

Sustainable Green Printing Partnership

Like the ISO 14001 standards, the Sustainable Green Printing Partnership (SGP) offers certifications on printing facilities in the US and Canada through its sustainability management system (SMS) approach.

An SMS is a management approach that aims to integrate sustainable practices into all processes and internal steps of a company. Like an EMS, it uses the Plan, Do, Check, Act annual cycle. SGP certification is industry-specific; certification criteria are written for the narrow audience of the printing industry. SGP follows the sustainability pillars of people, planet and profit.

To be certified by SGP, facilities are required to develop and implement the following:

• A sustainability policy to document and communicate the company’s commitment.

• Communication with internal and external stakeholders.

• A sustainability committee to monitor the SMS.

• An annual internal review of the entire program.

• Measurement and monitoring of key metrics.

• Upper management annual review of the entire program.

A key difference between SGP and ISO 14001 is that SGP provides templates for all the required written procedures, audits and assessments. SGP also provides access to the SGP Impact Tracker, an online tool that makes document control convenient and enables year-on-year performance tracking.

With SGP, environmental, health and safety audits, and an energy audit (including emissions) occur every two years. Each year, companies adopt a continuous improvement project with measurable results and there must be a set of clearly defined best practices of the company’s choosing.

While I have been a director on the board of SGP, either certification is important to have. Third-party certifications, independent of a company or product, provide an invaluable system of assurance to stakeholders. End users and the supply chain can be assured that the company can be relied upon and trusted.

Rosalyn Bandy is VP of sustainability for TLMI. For more information about TLMI sustainability, please contact rosalyn.bandy@tlmi.com. For information about TLMI membership, please contact engagement director at dale.coates@tlmi.com

 Rosalyn Bandy

Rosalyn Bandy

  • Sustainability Columnist