How to Set Environmental Objectives and Targets for ISO 14001 Compliance? 

22/11/2023by admin0Read: 5 minutes

A decade ago, simply donating to charity might have sufficed for a company’s sustainability efforts. However, the landscape has evolved significantly since then, with businesses now under increased pressure to integrate environmental and social best practices into their core operations. This shift is not only driven by escalating environmental concerns but also by consumers who demand more from companies.

Notably, sustainability initiatives have proven to be profitable and provide opportunities for businesses. They confer a competitive advantage, bolster brand reputation, attract new customers and investors, and position the company as an industry influencer.

However, there’s a potential pitfall to be aware of. As more organisations rush to embrace sustainability, some may engage in “greenwashing” – a misleading marketing strategy that projects a false environmentally responsible image. To avoid falling into this trap, businesses should not view climate change solely as a corporate social responsibility issue but as a core business problem.

To navigate this complex landscape and genuinely benefit from a robust sustainable program, companies can implement the requirements of the ISO 14001:2015 Environmental Management System Standard. ISO 14001:2015 provides a structured framework for businesses to minimise their environmental impact and encourages the establishment of realistic and achievable sustainability goals.

This blog is specifically crafted to offer you comprehensive guidance on creating meaningful environmental objectives and targets in alignment with the ISO 14001:2015 standard. By following these recommendations, you can seamlessly incorporate sustainable principles and practices into your organisation.

What are the Objectives and Targets according to ISO 14001:2015?

Clause 6.2.1 of the ISO 14001 standard outlines that organisations should establish environmental objectives, keeping in mind their significant environmental aspects, compliance obligations, and associated risks and opportunities. These objectives should align with the organisation’s environmental policy, and be measurable, monitored, communicated, and updated as necessary. The organisation must maintain documented information on these objectives, and ongoing evaluation is crucial to ensure that the targets are met.

Key attributes of these environmental objectives include:

1) Alignment with the organisation’s environmental policy.

2) Measurability, if practicable.

3) Regular monitoring.

4) Effective communication.

5) Appropriate updates as needed.

Furthermore, it is imperative for the organisation to maintain well-documented information regarding these environmental objectives. As stipulated in Clause 9.1.1, continuous monitoring, measurement, analysis, and evaluation are essential to determine the extent to which the established targets have been achieved.

Specific Objectives and Targets will vary with the Industry:

  • In manufacturing, it may involve increasing the use of sustainable materials and clean energy.
  • Construction firms might aim to substitute traditional cement with recycled materials like glass.
  • Cleaning companies could reduce water usage and opt for environmentally friendly products.
  • Electronic and equipment installations may focus on effective electronic waste recycling.
  • Consulting firms could prioritise resource efficiency and carbon footprint reduction.

However, it’s crucial to note that for hazardous waste management, businesses must furnish evidence of proper disposal, which may include receipts. Auditors may request such evidence during audits, and failure to comply may lead to the identification of an Opportunity for Improvement (OFI) or even result in a Non-Conformance (NC) being raised.

When defining these Objectives and Targets, it’s essential to set realistic goals that can be seamlessly integrated into the organisation’s processes and clearly assign responsibility for each objective. By keeping objectives achievable, businesses can make steady progress toward building a robust sustainable program.

Setting overly ambitious objectives may lead to frustration within the team and hinder effective control over the organisation’s environmental impact. Therefore, it’s advisable to begin with realistic goals and progressively build a robust sustainable program.

Above all, when formulating these objectives and targets, pragmatism is of paramount importance. Organisations should consider how these objectives can be seamlessly integrated into their existing processes and should evaluate their feasibility.

Additionally, it is essential to clearly designate responsible individuals for each objective and provide them with detailed instructions on what actions need to be taken to effectively achieve the established targets.

How to Set Environmental Objectives and Targets for ISO 14001

We highly recommend that businesses establish a minimum of three objectives. This approach necessitates comprehensive consideration of the organisation’s various functions and levels while taking into account significant environmental aspects, and associated compliance requirements, as well as recognizing potential risks and opportunities.

The pursuit of at least three objectives reflects a genuine commitment to making a meaningful impact on reducing environmental footprints.

This strategic process primarily involves two key steps:

Step 1: Delve into the Complete Life Cycle of Operations, from Inception to Completion

As defined by the ISO 14001:2015 Standard, the life cycle comprises the interconnected stages of a product or service system, encompassing activities from the initial raw material acquisition or generation from natural resources to the ultimate disposal. These stages include raw material procurement, design, production, transportation, product use, end-of-life treatment, and final disposal.

This comprehensive analysis allows you to gain a profound understanding of how your products or services affect the environment at every stage, enabling you to establish meaningful objectives accordingly.

Step 2: Create and Implement the Environmental Objectives and Targets

As previously mentioned, these objectives should be quantifiable and subject to regular scrutiny during internal audits and management reviews to ensure ongoing implementation, achievement, and reporting.

Businesses should aim for at least three objectives that consider the organisation’s various functions and levels, significant environmental aspects, compliance obligations, risks, and opportunities. This demonstrates a genuine commitment to reducing environmental impact and making a difference.

Can Businesses Count on Carbon Offset Programs in their Objectives and Targets?

One of the most widely recognised and adopted approaches for businesses to champion environmental causes involves a concerted effort to diminish their carbon footprint. This endeavour can take shape through either internal initiatives or affiliations with third-party organisations.

A carbon offset or carbon neutrality program serves as an effective mechanism for counterbalancing carbon dioxide emissions and other greenhouse gases. This entails compensating for emissions by participating in initiatives such as “plant-a-tree” programs or other carbon offset endeavours. For more detailed information on this subject, you can explore the topic further here.

However, organisations that rely solely on carbon offset programs without initiating internal changes are at risk of falling into the greenwashing category. Greenwashing refers to the deceptive practice of conveying a false impression or providing misleading information about the environmental practices of a company, product, or service. Ideally, carbon neutrality programs should seamlessly align with other internal efforts. These encompass practices like endorsing reuse and recycling programs, curbing excessive packaging within the organisation, encouraging employees to adopt sustainable commuting practices, procuring renewable energy sources, installing solar panels, opting for recycled paper materials, reducing hard copy document printing, and curbing fuel consumption, among others.

When incorporating carbon offset initiatives into the Objectives and Targets, businesses should:

1) Identify the primary contributors to their carbon footprint, which could potentially be electricity consumption, among other factors. An effective approach is to employ a free Carbon Footprint calculator, readily accessible through online searches.

2) If businesses achieve satisfactory results, they may consider obtaining a Carbon Neutral Certificate, which can be prominently displayed on their website, social media profiles, and other marketing materials. Carbon neutrality is accomplished by calculating the carbon footprint and reducing it to zero through a combination of internal efficiency measures and support for external emission reduction projects.

3) In conjunction with achieving certification under the ISO 14001:2015 Standard, this approach significantly underscores a company’s additional dedication to sustainability.

Once the carbon footprint has been identified, businesses should devise a comprehensive plan for emission reduction, which may involve executing a carbon offset campaign. Collaborating with a reputable organisation is essential in this context.

Moreover, clear and transparent communication of these initiatives to employees and stakeholders is crucial to ensure their active involvement in the action plan.

For organisations not intending to achieve carbon neutrality, several alternative programs can be explored. Participating in initiatives like “plant-a-tree” programs can contribute to the creation and restoration of critical habitats for endangered wildlife, rejuvenating native biodiversity and revitalising degraded landscapes.

Alternatively, companies can engage in carbon offset programs to reduce their environmental impact or offset emissions. Another avenue is participating in conservation programs aimed at preserving established ecosystems.

Anitech’s experienced Sustainability Consultants can guide organisations in determining the most suitable environmental objectives and targets for an organisation’s specific business and industry. We offer comprehensive assistance in formulating a robust plan to seamlessly incorporate sustainable practices into your Environmental Management System.

To embark on this journey towards sustainable development, feel free to reach out to us at 1300 802 163 or e-mail – sales@anitechgroup.com.

For more information, stay tuned to our website.


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