Strategic Environmental Management – Gaining a Competitive Advantage Through ISO 14000

Gaining a Competitive Advantage Through ISO 14000

Much has been made of the new international standards for environmental management and their possible effects on American businesses. However, conforming to the new standards should require little or no effort for many companies which have corporate environmental policies and auditing programs. By repackaging their existing written programs, restating their goals and measurement systems, and registering their programs, these companies should be able to meet the new management standards.

However, the simple “repackage, restate, and register” approach could result in many companies missing an opportunity to gain a strategic advantage in the marketplace. Enlightened environmental managers will seize the opportunity presented by ISO 14000 and examine their environmental management strategy from a fresh perspective, using a combination of in-house and third-party experts.

The International Organization for Standardization Environmental Management Standards which ultimately are voluntary standards will include guidance documents for management systems, auditing, life-cycle assessments, and eco-labeling. Conformance with ISO 14000 Standards will enable American businesses to continue to trade with international customers such as those within the European Community, for which compliance with ISO standards is a prerequisite for trade.

ISO 14000 will promote effective management of corporate environmental programs, consistent with achieving other environmental and economic goals. The standards will not require achieving specific performance. Instead, the standards should facilitate integration of environmental considerations into the broader business of the corporation.

Everyone knows that “waste,” by definition, is inconsistent with economic business goals. Webster’s defines waste as “useless or profitless spending or consuming; squandering” and “a failure to take advantage (of something).” Most corporate environmental programs emphasize management of solid wastes, hazardous wastes, wastewaters, and air wastes. A growing number have begun to shift emphasis to trying to prevent wastes, working with others in the organization to find less wasteful ways of producing goods and services.

These environmental managers are adjusting their management systems to promote strategic goals of their companies or organizations. The first step for many is a so-called “gap analysis,” comparing their existing environmental management systems (EMS) with ISO 14001 EMS Draft International Standard (DIS).

  • Does the EMS include a self-evaluation or auditing function?
  • If it has an auditing function, does the organization adequately plan, carry out, and follow up on its environmental auditing programs?
  • Do the results of recent self-evaluations and/or enforcement actions suggest trends which should be addressed with changes to the basic EMS (staffing, responsibilities, tools, etc.) employed by the organization?
  • Is the right management information (e.g., compliance, cost, performance) readily available to those who require it?
  • Does the EMS support consideration of life-cycle costs for equipment purchased and goods sold (including consideration of disposal costs and possible long-term liabilities)?
  • Does the EMS consider, to the extent appropriate, whether environmental claims in product labeling and marketing are warranted?

The answers to these and similar questions serve as a useful starting point for conformance with ISO 14001.

SCS Engineers has assisted some of North America’s most successful corporations in performing “gap analysis” under the ISO 14001 DIS and in responding to larger strategic questions regarding environmental management. Our approach draws upon over 25 years of corporate experience in environmental management, focused in the areas of solid waste, hazardous substances, and risk reduction.

A multi-disciplinary approach, including engineering and science, regulatory compliance, risk assessment, information technology, and our SCS Management Services™ group, working in concert with experts within the organization undertaking the review, has demonstrated its effectiveness in helping to craft sound strategic directions for environmental management systems.

SCS Engineers is an environmental engineering and consulting firm with offices nationwide. Some of the nation’s leading experts in ISO 14000 issues are members of our staff. The firm has assisted hundreds of manufacturers, service companies, public utilities, and government agencies with a wide range of environmental compliance services.

For additional information, including copies of recent publications on the subject of ISO 14000 and the address of the SCS Engineers office nearest you, please contact:


Michael W. McLaughlin
3900 Kilroy Airport Way, Suite 100
Long Beach, CA  90806-6816
(800) 767-4727

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