Leveraging Emerging Management System Standards to Create Improved EHS and Sustainability Performance

Management systems can strengthen business advantage by providing better data accuracy and transparency, and provide increased opportunities for cost avoidance and cost savings, while also creating opportunities for improving profit margin.

Susan Mazzarella, LEED AP and Harmony Scofield

Management systems are becoming more common in business as companies seek reputable ways to demonstrate responsibility to the international community. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) continues to develop and improve international standards for environment, health and safety (EHS), security and many other business processes. Understanding these new and emerging standards can be key in developing your own management systems to maximize business efficiency, improve profit/cost ratios, reduce environmental and energy impact, and improve your organization’s reputation in the business community. Certifying your organization to one or more standards can improve credibility, both internally and externally, and demonstrate your commitment to performing above conformance level and becoming an industry leader in EHS and related issues.

This article will discuss some of the benefits, drivers and challenges of establishing a management systems approach in your business. We’ll provide an overview of some of the newer EHS and related management systems, as well as some of the advantages of developing a management system in the waste management industry to track and improve such factors as overall environmental footprint, safety and health concerns, or energy usage and management. In addition, we’ll discuss how a customized integrated management system—comprising elements of two or more standards—can maximize benefits as it decreases time and resource requirements.

What is a Management System?

A management system is a framework of processes and procedures that help ensure that an organization can fulfill all tasks required to achieve its objectives. This framework includes responsibility/accountability for tasks and processes, a schedule for activities to be completed, an auditing tool and a corrective action process. The system supports improved company performance through a process of continuous improvement, most often described as “Plan, Do, Check, Act.” Management systems align with existing company goals and provide measurable results to report to internal and external stakeholders.

Management Systems Drivers

Companies are driven to develop a management system or seek certification to international standards for many reasons, both internal and external. External drivers include customer and stakeholder expectations, as well as supply chain demands. As more companies seek to improve their sustainability and social responsibility and decrease their environmental impact, large companies are requiring more rigorous standards up and down their supply chains. This may already be a factor in how your organization does business; demonstrating conformance to a standard may be an attractive feature to customers and other stakeholders. Some companies see the benefit to performance, as streamlining processes and procedures can lead to reduced costs and improved profit and efficiency. The time spent to develop a management system can quickly show measurable results to process efficiency and a return on investment. Increased performance may then lead to increased market share, which can be a powerful driver for management and stakeholders. Finally, corporate and upper management may make the internal decision that the company, subsidiary or specific sites will conform or be certified to a standard, so management decisions can be a driver as well.

Key Benefits of a Management System

Companies can realize many benefits from developing a management system, including:

  • Sustainable, organized, replicable risk management approach

  • Improved EHS performance and communication

  • EHS goals that align with the company’s missions, visions and policies

  • Efficient use of resources

  • Proactive response to stakeholder interest (employee, stockholders, customers)

  • Cost avoidance/cost savings

  • International recognition

Overview of Common Management System Standards

These most widely used management standards have excellent application for any organization dealing in solid waste or recycling. EHS management systems can enable companies to better manage their overall environmental footprint, while focusing on the most important safety and health issues facing employees. Companies can track energy usage and resources, health and safety and ergonomics plans, and overall waste generation through the management system, and provide evidence of continual improvement year over year in these areas, while maximizing efficiency for day-to-day operations.

Quality: ISO 9001

The world’s most established quality framework, ISO 9001 is used by approximately 1,064,000 organizations in 178 countries worldwide. ISO 9001 sets the standard not only for quality management systems, but management systems in general. This standard is suitable for any organization looking to improve the way it is operated and managed, regardless of size or sector.

Environmental: ISO 14001:2004

ISO 14001, the Environmental Management System, is a management tool enabling an organization of any size or type to:

  • Identify and control the environmental impact of its activities, products or services

  • Improve its environmental performance continually

  • Implement a systematic approach to setting, achieving, and demonstrating achievement of environmental objectives and targets

Occupational Health and Safety: OHSAS 18001:2007

The Occupational Health and Safety Management System provides a framework to:

  • Consistently identify and control health and safety risks

  • Reduce the potential for accidents

  • Aid legislative compliance

  • Improve overall performance

This standard can be adopted by any organization wishing to implement a formal procedure to reduce the risks associated with health and safety in the working environment for employees, customers and the general public.

Implementation and Ongoing Challenges

Many challenges can arise when developing and implementing a management standard. Finding time and internal resources to dedicate to the process is one of the biggest challenges. Additionally, it can be challenging to put together a qualified team who has expertise in the area of the standard. Once the process is in motion, demonstrating return on investment to your management team or stakeholders can be a challenge, as the initial outlay of resources may overshadow the immediate return. Once a program is in place, finding new ways to continually improve performance can become a challenge.

Detailed Overview: ISO 50001 Energy Management System

ISO 50001 is a framework for organizations to manage energy use—both energy sources and energy efficiency. Most organizations have energy as a significant environmental aspect, so this is highly applicable in most industries, including industrial, commercial, institutional and governmental facilities. Key benefits include:

  • Savings on energy bills

  • Sustainable use of finite energy resources

  • Framework to evaluate and prioritize energy efficiency improvements

  • Reduction in GHG emissions

  • Transparency in energy use

In addition, there are numerous supply chain benefits, including improved accuracy associated with Scope 1 and Scope 2 GHG emission quantification. This can create increased opportunity for cost savings and margin benefits to companies who choose to record and report on this data.

The ISO 50001 structure is comparable to most of the other ISO standards, and aligns well with ISO 14001. The continual improvement process follows a “Plan, Do, Check, Act” framework. For energy management, this leads to specific tasks and processes in each stage, as follows:

  • Plan

  • Conduct an energy review to establish baseline energy usage

  • Establish energy performance indicators

  • Establish objectives, targets and action plans necessary to deliver results to improve energy performance and the organization’s energy policy

  • Do

  • Implement the energy management action plans

  • Check

  • Monitor and measure processes and the key indicators that determine energy performance against the energy policy and objectives

  • Report the results

  • Act

  • Take actions to continually improve energy performance and the Energy Management System (EnMS)

Other Emerging Standards

Companies in the waste management and recycling industries may find value in incorporating these new standards into existing management systems, or developing a system using the new standards. Energy management, greenhouse gases and business continuity may be of specific interest to larger companies employing fleets or multiple facilities. Companies of any size can benefit from additional focus on reducing energy and managing carbon and environmental footprint, both in saved resources and in reputation—“green” or sustainable companies are in high demand among consumers and stakeholders.

ISO 14006: Guidelines for Incorporating Eco-Design

Although not intended for certification, ISO 14006 provides guidelines to assist organizations in continually improving their management of eco-design as part of an environmental management system (EMS). It is intended for organizations that have already implemented an EMS in accordance with ISO 14001, but can also help in integrating eco-design in other management systems.

ISO 14044: Life Cycle Assessment

ISO 14044:2006 specifies requirements and provides guidelines for life cycle assessment (LCA) and can assist in:

  • Identifying opportunities to improve environmental performance

  • Providing information to decision-makers for strategic planning, priority setting, product or process design/redesign

  • Selection of relevant environmental indicators

  • Marketing (e.g., eco-labeling scheme, environmental claims, environmental product declaration)

ISO 14064: Greenhouse Gases

ISO 14064-1:2006 specifies principles and requirements at the organization level for quantification and reporting of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and removals. This standard includes requirements for the design, development, management, reporting and verification of an organization’s GHG inventory.

ISO 22301: Societal Security – Business Continuity

This new standard for 2012 focuses specifically on business continuity—protecting your organization in the event of business interruption. The standard specifies requirements to develop and manage a documented system to “protect against, reduce the likelihood of occurrence, prepare for, respond to and recover from disruptive incidents,” according to the abstract on the Web site. This system could support an already developed emergency management system, or assist companies in developing emergency management, disaster recovery and business continuity programs if these are not already in place.

ISO 26000: Social Responsibility

ISO 26000 aims to be a first step in helping organizations achieve the benefits of operating in a socially responsible manner. It is not intended for certification, but could be incorporated into another management system as part of an integrated management system approach. This standard provides guidance on:

  • Concepts, terms and definitions related to social responsibility

  • Background, trends and characteristics of social responsibility

  • Principles and practices relating to social responsibility

  • The seven core subjects: human rights, labor practices, environment, fair operating practices, consumer issues, and community involvement and development

  • Integrating, implementing and promoting socially responsible behavior throughout the organization and, through its policies and practices, within its sphere of influence

  • Identifying and engaging with stakeholders

  • Communicating commitments, performance and other information related to social responsibility

ISO 28000: Supply Chain Security

ISO 28000 is the specification for security management systems for the supply chain. This standard details the requirements for a security management system, including those aspects critical to security assurance of the supply chain, including transporting these goods along the supply chain. Organizations can seek certification/registration by an accredited third-party Certification Body, or make a self-determination and self-declaration of conformance. There are associated legislative and regulatory codes that address some of the requirements in ISO 28000:2007.

Create Your Own!

Now that we’ve discussed some of the options for individual management systems, here are some ideas for creating an integrated management system: combining multiple standards to develop a customized program. These integrated systems can help avoid duplicating efforts as you begin to document aspects of EHS programs, and are a good way to ensure that the company focuses on the areas with the most opportunity for continual improvement and return on investment. Take a look at a few examples of combining multiple management systems to create one integrated system:

  • Sustainable Building Management System

  • ISO 14001

  • Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)

  • ISO 26000 and the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)

  • Product Compliance Management System

  • ISO 9001

  • ISO 14001

  • International product compliance regulations (e.g. RoHS, WEEE, REACH)

What’s Best for Your Organization? What’s Next?

The first step in getting started with a management system is to determine which of these standards have relevance for your organization. As your team investigates the various options, ask yourselves:

  • Does this system align with our significant aspects/hazards, objectives and targets?

  • Does it align with our corporate goals?

  • Does it align with customer/stakeholder expectations?

  • Does it align with employee interest?

Once you have determined the best system or integrated system, you can begin the process as outlined in the specific standards you have chosen, using the “Plan, Do, Check, Act” model as a framework.

Creating Improved EHS and Sustainability Performance

Though the initial resources to develop a system may not be insignificant, the benefits that the organization will enjoy year over year make a management system an attractive option for companies looking to improve environmental, health and safety and sustainability management and reporting. Management systems can strengthen business advantage by providing better data accuracy and transparency, and provide increased opportunities for cost avoidance and cost savings, while also creating opportunities for improving profit margin. The process engages other business partners and can align your business with your supply chain. The framework for identifying and prioritization aspects and hazards helps the company align and focus on the most important opportunities for improvement. Using recognized standards as a model for your EHS and sustainability process improvement can also increase confidence in the organization, facilitate ease of replication for other business partners or locations, strengthen the organization’s commitment to improvement and increase transparency of overall operations. Developing integrated management systems can benefit the company even more, because these build on existing systems rather than creating new ones, so processes and documents that apply to one system will also apply to the others.

Susan Mazzarella, LEED AP is an EORM (San Jose, California) Principal Consultant, and Management Systems Lead. Susan is an ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001 Lead Auditor. She specializes in assisting organizations develop, implement and maintain EHS management systems that align with organizational goals. She can be reached at (949) 420-0660 or via e-mail at [email protected]. For more information on ISO standards at


First Steps to Implementing a Management System

Getting started can be the most challenging part of developing and implementing a management system. For waste and recycling companies, here are some first questions to ask and steps to take as you begin the process:

  1. What are others doing?: Benchmarking against competitors, customers and suppliers can help your organization determine which management systems standards are important.

  2. What’s important internally?: Get internal stakeholders engagement to determine how management systems standards align with other organizational goals.

  3. What’s our focus? What system is right for our business?: Select the management system or systems that you want to implement.

  4. Where are we now?: Conduct a Gap Assessment against the selected management system(s) standards.

  5. What needs to happen before we can be certified?: Develop an Action Plan of activities that need to occur to meet the intent of the selected standards.


Benchmarking: Who’s Getting Certified?


The world’s largest semiconductor manufacturer is certified companywide to ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001.

Johnson & Johnson

J&J has 99 percent of all manufacturing sites certified to ISO 14001, with 30 percent of sites also certified to OHSAS 18001.


This auto manufacturer has all manufacturing facilities and product development functions certified to ISO 14001. Additionally, preferred “Q1” suppliers of production parts are required to certify their facilities.

Your Name Here

You don’t have to be one of the world’s largest companies to get the benefits of certification. Small companies and even individual sites of larger organizations can develop and certify their management systems.

Sidebar: EHS Management System Standards

  • ISO 14001: Environmental Management System

  • OHSAS 18001: Occupational Health & Safety Management System

  • ISO 9001: Quality Management System

  • RC 14001: Responsible Care Management System

  • ISO 14006: Guidelines for Incorporating Eco-Design

  • ISO 14044: Life Cycle Assessment

  • ISO 14064: Greenhouse Gas Emissions

  • ISO 22301: Societal Security – Business Continuity

  • ISO 26000: Guidance on Social Responsibility

  • ISO 28001: Security Management