How would you like to go through an entire year without any regulatory hassles, without spending your valuable time fielding complaints, without having to go back and redo work you’ve already completed? “Fairy-tale stuff,” you’re probably thinking. Still, a pretty nice thought, isn’t it, and maybe it’s not so far-fetched, particularly if you consider that many of your troubles are rooted in a lack of standardization.
As explained by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO): Standards are documented agreements containing technical specifications or other precise criteria to be used consistently as rules, guidelines, or definitions of characteristics, to ensure that materials, products, processes and services are fit for their purpose.
While ISO 14001—an internationally accepted environmental management program—is the system of greatest potential benefit to contractors, its implementation is beyond the capacity of most construction firms to achieve, yet there is much to recommend your taking a quick look at the process by visiting www.iso.ch and following the thread to the specifics of ISO 14001.
ISO 14001 is a management system rather than a performance standard. As such, it involves a cultural rather than strictly behavioral process, centering on proactive management and total employee participation. Rather than a proscriptive, “top-down” set of rules and regulation, ISO 14001 asks all people involved in an operation to define their roles from the bottom up, relative to the organization's environmental policy.
ISO 14001’s framework allows you to identify and control significant environmental aspects of a project. At its core, it is a system that allows a company to set out its environmental objectives and then implement programs for measuring, correcting, and reporting on performance.
Aside from the obvious advantages of standardization—reduction of pollution-related incidents, decreased cost of remediation, fewer complaints, less regulatory hassle, and reduced insurance rates—there are a number of related benefits that will come from increasing the visibility of those standards throughout your entire operation. For instance, standards can help you define “best practices” that, in addition to helping complete the present project, become benchmarks for future projects. A well-constructed EMS can identify instances of redundancy in day-to-day efforts for regulatory compliance and includes procedures and metrics for measuring and evaluating wastes and the costs of environmental emissions. This information can help you choose proper BMPs and determine beforehand their probable results. Standards can be used to guide daily action and determine the overall appropriateness of pollution prevention strategies. And finally, a properly implemented EMS will lead to predictable environmental performance that can reduce and almost certainly limit the severity of incidents. That leads straight to an increase in your bottom line.