In this guest post, Procurement Leaders invites Ecodesk's Mark Plant to scrutinise the ISO14001 sustainability standard.
In September this year the draft ISO14001 standard will be published and open for consultation before a final document is released in January 2015. It marks a turning point in how environmental standards fit within business cultures and how organisations approach the idea of sustainability within the supply chain.
Many businesses up until now have embraced the standard as a necessary label for competing in tenders but there was little incentive to go beyond reporting on internal impacts. The new ISO14001 will go deeper and wider and place a greater emphasis on environmental processes, not just within the business but across the entire value chain.
The aim, according to Martin Baxter, Executive Director Policy at the Institute for Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA) is "to integrate environmental management within the core business processes embedded within an organisation." This, says Baxter, will not sit comfortably with everyone that already has the initial ISO14001 standard. "Some firms will find it tough," he says, "depending on their approach and philosophy in the first place."
This broader approach, encompassing the supply chain, will have a greater impact on how organisations manage procurement processes, making it mandatory, if they want to achieve ISO14001 status, to illustrate a sustainable procurement strategy.
While there won't be a requirement for full product life cycle assessments, businesses will be expected to evaluate the supply of goods, services and outsourced processes taking a lifecycle perspective. This means that a set of environmental procurement requirements will have to be set and communicated to the supply chain.
Standards auditors will be looking to see how organisations plan, control and influence value chain sustainability, including the process by which procurement decisions are taken and whether they involve environmental considerations.
Rather than a red tape or box-ticking exercise, this process can have real value to procurement teams, especially as sustainability data is increasingly being used in the armoury to mitigate supply chain risk. Using energy use or carbon emissions as an indicator for supply chain cost and resource efficiency is becoming increasingly powerful and something which is starting to influence all sectors of a business.
Essentially ISO14001 is an opportunity to put in place value chain processes that can have a tangible benefit to the business but the hurdles to jump are higher and for any businesses not prepared to take supply chain sustainability seriously, the road to accreditation could also be a very long one.
Mark Plant is CEO at cloud-based sustainable supply chain management platform Ecodesk.