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ISO 14001
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Key topic sustainability: Benefits of ISO 14001 certification

by Editorial Office

Ever more companies are placing their strategic focus on meeting sustainability criteria: After all, in addition to the increased requirements on the customer side, there is also a growing number of legal regulations that require ecologically justifiable and resource-preserving actions. Companies that rely on environmental management in accordance with ISO (International Organization for Standardization) norm 14001 therefore have a strategic advantage. In our latest blog article, we discuss the added value that is associated with certification and which criteria are relevant.

The environmental management standard ISO 14001

The globally recognized ISO 14001 standard for environmental management supports companies in proactively identifying, controlling and continuously improving the impact of their work processes on the environment. This standard was developed in 1996 by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and provides the framework for the systematic development and implementation of a sustainability strategy. With DIN EN ISO 14001:2015, an updated version has been available since September 2015. It can be applied by companies of any size and in any industry and is based on the high-level approach: this enables easy integration into other management systems and makes it compatible with other standards such as ISO 9001.

The PDCA cycle (Plan-Do-Check-Act) defined in ISO 14001 is intended to ensure that companies not only plan and implement their environmental goals, but also continuously review them and take corrective action if necessary. In this way, ISO 14001 supports a continuous improvement process. Companies can additionally have their conformity with the standard checked and verified by an independent certification body – this is not mandatory, but serves as proof of commitment to sustainability.

This proof of commitment is important insofar as the assumption of ecological responsibility is currently a leading industry issue: According to the 18th Hermes Barometer, a majority of the companies surveyed rate sustainability as a central trend in supply chain management. Not only are customers becoming ever more environmentally conscious, but legal regulations such as the Supply Chain Act or the new EU directive CSRD also demand increasing commitment to environmental management. Sustainability certification can therefore become a decisive competitive advantage for companies.

ISO 14001: The requirements for obtaining certification

ISO 14001 environmental management specifies a set of criteria that companies must consider during implementation in order to receive certification. Some of the most important requirements are:

  • Developing a written environmental strategy that is approved by senior management
  • Identifying the impact of business activities on the environment, such as energy and water consumption, emissions, waste management or environmental impact along the entire supply chain
  • Establishing environmental goals and developing appropriate measures to achieve them.
  • Determining and complying with environmental laws, regulations and ordinances applicable to the particular activities, products or services offered by the Company.
  • Implementing the developed measures and subsequent regular control and optimization
  • Raising employee awareness of responsible behavior to improve understanding of new processes and changes to existing systems
  • Introducing a documentation system so that relevant information is transparent and clearly accessible to affected employees
  • Developing procedures for control mechanisms so that deviations can be detected and corrected at an early stage.

However, a one-time certification is not enough: It is valid for three years, after which a recertification audit takes place. This process ensures that the environmental performance always meets the current requirements of the standard.

Integrating ISO 14001 into supply chain management: The benefits for companies

Especially for companies with global, complex supply chains, compliance with sustainability criteria is often a challenge. Incorporating the ISO 14001 standard into their supply chain management therefore provides those companies with a structured framework and strategic approach to improving environmental performance along the entire supply chain and increasing their commitment to using economic and environmental resources responsibly.

The advantages at a glance:

  • The ISO 14001 standard helps to identify and evaluate greenhouse gas emissions from transport, energy consumption in warehouses or for the production of packaging materials, and to reduce them through developed optimization measures.
  • It also pays off in terms of risk management: By establishing control mechanisms, potential risks such as supply bottlenecks due to resource shortages, violations of environmental laws or pollution can be minimized.
  • By integrating ISO 14001 into supply chain management, companies can work specifically with suppliers who are also committed to acting in an environmentally conscious manner. This can be promoted, for example, through certain criteria in the selection of suppliers, the monitoring of environmental performance, and compliance with previously agreed quality agreements.
  • The implementation of an environmental management system in accordance with ISO 14001 can also contribute to a significant increase in efficiency. By optimizing routes and transport planning, using technologies for real-time monitoring and status tracking, as well as energy-efficient vehicles, companies can significantly reduce their CO2 emissions. It also allows them to monitor and control their energy consumption and avoid costly delays in their deliveries. At the same time, by using resources consciously, they can minimize waste along their supply chain and thus prevent unnecessary quantities.
  • Last but not least, companies can use the globally recognized sustainability certification to improve their image and reputation and thus strengthen their position in the market: Stakeholders such as customers, suppliers and partner companies are increasingly attaching importance to environmentally friendly and responsible action.

In summary, environmental management in accordance with ISO 14001 is an effective method of promoting sustainability along the entire supply chain and meeting increasing legal and social requirements. Hermes Germany GmbH also holds the certificate.

Conclusion: ISO 14001 as a valuable resource for SCM

Environmental management in accordance with ISO 14001 takes a holistic approach: It not only addresses the ecological footprint of the company’s own operations – instead, it includes the entire supply chain. The areas of procurement, production, delivery and disposal are also taken into account. Integrating the standard into SCM contributes to responsible business practices. And it is not only the environment that benefits from this procedure: ever more customers prefer companies that can show sustainability certifications. Making one’s own work processes more environmentally conscious is therefore increasingly becoming a decisive competitive advantage in national and international markets.


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