Archive | May, 2009

Sustainability vs. ISO 14001- Seeking “the Edge” in a Competitive World

6 May

“Our results show that ISO 14001 promotes GSCM [green supply chain management] practices, in that facilities with environmental management systems (EMS) certified to ISO 14001 are 40 percent more likely to assess their suppliers’ environmental performance and 50 percent more likely to require that their suppliers undertake specific environmental practices. Further, we find that government approaches that encourage voluntary EMS adoption indirectly promote GSCM practices, in that the probability of facilities’ assessing their suppliers’ environmental performance and requiring them to undertake specific environmental practices increases by 9 percent and 10 percent, respectively, if a government assistance program exists.”

Thus starts a research study conducted by Resources for the Future scientists that I recently reviewed. As a sustainability and management systems practitioner, the executive summary caught my eye. Yet another tangible “business case” for implementing proactive ISO 14001-2004 based environmental management systems was made. I find myself to be challenged to steer clients toward the tangible evidence of ISO 14001-2004’s ( benefits to organizational competitiveness versus attempting to address the many intangible issues surrounding the “green” or “sustainability” mantra of the day. Well aren’t all of these approaches “good”, one might ask. The unequivocal answer is “yes”.

Managing the Supply Chain Through ISO 14001-2004

Managing the Supply Chain Through ISO 14001-2004

What remains then is decided which approach is best for an organization to undertake and where is the greatest value-added benefit that can be realized. In its most basic terms, the purpose of the ISO 14001-2004 standard is to help all types of public and private organizations to protect the environment, to prevent pollution, and to improve their environmental performance. ISO 14001-focused EMS’s remain as relevant today as they were in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s when manufacturers were literally lining up at the door seeking assistance. I would argue that in today’s economic climate, rapid expansion of supply chain drivers and pending explosion of renewable energy technology, that the time may be ripe for a new look at the business appeal of ISO 14001-2004.

While “sustainability” is all good, the concept remains fuzzy to most organizations, because there is no standardized approach that can tightly define its boundaries. And perhaps that is a good thing since the aspects of sustainability are widely diverse and the organizational needs are so variable.

Finding the Sweet Spot of Sustainability

Finding the Sweet Spot of Sustainability

The three spheres of sustainability (environment, economy, equity) and the “sweet spot” that companies are aspiring to achieve is vague to most, elusive to many.

So my advice is this:

  • Review your business plans short and long term objectives- assess what your current state and desired state looks like with respect to environmental compliance, green supply chain management,  and process optimization.
  • Be keenly aware of your external business drivers and what will stimulate business growth.
  • Know what your supply chain is requiring – what are the critical success factors to keeping their business.
  • Update the competitive intelligence of your competitors to know what is guiding their capture strategies and tactics.
  • Develop a formula for success that addresses business, environmental and stakeholder factors that leads to tangible, real results.
  • Stay tuned for more on this topic.
  • Now go out there and keep your eye on the bulls-eye!