ISO 14001 & ISO 45001: Why voluntary standards are vital to your business

Unrequired doesn’t always mean unnecessary. Learn more about the business benefits ISO certification can bring to your EHS management.

John Bez

by John Bez

If something is optional, how can you know when to opt for it?

For some companies, ISO certifications specific to EHS management systems, such as ISO 14001 and ISO 45001, can seem more like an extra hoop to jump through than a way to excel in compliance efforts. However, possessing this type of certification can provide a solid framework for optimizing the way you manage EHS regulations and improve how well your company meets them. ISO 14001- and ISO 45001-certified management systems are proving to be more and more important for companies as they manage risk in the wake of COVID-19’s emergence and continue to move their businesses forward.

Surging numbers in ISO certifications

Even before COVID-19 was on our collective global radar, ISO 14001- and/or ISO 45001-certified management systems were on the rise. According to the 2019 ISO Survey, there were a total of 312,580 valid ISO 14001 certificates globally in 2019, a 2% increase from the year before. Demonstrating a more dramatic surge in occupational health and safety, the number of ISO 45001 certificates increased from 11,952 in 2018, when the standard was published, to 38,654 in 2019. And this is just the beginning.

Due to the pandemic, companies who were OHSAS 18001 certified and originally had until March 2021 to migrate accredited certification to ISO 45001 now have an extended deadline to do so (until September 2021). With that in mind, we can expect the number of ISO 45001 certificates to continue growing.

Benefits of ISO 14001 and ISO 45001-certified management systems

It is important to note that companies with effective EHS management systems, which most often possess external certification, were able to more effectively responded to the COVID-19 health crisis and its related challenges. Having systems that were aligned with ISO 14001 standards allowed these organizations to quickly address environmental risks brought about by the pandemic, including increased generation of PPE waste, packaging of disinfectants and other chemicals. Similarly, ISO 45001-certified management systems empowered companies to quickly address hazards, such as potential exposure to the virus as well as psychosocial and ergonomic aspects of homeworking.

Key benefits of having an ISO 14001- and/or ISO 45001-certified EHS management system include:

  • Improved overall EHS performance through optimal regulatory compliance management, enhanced identification of risks, reduced environmental impact, increased sustainability and fewer accidents in the workplace;
  • Minimization – and even elimination – of threats and incidents along with their associated fines and liabilities;
  • Better access to markets through a clear outlook on and alignment with, among others, sustainable procurement, contractual requirements and supply chain considerations;
  • Decreased costs through more efficient use of resources, reduced waste and lower insurance premiums;
  • Enhanced corporate image and credibility with enhanced protection against non-compliance and its resulting reputation damage;
  • Ensured, comprehensive awareness of applicable legislation and regulatory compliance; and
  • Increased engagement in your EHS program, both of leadership and employees, by way of a standardized view of what compliance means and how to achieve it.

ISO certifications and their significance to your business

The reasons why companies want to be ISO certified haven’t changed. However, there is increasing recognition of how these types of certifications can change companies’ compliance programs for the better.

An ISO 14001- or ISO 45001-certified management system equips your business not only to rapidly respond to emergency situations but also to establish, implement and maintain processes to mitigate hazards and reduce risks in the long-term.

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