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Understanding "Environment" in Your ESG Program

Corporations that are currently using ESG to define their organizational sustainability programs should consider consulting the information that has been complied by the International Organization for Standardization (Geneva, Switzerland).ISO provides information for organizations to develop environmental management systems in 165 countries. The organization has published several key documents that focus on the environment. A few examples are provided below.

The first document you should refer to is ISO 14004 (2016) – Environmental Management Systems – General Guidelines on Implementation. Information on ISO 14004 is provided on the ISO Browsing Platform (link provided).This document is an excellent reference for organizational leadership and the people that work for the work for the company in its headquarters, its operating facilities, and its supply chain.

The current organizational environmental management activities in use at the facility should be compared against this comprehensive guide. You will notice a complete outline of the ISO 14004 document is provided on the left side of the browser presentation. It provides a useful checklist for determining what may be missing from your program.

The second document is the ISO 14001 (2015) – Environmental Management Systems – Requirements with Guidance for Use. In many cases, a customer or investor in your company may make a formal request that your company uses ISO 14001:2015 to guide the selection of environmental components in your ESG program. You can look at the items that must be followed. They are noted on the left side of the browsing platform view.

You will note that the ISO 14001:2015 management system standard includes Annex 1 – Guidance on the Use of this International Standard.

The explanatory information provided in this annex is intended to prevent misinterpretation of the requirements contained in this International Standard. While this information addresses and is consistent with these requirements, it is not intended to add to, subtract from, or in any way modify them. Requirements in this International Standard need to be viewed from a systems or holistic perspective. The user should not read a particular sentence or clause of this International Standard in isolation from other clauses.

There are additional publications that suggest caution regarding the use of the information in the two documents above. The leader of the organization along with the people that have work that can impact the environment should be familiar with these general publications as well as the other information also provided above. Please remember that your company does not need to be certified to ISO 14001:2015.ISO now allows the organization to use “self-determination” and “self-declaration” to demonstrate conformance to the items in the ISO 14001:2015 standard. If the operating facilities and suppliers are following the same information, you will be able to provide comfort to your customers, regulators, and investors that you are paying attention to the “environmental “E” in your ESG program. A separate blog is provided on the second “E” in the program, i.e. Energy.

Dr. Bob Pojasek

Sustainability Legend | ESG Reporting & Disclosures | Uncertainty Risk | Pollution Prevention Expert | Process Improvement | Organizational Sustainability Reporting | Sustainable Procurement Professor

Chairman, Education and Research Executive Board (EREB)

VCARE Academy Inc.

Managing Director

Center for Corporate Performance & Sustainability


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