Green Living for Dummies states that becoming "green" means taking action now to stop using the Earth's resources faster than the Earth can replace them.
Organizations seeking to improve their environmental performance and promote a "green" image should look at ISO 14001 as a starting point.
First, let's define environment-friendly performance by an organization or being "green." A "green" company is an organization that has a plan, led by top management allocating resources to continually improve its environmental performance, measuring the improvement and publishing its improvements to assist other organizations in the community to do the same.
ISO 14001 establishes a structure that allows organizations to reduce their impact on the environment. ISO 14001 requires an environmental policy that includes continual improvement of the organization's environmental performance. This requires an organization to develop environmental objectives, programs and targets for continual improvement.
ISO 14001's objectives, programs and targets defined:Environmental Objectives – an overall environmental goal, consistent with the organization's environmental policy (ISO 14001:2004, 3.10). This can be in general terms or more specific such as reduce solid waste, reduce discharges, both liquid and air emissions, and reduce consumption of natural resources.
Programs - the approach to implementing the objectives and how specific targets are going to be managed.
Environmental Targets - detailed performance requirements applicable to the organization that arise from the environmental objectives and need to be established in order to achieve the objectives (ISO 14001:2004, 3.14).
Achieving ISO 14001 registration is just the start. Many organizations that achieve registration are doing the minimum to maintain the certificate. This is not achieving a "green philosophy." A green philosophy requires continual top management interest and providing the resources and leadership to change the way business has been conducted in the past to build a sustaining organization for today, and the future.
Let's review some "Going Green" examples and their financial payback.
Objective - reducing liquid wastes and emissions to the air. Most West Michigan office furniture companies have switched from liquid based painting systems to powder coat systems. Initial costs are upwards of $2 million. The result has been reduced operating costs with a payback period of 12 to 15 months. A bonus is the elimination of EPA permitting requirements.
Objective – reduce consumption of natural resources. A European prototype car engine manufacturer runs 5 dynamometers testing engines. Rather than wasting the energy produced through engine testing, the company installed a generator that produced enough electrical energy to run their machining centers when two dynamometer cells operated. The cost was $250,000 with a 4-month payback period. In most cases developing a "green philosophy" also reduces operating costs.
Not all projects have a large dollar investment. In fact some are basically free. An example is recycling skids. Most skid makers want the used wooden skids returned, even skids that are not repairable as they grind the skids and create a product called yard mulch. Skid recycling reduces landfill content and trims a company's waste hauling bill. Organizations that create a lot of oilbased waste might want to look at a biological solution. Bugs are currently available that will eat the oil creating a solid waste that can be land filled. A Missouri company is doing this and saving $70,000 or more per year in waste hauling fees.
With high-energy costs, organizations should think about encouraging employees to car pool as many employees drive 30 plus miles to work each day. To do this, a company has to develop a plan and top management has to provide resources to implement the plan and provide some sort of motivation to employees. Organizations need to keep score and publish their success.
Carpooling is a green program and certainly meets ISO 14001 by reducing employee's energy costs and enabling employees to continue commuting.
Developing a "green philosophy" must be led by top management and successes documented to foster further improvements. Going "green" is an ongoing effort that will only continue to improve an organization and ISO 14001 provides a solid foundation to move forward.