Getting ready for ISO 14001: the top 10 most common mistakes to avoid.

Author:Mors, Terry A.
Position:ISO 14001

Many companies will have to become ISO 14001 registered very soon. Here in Southeast Michigan, the Big Three automakers are requiring it--you MUST be ISO 14001 registered if you wish to continue to do business with them.

ISO 14001 is a standard designed to reduce a companies' impact on our environment; as an ISO 14001 consultant and auditor involved with the ISO 14001 environmental management system of more than 100 different facilities, our company has seen what works and what doesn't work.

If your company needs to get registered, it may be helpful for you to know the most common mistakes managers make in becoming ISO 14001 registered. We've seen them all first hand; here are our top 10:

  1. Putting in a system that's too complicated. The ISO 14001 standard is very generic--just three pages long without a lot of detail. People think they have to fill in the blanks, and then go into excessive detail. The system should be simple!

  2. Putting a system in place just to get registered. It's important that your ISO 14001 system gets you a payback. Focus on cost savings--improving your profitability--while you are reducing your operation's environmental impact.

  3. Focusing solely on compliance issues. Too many people build a system to manage regulatory compliance, and miss important opportunities to reduce environmental impact--and operating costs.

  4. Delaying too long to start or to contact the registrar. Becoming ISO 14001 registered is normally a six- to nine-month process. Don't wait! Develop a plan and get started. There's never a perfect time to start. And don't forget, there are a lot of companies in the same situation, and the registrars will not be able to meet everyone's needs. Contact your registrar three to six months ahead of your desired registration time.

  5. Not getting your organization involved with implementation. You know the scenario: one person develops the system and forces it into place. Or a "core team" does it. But there's no involvement from those who actually have to use the system. And, you end up with a system that people don't like, don't have ownership of, one that doesn't fit what they're doing. People say, "This is just another 'Program of the Day,' management will forget about it next week." When your procedures and work instructions don't reflect what people actually do, don't expect real cost reductions and profit improvements.

  6. No management support. Without management support, you may get the registration...

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