Achieve net zero with ISO 14001

Learn how ISO 14001 environmental management systems relate to achieving net zero

ISO 14001 is an international standard that lays out the steps and requirements for creating an environmental management system (EMS) in your business.

By creating an EMS with ISO 14001, you can define and implement a Carbon Reduction Plan (CRP) and do your part in achieving Net Zero by 2050 commitments.

In this article you will learn how ISO 14001 EMS requirements and procedures can assist your business in achieving net zero:

  1. How can my business act against and what is climate change?
  2. What is ISO 14001, and how does it relate to climate change?
  3. How can I use ISO 14001 policies to achieve net zero?
  4. How do other standards relate to achieving net zero?
  5. Realising an environmentally sustainable future

Reading time: 7 minutes

How can my business act against climate change, and what is net zero?

Net zero refers to the concept of balancing the amount of greenhouse gases produced with an equivalent amount of greenhouse gases being removed from the atmosphere. Climate change refers to the increase of the earth’s surface temperature, caused by increases in greenhouse gases trapping heat from the sun within the atmosphere.

Climate change goes hand in hand with net zero as the reduction and balancing of greenhouse gases achieved by net zero measures can reduce the impact of climate change. Setting a goal to achieve net zero will help you reduce your net amount of greenhouse gases to zero, or as close as possible. You will therefore reduce your negative contributions to climate change.

There are many policies, procedures and environmental initiatives you can implement in your business to combat climate change and achieve net zero. The first step is to understand your current environmental impact and carbon footprint. This will allow you to set clear short, medium and long-term environmental objectives and produce action plans that are relevant to your organisation.

The United Nations is encouraging businesses to act against climate change by committing to science based targets aligned with limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C. While you might not feel ready to sign up to the Science-Based Target Initiative and have your plans externally verified, it makes sense to ensure your carbon reduction plans are based on sound science.

What is ISO 14001, and how does it relate to climate change?

ISO 14001 is an international standard that sets out the steps and requirements for implementing an EMS that can control your environmental impact.

As a standard, ISO 14001 is not specifically about climate change, but its requirements, organised in a tried and tested framework, can certainly be used to address climate change.

Greenhouse gas emissions, for example, are considered environmental impacts in the ISO 14001 standard and, therefore, can be addressed and controlled through an EMS. Your organisation can use your ISO 14001 EMS to set goals and implement environmental plans for reducing your greenhouse gas emissions. These goals can then be tracked, and the effectiveness of actions taken measured to ensure you achieve your goals and have a meaningful impact on climate change.

How can I use ISO 14001 policies to achieve net zero?

One of the primary ways your organisation can use ISO 14001 to achieve net zero is by setting an EMS objective to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero. Once this goal is set, you will be able to use the tools in the ISO 14001 EMS framework to set out an action plan, track and monitor progress, and identify any further areas where improvement is needed.

Some of the measures your organisation may take to achieve net zero with your ISO 14001 EMS may include:

How do other environmental standards relate to net zero?

It’s important to note that achieving net zero requires a combination of efforts with a number of organisations transforming operations and processes. ISO 14001 is an effective guide to ensuring you take a systematic and structured approach to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but it’s not the only one.

There are a number of other environmental standards that can also assist in your net zero aims.

ISO 50001, for example, focuses on energy management and utilisation. ISO 50001 lays out the steps to create an Energy Management System that will continually improve your energy utilisation and performance through goals and measurable procedures and policies.

On the other hand, ISO 14064 can really focus on greenhouse gas accounting and verification to enable you to directly measure, manage and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. ISO 14064 puts procedures in place for your organisation to transparently identify and measure emissions at organisational, project and general levels.

ISO 14064 also goes hand-in-hand with the PAS 2060. This internationally recognised accreditation, developed by BSI, sets out requirements and guidelines for achieving carbon neutrality in your organisation. The PAS 2060 expands on the measuring in ISO 14064 and provides steps to manage, reduce, offset, and document emissions. The PAS 2060 can also let your organisation declare you are carbon neutral, use the PAS 2060 logo, and actively prove that you have achieved net zero.

Finally, the BREEAM assessment can enable you to assess and verifiably measure the environmental impact of your buildings based on water, energy, transport, health & wellbeing, resource, resilience, land use, ecology, pollution, materials, waste, and innovation. BREEAM can give you an idea of where your buildings stand from an environmental and net zero perspective, identifying key areas for improvement. 

Realising an environmentally sustainable future

By setting out goals to achieve ISO 14001 and or other associated environmental standards, you can achieve net zero emissions and work towards realising an environmentally sustainable future.

We, as organisations, need to take steps to safeguard and protect our planet to ensure the future is sustainable, for all of us.

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Elisabeth Belisle

Elisabeth is an Associate Consultant and Associate Tutor of the British Standards Institute (BSI), a BSI qualified Lead Auditor and member of the Standard Committee responsible for the publication of the BS 10008 Standard.

Elisabeth can help you decide if ISO 14001 is for you and support you through its implementation, all the way to certification.

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