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How to develop an environmental strategy and meet ISO 14001 requirements

Regardless of organisational size, sustainability has been rising up the business agenda for many years, and as concern around the climate crisis grows, good environmental practice is becoming even more important to employees, customers and suppliers.  

While some organisations are looking to independent certification like ISO 14001 to inform their environmental strategy, many, in particular smaller firms, are simply looking to optimise tech hardware and necessary functions like print to make them as eco-friendly as possible.

However, for many people, it can be hard to know where to start and setting and achieving targets can be a little overwhelming.

The ISO 14001 accreditation is the gold standard in evidencing sustainable business processes, but other options, such as B-Corp, do exist – and can even be attained side-by-side. Deciding which options are best, and whether accreditation is the ultimate outcome, for businesses might come down to the capacity organisations have to devote to achieving sustainability certification.

We spoke to Stuart Maclean, Head of Compliance at Brother UK, about how businesses of all sizes can work towards making themselves more sustainable.

Stuart Maclean, Head of Compliance at Brother UK
Stuart Maclean, Head of Compliance at Brother UK

How do you suggest setting environmental goals for a business?

There are many ways of managing your environmental responsibilities, but setting targets offers you a quantifiable way of measuring your progress – and verifiable evidence of meeting them. Printing is an ideal option here, as you can make simple changes that have a real effect on your environmental performance. When setting targets, I’d recommend starting with something realistic in your first year so you’re not trying to make too many changes at once. How you go from there will depend on your individual circumstances and needs. Some businesses choose to incrementally increase their targets, while others are happy to keep to the same targets each year. It’s a good idea to allocate targets according to individual department parameters, as each one will have different needs. For instance, an HR team and an invoicing team will probably have very different print output, and each needs a credible target based on how they function.

Who is responsible for ensuring targets are met?

 When setting environmental goals for a business, it’s vital you get support from the highest levels. You need full backing and buy-in from senior leadership on all the objectives of your environmental management system. Responsibility doesn’t stop there though. The onus should be on everybody from across the business to ensure targets are met. It’s worth delegating each target to a specific person or team to cover management and reporting. And printing should be one of the vital components of your environmental management plan.

What about microbusinesses and start-ups?

While ISO 14001 is a great thing to aim for, an environmental strategy needn’t require it.

Sustainable print options are available to even the smallest SOHO firms – this was the thinking behind our EcoPro solution. It’s a subscription-based model that provides small and home offices with a reliable printer and all the ink or toner they need in a monthly package. Printers are fixed or replaced within 48 hours if there are any problems and subscribers can save up to 65% against buying over the counter. Crucially, as well as recycling all used ink or toners, we’ll eliminate waste from our production cycle by refurbishing old printers into new products.

What tools can firms put in place to ensure they meet ISO 14001 requirements?

Even if you’re not targeting the accreditation itself, an environmental management plan is a really effective way to work out how your organisation is going to implement change. Your targets can soon grow to be a little unwieldy and daunting, so it’s best to organise them properly in a table or spreadsheet. Start by listing objectives, the targets associated with meeting those objectives and any tasks that may need to be completed to reach them. For instance, if you want to reduce paper wastage, you might need to set all of your printers to automatically print documents two-sided. Include this in your table, followed by the person responsible for it and a target completion date. It’s an easy way of managing and keeping track of all of the elements of your ISO 14001 plan. 

How can I convince my team of the benefits of environmental management?

It’s important to show that sustainability benefits everyone, and engage them in conversations from the start. That way, the efforts towards managing your environmental responsibilities come from right across the business. You’ll probably find that many employees will be passionate about protecting the environment and only too keen to play their part. Setting up an awareness programme is an ideal way to ensure all your employees understand the targets and procedures needed to meet ISO 14001 requirements. If everyone is aware of the everyday changes they need to make, it will be easier for the business to make a genuine impact. You could do this as part of every employee’s induction process or organise special training sessions every time you invest in new print equipment to highlight environmentally friendly features. It also helps to have handy reminders around the office, such as prompt labels on printers or posters in kitchens and other common areas.

Conclusion: Printing can play a key part in your sustainability planning

One of the great benefits of ISO 14001 certification is how it proves your credentials and shows you’re properly committed to managing your environmental responsibilities, but options like EcoPro and taking a strategic approach to sustainability planning, mean organisations of all sizes can still work towards making themselves as sustainable as possible.
Brother is a perfect partner to have at your side when you’re looking to develop your sustainability plans. Our sustainable development coordinator is dedicated to helping you work towards your goals. From reducing environmental impact to retaining the best talent, we’re here to help improve your knowledge of the solutions, services and initiatives that will create a more sustainable business. 

Find out how we can support your sustainable business transformation, including business sustainability consultation with our sustainable development coordinator. 

Brother U.K. Limited are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FRN: 711814)
EcoPro product is unregulated and therefore the FCA’s DISP rulebook and the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) are not applicable to the unregulated product

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