How Sustainability Dovetails with ISO 14001: Energy and Waste

Industrial professionals practicing sustainability can gain an edge in its execution by adding specific elements of ISO 14001. Not only can these elements help guide them in their day-to-day responsibilities, but with proper planning, they can lead to verifiable metrics for the plant – such as in safety, efficiency, or clean/conservation initiatives - that can be useful for showcasing positive results.

Our first area of consideration is to zero in on a sampling of the “low hanging fruit” of sustainable opportunities – typically, energy savings, solid waste recycling, and the like – and apply specific elements of ISO 14001 to capture them and bring the lesson plan home. This is also the foundation on which subsequent articles will be built. With the recent issuance of ISO 50001 – focusing on establishing energy management systems, or EnMS – energy efficiency and savings may increasingly take center stage in ISO 14001 objectives and targets.

Delving deeper, plant personnel responsible with the task would need to ensure that their environmental policy incorporates the aspects we have touched upon as venues to pursue in their sustainability programs. If no such policy exists, they should develop one. Various websites devoted to ISO 14001 can provide adequate examples and templates.

At the heart of an ISO 14001 environmental management system, or EMS, is the aspects/impacts (A/I) analysis, which is an important tool that identifies the key aspects (the causes) and their associated impacts (the effects) generated by an organization – in our case, an industrial plant. While a formal A/I analysis is not really necessary in our exercise, as described in ISO 14001, Element 4.3.1 and 4.3.3 (objectives and targets), conducting an informal analysis is really key.

In an condensed format, and beginning with a clean/conservation focus, plant personnel would first craft a simple table in which they identify and list in the first column various energy consumers within the plant, whether processes or equipment, and perform the same exercise by identifying their solid waste streams. In ISO parlance, these would be classified as the “aspects”. In the second column, plant personnel would list the actions they could take to reduce the energy consumption of each of the items listed, and in similar fashion, list which of these solid waste streams could be recycled. These would be classified as the “impacts.” Since these impacts would be beneficial, they would be listed as positive, and data collected would become the documentation to validate their conservation efforts as well as showcase their plant sustainability efforts.

Among examples that plant personnel could input would include:

  • Energy consumers, Column 1: Plant equipment; lighting; computers and IT systems; plant vehicles.
  • Energy consumers, Column 2: Implement programs to ensure equipment is at optimal performance (including regular PM and PSM programs); plan on replacing out-dated equipment with more energy efficient equipment; identify areas where light sensors can be installed; evaluate ways to decrease energy (and heat) consumption in IT Centers; minimize unnecessary trips with plant vehicles; perform regular maintenance, etc.
  • Solid waste streams, Column 1: Scrap and re-work pile; obsolete equipment; worker solid waste generation.
  • Solid waste streams, Column 2: Similar to the previous exercise, implement programs to both recycle as best practical the solid waste streams generated, and to evaluate various, innovative ways to reduce the amount of solid waste generated in some waste streams. One quick fix practiced in our location is the use of double-sided printing on all of our computers.

Our next installment will look at safety.

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