Product Stewardship and ISO Come Together
Companies typically associate ISO 14001 with environmental management for facilities, but recent changes make it more relevant than ever to product stewardship.
The new requirements explicitly refer to products and services in addition to facility operations. “An organization pursuing certification needs to fully understand their risk and opportunities as they relate to the potential environmental aspects of their products as well as their operations,” says Kathy Brewer, senior program manager at HP/Product Sustainability and Compliance.
Companies about to re-certify to the new standard will find it hard to meet the requirements without considering product stewardship. “It potentially opens the door for some really good conversations about how well stewardship is integrated into the overall business processes,” says Brewer. “For organizations that already have the commitment to be ISO 14001 certified, it's basically bringing stewardship into the scope of that certification.”
Brewer will talk about the changes during Using the New ISO 14001 Standard to Strengthen your Product Stewardship Program, a presentation at Stewardship 2016.
She’ll illustrate benefits of the approach by sharing HP’s experience. The company has already applied the certification to its product design programs. “We struggled with it at first because there weren't good examples out there, like how you do an aspects and impacts assessment for a product versus a facility,” she says. “I will show some examples of how we've approached it for our product stewardship program, for people who have never thought about it before.”
Although companies like HP have voluntarily applied the standard to products before, Brewer says the changes will drive even more companies to do it. She also says companies that don’t pursue formal certification should still go through the process. “There's a lot of value in using the standard as a way to set up your program and make sure that you have all of your bases covered,” she says. “I will caution, though, that without the discipline of third-party audits, it's really takes some focus to make sure that your management system is being maintained. When you don’t have an auditor coming in regularly and checking on you, it can be easy to let things slide.”