Maintain ISO 14001 certification - yes or no?

The CEO of a medium sized company recentley asked me if - after 11 years - his organization should still renew its ISO 14001 certification. As usual: It depends...

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Dr. R. Gastl

There are quiet a few pros and cons which don't make it easy to decide wheter an organization should register with ISO 14001 (or EMAS) or not. But how does that look in the long run? Does it make sense to keep certification upright forever?

Short answer: It depends (What else?).

Long answer: Look at your individual cost and and benefits accrued during the time since initial certification - but don't stop here. I've been discussing this issue with several clients and come to the conclusion that most organizations don't really realize the influence of their EMS on their every day business, nor on their business strategy. Usually, this (positive) influence is being underestimated.

At the stage where the "maintaining"-question comes up I can differentiate two types of organizations: Those who where dissapointed by customer and market response, and those who believe they can't find no more environmental issues to deal with. In fact, it's always one of these two points which are the beginning of this discussion.

Those who are dissapointed by customer and market response usually lack true environmental targets. They initially implemented their EMS for mere business reasons. In most markets, this doesn't work - or - this requires constant investments in marketing and product development. And in this process, these companies suddenly are confronted with ecological issues. Lacking true interest in these subjects, they loose motivation, as market response usually takes time. My advice: These companies should not have got certification from the beginning.

Those who believe they can't find any more environmental issues to deal with, they might - in some cases - be true. And if so, there is no point in maintaining certification. Consider this: It's fair enough for an organization to use a temporary EMS to get rid of environmental problems - and to give it up after this work is done. However, in practice, I have seen not many doing this, because they realized that benefits of their EMS are to sweet to let them down the drain.

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