How to take a multi-faceted approach to environmental sustainability

Saeid Nikdel, Technical Scheme Manager, Australia & South East Asia at SAI Global Assurance

With carbon emissions a key theme of climate change policy debate, businesses often place great emphasis on achieving carbon neutrality.

To be truly sustainable, however, a global risk management provider recommends that businesses serious about being environmentally responsible should focus on a range of measures that also impact water and land.

SAI Global helps organisations in 130 countries – including Australia – to develop environmental management systems in accordance with the ISO 14001 global standard. 

SAI Global recommends ISO 14001 global standard

Saeid Nikdel, an environmental management systems expert says, “Beyond carbon emissions, there are key areas that businesses can focus on to maximise their sustainability efforts.”

“These include reducing releases to water and land, better use of raw materials and natural resources, more efficient and lower energy usage, lower generation of waste and/or by-products, and better utilisation of space.”

Not only is it important for businesses to be sustainable so that they can protect the environment, it is also becoming important to their very existence.

New research has revealed that consumers are driving corporate sustainability efforts, with online searches for sustainable goods globally up 71% over the past five years. 

Several global surveys have also revealed that consumers are far more likely to support a business that has made a corporate social responsibility pledge. 

Global brands made pledges to improve their sustainability efforts and reduce their carbon footprint in the knowledge that if they fail to do so, they will lose substantial market share.

“The ISO 14001 standard provides a whole range of considerations that organisations could make around the lifecycle of their activities, products and services – from material acquisition to final disposal – that may have any environmental impacts,” Saeid says.

The organisation’s facilities, processes, products, and services could all be evaluated as part of its performance related to its environmental management. 

“How raw materials are acquired and extracted; what processes are used around operations, manufacturing and storage; and how facilities, assets and infrastructure are operated and maintained, all have an impact on a company’s environmental footprint.”

“They should be part of the conversation when developing an environmental strategy.” It is not only within the confines of their own enterprises that businesses can make a positive impact.

“Evaluate the environmental performance of all of their external providers and determine on who they choose to work with based on their credentials in that area,” Saeid says.

SAI Global’s assessment of carbon contributors

Other contributors to a company’s global footprint include the transportation, packaging and delivery of products; how products are used, stored and treated at the end of their lives; and how waste is managed, including its reuse, refurbishment, recycling and disposal.

Organisational-wide buy-in is key and where an environmental management system comes in.

“Many organisations have an environmental policy from which they develop procedures to demonstrate their commitment to the policy. However, a policy is simply a statement that can be the framework for the company’s environmental commitments.”

“The management system is a set of business processes and documents like policies, objectives, procedures and governances controlling the factors impacting the environment.”

For an environmental management system to succeed, it needs integration into the business’s processes, direction and decision making aligned with other business priorities.

All levels and functions of the business, led by top management, must fully commit to it.

“To properly address an organisation’s environmental impact and minimise it, we need to look across its entire operations, as well as those of its suppliers and partners.”

“Dealing with waste, energy consumption and output, generate energy needs, efficient use of space, and environmental impact on the land and waterways, are all contributors.”

“Without taking a multi-faceted approach, organisations will never be able to reach their full potential when it comes to being a good global citizen.”