I picked up a copy of the Patagonia outdoor apparel catalogue over the weekend. In addition to the photos and products, these catalogue are always a good read to see how a leading organisation is approaching and communicating their environmental and ecological ethos. A link to their website allows you to track the impact of specific Patagonia products from design through delivery, through interactive mini-site Footprint Chronicles™
What caught my eye was a comment on ISO14001, and on how Patagonia, to ensure that our (leather in footwear) leaves the smallest possible footprint, we only use (tanneries) with an ISO14001 registration. This strict set of environmental standards measures how efficiently a company uses natural resources, how its process impact on the environment and how closely it adheres to local and international environmental regulations.
Wow, if only this were the case in the built environment. Although I often make the link between effective ISO14001 application and reducing the carbon and ecological footprint but its not often I have seen others make the link. Of course this needs much much more than just achieving and maintaining with a tick box mentality. The concept of ISO 14001 remains good, but from experience of taking organisations through the assessment process it is far too easy to attain with tokenism and without really addressing real change on environmental and ecological issues.
As we are now head long into reducing the impact of the built environment may be its time to tighten up on ISO14001 accreditation and requirements. What difference would a project with the entire supply chain working to ISO 14001 achieve? I am aware that customers and clients believe this is what they get when in procurement they insist on ISO 14001 of the main or prime contractor. In reality it may be just the main contractor who holds the standard, who conducts the impact assessment, who then takes the do-as-little-as-possible-in-the-hope-we-are-not-audited approach.
Or, as the example given for greenwash Sin of Fibbing -being certified ISO 14001 compliant (“ok, its our holding company actually, not our business unit”)
We have seen a number of fast track and 14001 made easy programmes for the sector recently – I question if this no more than a bandaid, get-the-badge to get through tenders approach, or a real contribution to improving environmental performance. Often these are process based, web based, electronic approaches with pre-written templates that ignore the hearts and mind, people element so crucial to implementing the systemic change in ethos required.
Within the built environment we need, the strict set of environmental standards measures how efficiently a company uses natural resources, how its process impact on the environment and how closely it adheres to local and international environmental regulations. That covers ALL aspects of the sector and is continually improved.
Related isite links:
isite’s Guide to Effective ISO 14001