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How ISO Standards Can Guide Your Sustainability Journey

ABS Quality Evaluations

Business Assurance through Management Systems and Certifications

Now, more than ever, consumers and manufacturers recognize the importance of sustainability. Organizations worldwide continue to address their corporate responsibility to not only decrease their carbon footprint but lead the charge in becoming "green" and fighting climate change. With countless standards to support the journey to sustainability, the International Organization for Standards (ISO) continues to provide critical guiding principles.

Why Start Your Sustainability Journey Now?

Every product or service has an input and an output, which leaves a lasting imprint on the planet. In recent years, organizations have embraced the charge of not only being aware of this consumption but holding themselves accountable beyond policies and legislation. The result: in today's market, sustainability strategies are necessary to remain competitive. 

ISO characterizes sustainability into three pillars: economic, social and environmental. As a result, correlating ISO standards have been created that help businesses thrive and grow while simultaneously protecting the planet. These ISO standards have become a part of the decision-making process when debating what steps need to be taken in the pursuit of sustainability. However, implementing these standards requires planning, consistency and an understanding of product lifecycles and services from beginning to end.

Three (3) Common Misconceptions About Sustainability

Before beginning (or continuing) your sustainability journey, it is important to have a clear understanding of what it truly means to be a sustainable organization, including how to combat damaging misconceptions. 

1- Becoming a Sustainable Organization is Quick and Easy

Some organizations believe that installing automatic turn-off lights or switching to cups made of recyclable material is enough to reach their sustainability goals. While these are great practices to adopt, they are not the only steps that need to be taken, nor is it that simple. It is important to develop a clear and holistic strategy to reach sustainability and to understand the lifecycle and impact of the product you are selling or manufacturing from beginning to end. Standards such as ISO 14000 and ISO 45000 provide a framework that focuses on Environmental Management and Occupational Health and Safety, and when paired together, can lay the groundwork for a sustainable organization.

2- Sustainability is the Primary Responsibility of Large Corporations

Many organizations believe that Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) only fall on large corporations; however, this is not true. Consumers now hold corporations to a higher standard, regardless of size or revenue, and consider their sustainability practices before purchasing. The ISO 26000 series is recognized as one of the best ways for organizations to assess their commitment to sustainability and their overall performance.

3- Our Organization Already Understands what Sustainability Means

Ask yourself: what does sustainability really mean? Sustainability has become a buzzword that, without clear guidance, won't have the necessary impact to positively affect the planet. Education is often needed from the top down, starting at the C-Suite level through the workforce on the ground. For a sustainability management system to become a true benchmark for the climate agenda, it is paramount that is viewed as a critical, non-negotiable goal organization-wide.

The Benefits of ISO Certifications

Today, ISO certification is synonymous with quality. There are numerous benefits obtained through ISO certification, including technological, economic and social advantages. You can also improve the quality of your processes and products, better understand your business, enhance the consistency of your operations, reduce waste, save money and gain international recognition.

It is important to note that obtaining ISO certification simply to check boxes or ease market pressure is not likely to benefit your organization to the fullest. In fact, it can make the process a burden. Focusing on your long-term company goals and using a good management system to assist you will result in significant perks for your organization, as noted above.

Top ISO Certifications to Consider for Sustainability

There are several standards that help organizations contribute to sustainable development. Consider these top ISO certifications to ensure the high standards of your operations:

  • ISO 9001 accounts for Quality Management. This ISO sets out the criteria regardless of size or industry on how to put a Quality Management System (QMS) in place to better prepare your organization to produce quality products and services. With a strong focus on customers, the principles within this ISO place an emphasis on continuous improvement and top management processes.
  • ISO 14000 focuses on Environmental Management. This ISO is helpful for organizations that require practical tools to manage their environmental responsibilities. It sets a framework for an effective environmental management system and is designed to allow organizations, regardless of size or sector, to measure and improve their environmental impact.
  • ISO 45000 highlights Occupational Health and Safety. Similar in framework to ISO 9001 and 14001 it aims to provide a healthy workplace for employees and visitors by creating safer working conditions. Directed at the top management of an organization, this ISO provides a framework to improve OH&S performance.
  • ISO 26000 Addresses Social Responsibility. This ISO provides standards rather than requirements and helps organizations seeking to improve upon their sustainability programs go beyond legal compliance. 
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