Environmental Aspects of Products - A forgotten issue in ISO 14001 Audits?

Sidney Vianna

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#1
Most organizations implementing ISO 14001 pay close attention to the environmental aspects of their activities, but ISO 14001 also addresses the need for the organization to consider the e-aspects of their products. In some cases, the e-aspects of the product(s) are much more significant than the operation of the plant they are manufactured in. Still, (product) design for the environment is something most EMS auditors are oblivious to.

In my experience few organizations consider product-related environmental aspects when implementing ISO 14001 and, similarly, few EMS auditors ask the question.

For those of you who are certified to ISO 14001, what's been your experience?
 
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samsung

#2
Most organizations implementing ISO 14001 pay close attention to the environmental aspects of their activities, but ISO 14001 also addresses the need for the organization to consider the e-aspects of their products. In some cases, the e-aspects of the product(s) are much more significant than the operation of the plant they are manufactured in. Still, (product) design for the environment is something most EMS auditors are oblivious to.

In my experience few organizations consider product-related environmental aspects when implementing ISO 14001 and, similarly, few EMS auditors ask the question.

For those of you who are certified to ISO 14001, what's been your experience?

Thanks Sidney for highlighting one of the most ignored aspects of an EMS. There can be two types of product related aspects - those associated with manufacturing and the ones associated with the use of the products. Whilst it's easy to manage the former ones, it represents an altogether difficult task to directly control the aspects associated with the use and disposal of products because there's little that an organization can do to manage them except exerting an influence over the users or compensating through other means so as to 'neutralize' the impacts provided it comes out to be a cost effective opportunity.

There is nothing wrong if the organizations obviously ignore this aspect since the standard itself is far liberal while stipulating the requirements for an EMS in general and in particular with regard to determining the environmental aspects and their significance level. When it stipulates
to identify the environmental aspects of its activities, products and services within the defined scope of the environmental management system that it can control and those that it can influence
It invariably offers a lot of 'freedom' to the organizations to set up their boundaries and the management system in their own way. Most would not bother to look beyond their own boundaries and step forward to focus on the downstream and upstream life cycles of the products, i.e. from the 'cradle to the grave'.
 

Sidney Vianna

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#3
There is nothing wrong if the organizations obviously ignore this aspect since the standard ...Snip...
Some could disagree with that stance. For example, a car manufacturer: isn't the fuel consumption of the car a significant e-aspect? During the car life cycle, if the fuel consumption was increased by 10, 12, 15 %, imagine how many gallons of fuel would be saved? Multiply that by the millions and you can easily account for a significant reduction in GHG emissions...
, i.e. from the 'cradle to the grave'.
The new standard is "cradle to cradle". Recycle, recycle, recycle....
 
S

samsung

#4
Some could disagree with that stance. For example, a car manufacturer: isn't the fuel consumption of the car a significant e-aspect? During the car life cycle, if the fuel consumption was increased by 10, 12, 15 %, imagine how many gallons of fuel would be saved? Multiply that by the millions and you can easily account for a significant reduction in GHG emissions... The new standard is "cradle to cradle". Recycle, recycle, recycle....
Agreed. That's why I added 'compensate for' by other means. e.g. in our case, the packaging material is a plastic bag which comes from a non-renewable source. While we can neither do away with this material nor can we enforce on the end users an environmentally friendly disposal of the plastic waste once the product is used up, we consume other wastes in the manufacturing process to compensate for the GHG emissions accrued during the life cycle (production as well as disposition) of this input.
 

somashekar

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#5
Some could disagree with that stance. For example, a car manufacturer: isn't the fuel consumption of the car a significant e-aspect? During the car life cycle, if the fuel consumption was increased by 10, 12, 15 %, imagine how many gallons of fuel would be saved? Multiply that by the millions and you can easily account for a significant reduction in GHG emissions... The new standard is "cradle to cradle". Recycle, recycle, recycle....
While an organization which is first an ISO9k compliant, embraces the ISO14k, one of the vital design and development input could be the environmental aspects and impacts of the product / service designed. If they proclaim to be an integrated management system based organization, the ISO9k and the 14k can see into how much real integration of all the design inputs are considered and appropriate design outputs emerge out of the design and development process.
Ex. Paints >> Eco friendly paints., and perhaps many more examples can be thought which have been practically commercialised.
 
S

samsung

#6
While an organization which is first an ISO9k compliant, embraces the ISO14k, one of the vital design and development input could be the environmental aspects and impacts of the product / service designed. If they proclaim to be an integrated management system based organization, the ISO9k and the 14k can see into how much real integration of all the design inputs are considered and appropriate design outputs emerge out of the design and development process.
Ex. Paints >> Eco friendly paints., and perhaps many more examples can be thought which have been practically commercialised.
This is really unfortunate for an organization to fail to effectively integrate one MS with other. And I agree, it does happen and most of the organizations I am aware of end up with 'joining' together the systems rather than effecting true integration of the MS with the core values. The possible reason is - mostly the QMS is established far earlier than other systems such as EMS or OHS and the like. So the EMS, due to it's late entry often remains on the back foot.
 

Colin

Quite Involved in Discussions
#7
Interesting discussion - there is a new piece of legislation which will come into force in England and Wales in September this year which requires organisations to take account of the 'hierarchy of waste'. I suspect this will have a 'knock on' effect for the design of products too, eventually.

See here for details

Attached is an example of the hierarchy of waste.
 

Attachments

S

samsung

#8
Interesting discussion - there is a new piece of legislation which will come into force in England and Wales in September this year which requires organisations to take account of the 'hierarchy of waste'. I suspect this will have a 'knock on' effect for the design of products too, eventually.

See here for details

Attached is an example of the hierarchy of waste.
Good piece of information. I strongly stand for a similar clause in ISO 14001 (on the lines of 'Risk Control hierarchy' of OHSAS) in its forthcoming revisions. The focus of the standard should also change with changing global scenario in order to maintain its relevance and importance as well.
 
#9
Dear Friends,

I have been addressing this point in all the ISO-14001 Certification audits as well as internal audits that I had carried out from 1997 on-wards. The first instance was a major non-conformance issued to a Chemical Multinational Company manufacturing Dyes and Pigments for not addressing the environmental impacts of the products throughout their life cycle; the organization was asked to include this in its EMS before submitting itself for a certification audit next.

The organization has to address all those aspects related to its product(s) on which it has control and which it can influence.

In my assessment, design (product and packaging, now including RoHS), manufacturing, Supply Chain, Logistics, Product Literature etc., should address the issue of environmental aspects of product(s) and take measures to reduce the impact(s) throughout the life-cycle of the product(s).

If these are not covered in the ISO-14001, I wonder how the organization qualifies for ISO-14001 certification ?

With kind regards,

Ramakrishnan
 
S

samsung

#10
The organization has to address all those aspects related to its product(s) on which it has control and which it can influence.
Totally agree with the above.

In my assessment, design (product and packaging, now including RoHS), manufacturing, Supply Chain, Logistics, Product Literature etc., should address the issue of environmental aspects of product(s) and take measures to reduce the impact(s) throughout the life-cycle of the product(s).
These aspects come under what's known as 'Best Practices' but so far as a 14001 based EMS matters, there's enough room for larger deviations particularly when it comes to working within the defined scope of the management system. If the scope only includes 'manufacturing', then all other aspects related to logistics, distribution and marketing of the products would fall outside the scope of environment management.

As far as 'design' matters, most products nowadays are designed for 'dump' with 'built in' obsolescence which tends to occur through inevitable/ planned advances in technology. Most consumer goods become obsolete in less than 6 months. This is the story of stuff. ISO 14001, in its present form is less than sufficient to make organizations address all the 'indirect' aspects as above in the best manageable way. It has to be supported with more instruments in today's environment to enable it to prove its real worth.
 
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