Why hasn’t ISO 50001 matched the global success of ISO 14001?

ISO 14001 has been a success. It would be difficult to deny the impact of the standard has had in improving general standards of environmental management, albeit not in all sectors, and in some countries more than others. It has undoubtedly changed the ethos of some organisations and their general environmental focus. The larger organisations have been the main cheer leaders however, you’d have to speculate, this is driven in part as a means to acquiesce public perception of their operations as a responsible and ethical operator.

Where these organisations have bought into the application of the standard, they have also involved their suppliers and subcontractors who, in order to comply with the terms of organisation’s tendering processes and contracts, may often themselves be required to become certified to ISO 14001, or as a minimum to have environmental policies and controls in place. Some of these subcontractors and suppliers may buy into the standard, whereas others may comply purely because of contractual obligations. Nonetheless, progress is progress.

An ultimate effect has hopefully been a general improvement within supply chains, leading to local, nationalised, and global Environmental Improvement.

ISO 50001 was introduced in 2011. Its fair to say it probably hasn’t quite had the same global impact as has the ISO 14000 series. In my personal view that there have been a number of reasons for this;

  1. A company already proves it doing as much as it can so within its financial constraints by committing itself to ISO 14001. So, it any additional financial benefit with ISO 50001 is marginal. I’ve yet to come across any tender document that has specifically asked any organisation to commit to ISO 50001 (that doesn’t mean there aren’t any). So, without major organisational buy in from major players that viral spread hasn’t occurred.
  2. ISO 50001 is a standard for Energy Management, but “Energy Use” would always be a major aspect of any Environmental Management system anyway and realistically is already covered within any substantive EMS focussed on ISO 14001. On top of that Energy technology and improvements have a finite point of development. As in, given the technology that is available and even with a budget without zero constraints, there is only so much an organisation can realistically do. Once they have done all they can, there’s no further room for development and once the low hanging fruit has been picked, residual benefits are again marginal.
  3. Finally, and crucially, although EnMs (Energy Management Systems) are compatible with other standards, it must stand as its own management system baring all its own resource costs. My view is that had it made itself an additional certification that compliments ISO 14001, or an extension of it, and not a stand-alone certification, we would have seen more buy in.

Given the most recent revision of the standard was in 2018 I don’t see much changing any time soon. I personally have an interest in ISO 50001 and do wish to for a broader buy in. I want to learn more about efficient use of energy and even enjoy working with the standard but given the cost, as Duncan B*nn*tyne would say “I’m out”*

Dan Wilkinson is a Quality, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety Management Consultant and Auditor. We thank him for this contribution. If you have any observations or comments to make on Dan’s post, we’d love to receive them.

*just in case he’s still got his google alerts switched on

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