Green Technology : The Rules & Regulations of Environment & Energy Management
15 September 2010
The need to be Green is becoming an increasing requirement for all businesses internationally, and the manufacturing industry is certainly no exception. But with plenty of regulating bodies, governmental and non-governmental, and different types of accreditation, what do businesses need to do to meet regulation requirements without wasting precious energy in doing so?
Which body to trust?
The International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) is the world’s largest and most respected developer of standard regulations for businesses. It is recognized in 163 countries, incorporating Africa, Europe, South America and Asia. It is a non-governmental organisation, but is unique in that its members come from private and public sectors so that a good consensus between businesses can be made for environmental regulations.
One key standard for a company’s environmental management is the ISO’s ‘ISO 14000.’ The ISO 14000 family addresses various aspects of environmental management. The very first two standards, ISO 14001:2004 and ISO 14004:2004 deal with environmental management systems. ISO 14001:2004 provides the requirements for such a system and ISO 14004:2004 gives the guidelines for it. The other standards and guidelines in ISO 14000 address labelling, performance evaluation, life cycle analysis, communication and auditing.
An environmental management system meeting the requirements of ISO 14001:2004 enables an organisation of any size or type to identify and control the environmental impact of its activities as well as to continually improve its environmental performance and to implement a systematic approach to setting environmental targets. ISO 14001:2004 does not specify levels of environmental performance, as each business is capable of different levels of performance due to their size and industry.
Across the world, carbon trading schemes that allow companies to offset their production of carbon dioxide by investing in environmental schemes such as new forest planting is growing. However, many environmental organisations believe that taking action to reduce individual companies production of carbon dioxide is better than offset in the longer time. The global manufacturer, SKF, for example, has made a commitment to reduce its carbon footprint at all its production plants each year and has set annual reduction targets that it has met so far.
In The UK, Carbon Trust is a not-for-profit company that work with private companies and the public sector to help cut carbon emissions, save energy and commercialise low carbon technologies. The Carbon Trust’s own standards require demonstrating that carbon emissions have been reduced and that the company is committed to reducing them each year.
Tom Delay, the CEO of the Carbon Trust has said, “We provide companies with expert advice, finance and accreditation. Our job right now is to help UK business in the economic downturn to realise the benefits of moving to a low carbon economy.”
“Business leaders who have sound carbon management strategies in place stand to prosper both now and in the future,” says Carbon Trust Standard general manager, Harry Morrison. “They stand to sell more, forge better business relationships and attract more committed workers. The Carbon Trust Standard allows businesses that have achieved certification to talk with integrity about what they have been doing to reduce their carbon emissions. Achieving the Standard shows that they are taking serious and credible steps to manage their carbon footprint.”
The Future of Energy Management
The future ISO 50001 standard for energy management was recently approved as a Draft International Standard (DIS). ISO 50001 has been created with the aim of being a framework for industrial plants, commercial facilities and entire organisations to manage energy consumption. Now that ISO 50001 has advanced to this stage, national member bodies of ISO have been invited to vote on the finer details of the standard during the five-month balloting period.
The new standard is based on the common elements found in all of ISO’s management system standards and is designed to have a high level of compatibility with ISO 9001 (quality management) and ISO 14001 (environmental management). ISO 50001 will provide energy management best practices, good energy management behaviours, evaluate the implementation of new energy-efficient technologies and a framework for promoting energy efficiency throughout the supply chain.
If the outcome of the DIS voting is positive, the modified document will then be circulated to the ISO members as a Final Draft International Standard (FDIS). If that vote is positive, ISO 50001 should be published as an International Standard by early 2011.
The Abrasives Hub will publish more details of how to comply with ISO 50001 at a later date.
Tougher attitudes to polluters
Signs are that some countries are getting tougher on companies. In the US, the Environmental Protection Agency already has the teeth to enforce environmental laws if it wishes to. In February 2010, the UK Government’s Environment Agency became one of the first regulators to be given civil powers. They can now issue fines, order companies to clean up any environmental damage they have caused and stop operations that are harmful to the environment. The Environment Agency can also bring criminal proceedings in more serious cases.
Effect on business
The risks of not being green are now more significant to businesses. Many large companies are committed to only working with suppliers that have environmental accreditation. The Red Bull Company was last year issued with a staggering £271,800 fine for not meeting its requirements to recover and recycle packaging waste and register its compliance with the Environment Agency between 1998 and 2006.
Companies with annual turnover of more than £2m and handle more than 50 tonnes of packaging a year must register with the Environment Agency or a compliance scheme. These company’s must also provide evidence of payment for recovery and recycling of a specified proportion of their wood, aluminium, steel, cardboard and plastic packaging and so the impact on manufacturing companies is great.
Assisting businesses to meet this legislation is the job of accredited certification bodies. NQA is one independent certification body accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) Max Linnemann, environmental sector manager for NQA has said, “Part of implementing a standard properly is to make sure you’ve addressed all of the applicable legislation. If you’re a manager or director and you have responsibility in this area, a standard is certainly going to put yours and your shareholders’ minds at rest.”
NQA audits ISO 14001 as well as the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS). Both standards cover similar environmental management requirements, but the ISO’s regulations are most widely used in the UK whereas EMAS is more popular in the EU. The standards are in the form of a checklist guide to implementing an organisation-wide environmental management system. If a company meets this guide then it is likely to pass an audit.
It is vital however that a company is audited by an officially accredited by UKAS, such as NQA or the Bristish Standards Institute, otherwise they many still not be meeting legal requirements. Official auditors use strict guidelines which companies must meet, including spending a minimum amount of time performing checks and obtaining a high level of documentary evidence to prove satisfactory standards are in place.
Manufacturing Industry Efforts
These days large companies seems to profess a company ethos for ‘being green’ or at least ‘environmentally friendly.’ Has environmental management become so per functionary that it is a requirement to stay competitive in most industries?
As manufacturing is generally an industry that involves high-energy use and equally high waste production, environment is a key point for manufacturers. The general consensus is that the abrasives industry is one that needs to move with the times as consumers buying choices are increasingly motivated by environmentally friendly products. Companies also use their efforts in green technology as a way to differentiate themselves.
Ray Bardsley, General Manager sia Abrasives (GB) Ltd said, “In our production processes, sia Abrasives actively contributes to continually reducing environmental impacts. For example, sia Abrasives uses low-phenol and water soluble bonding agents in manufacturing, state-of-the-art systems to filter exhaust air, environmentally sound waste disposal methods and repeatedly recycled packaging materials, conserving energy and resources.”
Promoting the Green
In the US, the Society of Manufacturing Engineers has recently announced their ‘Lean to Green’ Manufacturing Conference in Columbus, Ohio from October 26-29. The conference is an attempt to address demand for information on sustainability from manufacturers as they look to reduce their impact on the environment whilst simultaneously improving competitiveness and increasing profitability. Topics covered will include: Creating a Sustainable Facility through Energy Efficiency Design, Government and Industry Lessons in Collaboration and Best Practices in Being Green, Productive and Profitable.
“The leading similarity between the benefits of lean and the benefits of green is waste,” notes Gary Mikola, SME conference manager. “This conference offers proven business practices to dramatically reduce the overall impact of manufacturing on the environment.” The conference features presentations, workshops and case studies of successful methods attendees can immediately implement to improve reduce their negative impacts on the environment. Additionally, attendees can choose to go on the “Green Crawl Tour” and visit area facilities that have successfully implemented lean principles and green strategies.