Over the past decade, the state of the environment has been a prominent concern of governments and scientists worldwide. In 2019, high-profile youth climate activist Greta Thunberg brought her concerns about the climate crisis to the United Nations in a compelling and powerful speech. She catapulted the issue into mainstream media across the globe, inspiring companies and individuals across the world to do their part in preventing the escalation of the climate crisis . At Porterhouse Medical Group, we are taking steps to ensure that we become more eco-friendly in all aspects of our professional lives by working towards ISO (International Organization for Standardization) 14001 certification, which we hope to achieve by the end of 2020.
What is ISO 14001 certification?
ISO 14001 is an international standard that outlines the requirements for an efficient environmental management system (EMS); therefore, complying with this standard allows an organisation to enhance its environmental performance in accordance with an internationally recognised protocol [2, 3]. Developing an EMS helps companies and organisations to identify, monitor, manage and control environmental issues in a comprehensive manner . The desired results of an effective EMS include enhancement of environmental performance, implementation of compliance obligations and accomplishment of environmental objectives .
What areas are we focusing on?
At Porterhouse, we have been working to identify the key areas in which we will focus our efforts in promoting sustainability in all aspects of our professional lives and have outlined solutions to achieve this. These key areas include reducing the use of hazardous chemicals, reducing general waste, reducing the use of electricity, promoting recycling, introducing transportation schemes for our staff and reducing our digital carbon footprint.
What steps will we be taking to achieve certification?
Once office life returns to normal in the post-COVID-19 era, we plan to retain a flexible approach to remote working, therefore keeping air pollution from commuting at a minimum. In our offices, our initial area of focus will be to reduce electricity use. Gas and electricity consumption is the main controllable measure in an office environment, and regulating this has multiple benefits for both the environment and businesses: it reduces carbon emissions and pollution; improves working conditions and staff productivity; and saves money on utility bills .
As a digital business, we rely heavily on email communication both internally and externally; therefore, we will be working to promote face‑to‑face communication within the office to reduce our email‑associated digital carbon footprint. Alongside this, we plan to replace our current light bulbs with energy-efficient LED lights throughout the office and install motion sensors in our meeting rooms to greatly reduce our electricity consumption. Another way we will encourage our employees to reduce their electricity use is to place posters around the office containing information about the electricity consumption of our most commonly used electrical equipment; this measure will raise the collective consciousness of our employees about their electricity consumption and discourage overuse of such equipment.
To reduce office waste and the use of any potentially hazardous chemicals, we plan to increase the number of recycling bins located throughout the office, reduce the number of general waste bins to promote the use of these recycling bins, install eco-friendly hand dryers in bathrooms to reduce the use of paper towels, and replace all of the cleaning products that contain hazardous chemicals with environmentally friendly options to reduce our levels of water pollution.
In an effort to reduce Porterhouse’s travel-associated carbon emissions, we are aiming to raise awareness of our Cycle to Work scheme and implement a carpool scheme for employees who would normally drive to the office. As virtual meeting experts, we will continue to promote the use of video conferencing as a more regular feature of future projects to our clients, to reduce our reliance on international air travel.
What can your company do to begin the journey to obtain ISO 14001 certification?
- Get an environmental consultant on board for advice and guidance (https://truehorizon.co.uk/)
- Establish an environmental group to drive the initiative
- Get the support of your senior management team
- Set up regular meetings with your environmental group and discuss your progress with your environmental consultant
We hope that our efforts in obtaining ISO 14001 certification this year will engage our staff and prompt them to become more conscious of their own impact on the environment. For more information about ISO 14001 certification, please visit https://www.iso.org/home.html.
- Transcript: Greta Thunberg’s speech at the U.N. Climate Action Summit. Available at: https://www.npr.org/2019/09/23/763452863/transcript-greta-thunbergs-speech-at-the-u-n-climate-action-summit?t=1592228740550. Accessed August 2020.
- American Society for Quality. What is ISO 14001:2015 – environmental management systems? Available at: https://asq.org/quality-resources/iso-14001#:~:text=ISO%2014001%20is%20the%20international,than%20establishing%20environmental%20performance%20requirements. Accessed August
- ISO 14001:2015: Environmental management systems — requirements with guidance for use. Available at: https://www.iso.org/standard/60857.html. Accessed August 2020.
- ISO 14001: Key benefits. Available at: https://www.iso.org/files/live/sites/isoorg/files/store/en/PUB100372.pdf. Accessed August 2020.
- Smarter Business. What is the average business energy consumption in the UK? Available at: https://smarterbusiness.co.uk/blogs/what-is-the-average-business-energy-consumption-in-the-uk/. Accessed August 2020.
Author: Jack Gibbons, MRes
Associate Editor | Porterhouse Medical