Where to start with improving sustainability

03.08.2022 3 min read

Where to start with improving sustainability – applying lessons from Environmental Management

Historically, since the 1980s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) was the buzz phrase for businesses looking to address the impact of their practices and policies on wider society and be seen doing it. This approach supported the integration of social and environmental concerns into a company’s business procedures, although it was typically on a self-regulated basis where commitment was important for stakeholders and the wider public, accountability, and transparency were often lacking.

Fast forward to today and the concept of CSR has been arguably superseded by Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG). ESG has many faces, but a common thread is how it allows quantifiable measurement of an organisation’s environmental and societal impact, in essence, to ‘prove’ sustainability. ESG standards (such as from the CFA Institute, BS ISO 32210:2022) provide a more measurable and accountable framework for evaluating the overarching operation of a business, taking into account wider matters of leadership, resourcing, and resilience. ESG can be seen as intrinsically linked to a company’s success.

To achieve progress towards the goal of sustainability, an organisation’s ESG aspirations must rely on a strong and clear internal system of management. The overlapping of the ‘governance’ part with the environmental and social elements will facilitate the development of a robust and integrated business model, although lessons can be learned from applying other established methods to properly scrutinise and evidence these elements separately.

What do we mean?

ESG can be complex, the intertwining of principles and behaviours often makes it hard for a business to know where to start. Temple has been advising clients about how to use an Environmental Management System (EMS) effectively to provide a framework to achieve their environmental goals and systematically address any regulatory requirements. This can prove a vital tool in fulfilling the environmental part of ESG, alongside encompassing the social responsibility aspects. For example, through further implementation of social value policies and ISO 26000.

ISO 14001:2015 (ISO 14001) is perhaps the best known internationally certifiable standard for an EMS. It provides a broad framework for implementing a system that effectively monitors business activities that may impact (positively or negatively) the environment.

Achieving certification is an opportunity for companies to publicly demonstrate their environmental commitment and accountability, simultaneously offering credibility, competitive advantage, and ethical responsibility. However, it alone does not demonstrate environmental performance; a company with ISO 14001 certification does not necessarily perform better than an organisation without it, and so obtaining certification should not be the aspiration. This brings us back to the importance of ‘governance’; to have an effective EMS, any organisation requires genuine leadership commitment to the protection of the environment.

Temple can support and advise organisations looking to reduce their environmental impact.

For example, we have recently undertaken advisory consultancy for an electrical engineering SME. The client approached Temple to conduct a review of their EMS against ISO 14001 standards. Temple produced a gap-analysis report, identifying clear and concise actions for immediate improvement, also detailing future recommendations necessary for certification under ISO 14001. By reviewing the client’s EMS, Temple could advise holistically on the next steps and provide recommendations on key management areas, such as implementing the system and effective communication. This will allow the client to maximise their environmental opportunities, manage risk, and reduce waste and associated costs.

Temple’s specialist consultants bring expertise across multiple sectors, and all aspects of an EMS lifecycle, from planning and implementing a new ISO 14001 certification, to reviewing an organisation’s existing EMS and their operations and identifying areas for improvement, as presented above. Ultimately, this systematic approach to looking at environmental aspects can be crucial to the success of a business’s wider ESG aspirations.

Please contact Temple’s Advisory and Sustainability team for more information.