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What’s the difference between ISO 14001 and ISO 50001?

Irish businesses are facing pressure to prioritise sustainability – from the Irish government’s aims to be net-zero by 2050 and the Climate Action Plan outlining national targets for tackling climate change – to investors increasingly looking at ESG and sustainable operations. By implementing sustainable, greener business practices, Irish organisations can lead the charge in tackling climate change.

But bringing about change and implementing green practices and policies can be easier said than done. It requires time and organisation-wide support to be effective. It can also be challenging to know where to begin evaluating your organisation to identify improvements, as well as monitoring and reporting to demonstrate compliance and progress to customers and investors alike.

This is where becoming ISO 14001 and ISO 50001 certified could be an asset to your organisation – but what’s the difference between the two standards, and where can they both play a role in demonstrating your green credentials?

What is ISO 14001?

ISO 14001 is the global standard for environmental management and is a framework to protect the environment and respond to changing environmental conditions designed by the International Organization for Standardization to help organisations of all sizes and in all industries minimise their impact on the environment and manage their environmental responsibilities.

This is done through implementing an Environmental Management System (EMS), a set of policies and procedures organisations can put in place and tailor to fit their specific needs to manage their environmental impact in several ways. This includes activities such as waste disposal, energy usage and water usage.

A key feature of an EMS is that it makes it easier for an organisation to accurately measure their impact in real time and adjust its actions accordingly to reduce impact. This then becomes an ongoing, iterative process of continuous improvement.

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What is ISO 50001?

In the same way that ISO 14001 aims to help organisations reduce their environmental impact on a broad scale, ISO 50001 does so in one specific area: energy.

ISO 50001 can help organisations of any size and industry improve their energy usage and performance, reducing costs and their specific impact on the environment. This is done by implementing an Energy Management System (EnMS).

The aim of an EnMS is to help organisations reduce the amount of energy they use to reduce their carbon emissions and improve energy efficiency throughout the entire organisation. It also includes sourcing energy from sustainable or renewable sources.

Read our guide to what an energy management system is and why your business needs one.

ISO 14001 vs ISO 50001 – what are the differences?

Although both ISO 14001 and ISO 50001 are concerned with sustainability and reducing environmental impact, they have some differences.

The biggest difference between the two standards is their scope.

ISO 14001 applies to all areas of an organisation, from the daily running of office space to the supply chain and transporting of finished goods.

But ISO 50001 focuses specifically on energy, particularly energy usage and where the energy is sourced from. Although ISO 14001 does cover energy in regards to how it would affect an organisation’s environmental impact, it does not go as deep as ISO 50001, which also considers the design of energy-using equipment, policies and processes that contribute to poor energy performances and how that can be optimised.

Another critical difference between these two ISO certifications is how much mandatory documentation is involved.

Although it could be considered best practice to keep records of any changes and their results to inform future progress, ISO 50001 requires more mandatory documentation than ISO 14001. These documents include energy planning processes, baselines, performance indicators, and reviews. This documentation is needed to comply with energy legislation.

Which standard certifications your organisation opts for depends entirely on the goals you set for your organisation, although other factors, such as size, may also have an impact.

Irish SMEs may benefit more from ISO 14001 as it addresses energy efficiency and environmental impact and provides them with the tools required to meet sustainability goals. For larger businesses that consume a lot of energy, ISO 50001 could be the best path as it would have the largest positive impact on the journey towards becoming more energy efficient.

However, ISO 14001 could be implemented simultaneously to further progress without hindering ISO 50001.

You do not have to be certified in one standard to be able to be certified in the other. Which certification you opt to undergo will depend on your organisation’s goals – do you want it to be more energy efficient, or do you want to decrease its environmental impact? You could always choose to become certified in both, which comes with a number of benefits.

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The benefits of implementing ISO 14001 and ISO 50001

Reduced environmental impact

Not only would a reduced environmental impact by implementing an EnMS and EMS be beneficial to an organisation for a number of reasons, but it would also help an organisation meet its ESG goals.

Better industry and customer reputation

Research conducted by Deloitte shows that nearly one in three consumers claim to have stopped purchasing brands or products because they had ethical or sustainability concerns about them.

Being ISO 14001 and ISO 50001 certified could boost your reputation with customers, employees and investors.

Increased business opportunities

Being ISO 14001 and ISO 50001 certified could clearly demonstrate your organisation’s commitment to more responsible business practices, which could distinguish you from the competition when competing for contacts that require ISO certifications.

Improved regulatory compliance

By becoming ISO certified and implementing these management systems, your organisation could find it easier to comply with changing legal regulations, avoiding potential fines and lagging behind competitors.

Reduced costs

By implementing both an Environmental Management System and an Energy Management System, you could see a reduction in costs when it comes to energy and water bills. This could ease financial stress due to rising energy prices across Ireland.

Increased energy efficiency

An EnMS is designed to help organisations identify ways to reduce energy consumption and support effective energy usage. Not only could ISO 50001 and ISO 14001 certifications optimise your organisation’s energy usage, but could also reduce costs in the process – only paying for what you need.

Contact us now to learn more about ISO 50001 and ISO 14001 and how your organisation could benefit from globally-recognised certification.

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