With environmental impact expected to be higher on the agenda than ever before in 2020, Andy Green discusses why now is the time to consider an energy management system

It’s fair to say that 2019 has been a revolutionary year for climate change. We’ve seen public action on the subject like never before, with students striking; the rise of Extinction Rebellion; and 16 year old Greta Thunberg addressing the UN Climate Action Summit in New York. As we move into 2020, interest in the issue looks set to increase further, with many events scheduled to form an international response to our climate emergency.

As public awareness of the climate change crisis continues to be raised, the focus will extend beyond government and on to businesses to act. And, with many key 2020 events taking place in Europe – and specifically the UK – UK and European businesses will be particularly under the spotlight. COP26, which is taking place in Glasgow at the end of 2020, will bring a significant amount of attention to the UK, as the UN seeks to drive climate change targets.

With this in mind, it has never been more important for businesses to ensure that energy use and environmental impact is at the top of their agenda.

In August last year, the publication of ISO 50001:2018 was announced by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). The update was prompted by rising energy prices and climate change, and addresses major challenges facing businesses today, such as reducing costs, growing more sustainably and – as is likely to become increasingly prevalent – satisfying CSR pressures from stakeholders.

As a first port of call when considering carbon footprint, a good first step is for businesses to assess their energy management system. It is currently mandatory for all organisations with more than 250 employees or a turnover of over £42m to be Energy Savings Opportunities Scheme (ESOS) audited every four years – this standard purely identifies any energy issues, but does nothing further to ensure that changes are implemented or that improvements are made. ESOS may alert a business to an area of concern, but ISO 50001 goes much further than this – with targets to meet and annual audits – to make sure that changes are made.

The main advantage of opting for a proper energy management system is that it is proven to drive change – rather than just complying with the law. This, in turn, should improve the organisation’s bottom line. While it does necessitate some work from the team, it makes everyone more focused and results in demonstrable improvements. This is of significant value for companies, as they can physically prove to stakeholders and shareholders that work is being done in this extremely important area to make the business more efficient, more sustainable and more profitable.

The ISO 50001 standard works by increasing an understanding of what types of energy an organisation uses; how efficiently it is using that energy, and how further efficiencies can be made. As part of the audit, benchmarking takes place, and a shortlist is provided for establishing policies, processes, procedures and specific tasks to meet the energy targets and objectives set out by the individual organisation. This creates a structure to work towards improved energy management. A company policy is created, targets are implemented to meet the policy, energy data is analysed, results are measured and annual progress reviews are booked.

Since its update in 2018, ISO 50001 now adopts the ISO’s requirements for management systems, including the high-level structure, identical core text and common terms and definitions, known as Annex SL. This makes it easier to integrate into existing energy management systems. It has been brought in line with the updated versions of ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 and is now based on the same model to ensure it is delivering positive change.

The high-level structure is the thing which is sure to make a difference, as it requires greater involvement of leadership and employees, which is more likely to create a culture change, rather than parts of organisation acting in isolation.

The standard is open to any organisation, regardless of size, location or industry; and those with an energy management system certified to ISO 50001 do not also need to undertake specific ESOS audits. While a standard ESOS audit may be cheaper and easier in terms of outlay, the savings from a full energy management system will more than make this back.

With COP26 in Glasgow in 2020 and the eyes of the world on the UK, the use of an energy management system like ISO 50001 can put businesses at the forefront of the industry’s reaction to the climate emergency on a global scale. Plus, by reducing energy usage, businesses not only minimise their carbon footprint, but can also become more profitable, satisfying both stakeholders and shareholders. Becoming more energy efficient makes sense from a business perspective and an ethical one. In the current climate, can any organisation afford to ignore it?

Andy Green
Andy Green is Business Development Director at BM TRADA. BM TRADA, part of the Element Group, specialises in providing a comprehensive range of independent testing, inspection, certification, technical and training services. It helps organisations to demonstrate their business and product credentials and to improve performance and compliance. BM TRADA exists to help its customers to make certain that the management systems, supply chain and product certification schemes they operate are compliant and fit for purpose.