ISO 50001 – driving change

With cost savings and environmental impacts at the top of the agenda for many businesses, Andy Green discusses the benefits of an energy management system.

In August this year, the publication of ISO 50001:2018 was announced by the International Organisation for Standardisation (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 satisfying increasing CSR pressures from stakeholders.

With the launch of the new standard, now is an appropriate time for businesses to assess their current energy management systems. 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 identifies any energy issues, but does nothing further to ensure that changes are implemented or improvements are made. ESOS may alert a business to an area of concern, but ISO 50001 goes much further, 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 comply 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 provides significant value to companies, as they can physically prove to stakeholders and shareholders that work is being done to make the business more efficient, sustainable and profitable.

The ISO 50001 standard works by increasing an organisation’s understanding of the types of energy it 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 help the organisation 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. 

While the process remains much the same with ISO 50001:2018, the new iteration of the standard brings additional benefits and has been updated in order to increase effectiveness, with a stronger focus on continual improvement.

The key change is that ISO 50001:2018 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 the standard easier to integrate with 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 that is sure to make a difference, as it requires greater involvement from leadership and employees; this is more likely to create a culture change than a situation in which parts of an organisation are acting in isolation. 

In terms of timings, companies that are still working towards the ISO 50001:2011 standard must have it completed by December 2019, and certified organisations will have a three-year timeline to migrate to the new standard. While those dates may seem a while away, my advice would be to act early and get in ahead of the deadlines. Work is required to achieve the standards, and it is advantageous to have plenty of time so that the process is not rushed and goes ahead smoothly.

The argument for choosing ISO 50001 is a clear one. 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 money this back. 

By reducing energy usage, businesses can become more profitable while minimising their carbon footprint – satisfying both stakeholders and shareholders. Becoming more energy efficient makes sense not only from a business perspective, but also from an ethical one.

Andy Green is certification sales manager at Exova BM TRADA



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