New BS 8900 now a certification standard

Companies can now have their efforts to grow in a sustainable way independently audited and verified, under the revised BS 8900

When it was launched in 2006, 8900 was the first management standard aimed at helping organisations to incorporate sustainable development principles into their operations.

The revised edition of 8900 has now been split into two parts. The first, 8900-1, contains guidance on what are described as the “minimum principles” of sustainable development: inclusivity, integrity, stewardship and transparency and how firms can embed these concepts into their organisation. The second part of the new standard, 8900-2, is the framework to asses a firm’s approach to sustainable development.

The latest version of 8900 also differs from the first edition by including in the guidance examples of sustainable development maturity matrices for different types of organisations.

And, unlike other certification standards, such as ISO 14001 or OHSAS 18001, 8900-2 does not set out a series of detailed requirements for a management system, but instead focuses on specific outcomes, such as requiring users to demonstrate that they are identifying and managing their sustainable development issues.

The standard also requires, for example, that its users ensure sustainable development management is “firmly expressed and communicated in the organisation as a core part of business opportunity/business survival,” rather than requiring a procedure is in place to communicate sustainable development principles.

John Devaney, committee manager sustainability at BSI, told the environmentalist: “8900-2 is not a management systems standard it’s a principles-based standard. When it gives a requirement, it is not outlined in minute detail. The requirements tend to say what must be achieved; its focus is on outcomes rather than processes.”

The revised standard has been written this way to help organisations consider sustainability more strategically, explained Devaney. “This approach encourages organisations, boards and sustainability professionals to think more creatively about how they are going to achieve sustainable development.”

The 8900 has also been designed to “sit above” other management systems and reporting initiatives, confirmed Devaney.

“It will set a context for OHSAS 18001 or ISO 9001 management systems, as much as 14001. The intention is to help organisations achieve a balanced strategic approach to sustainability between the three pillars of the environment, the economy and social effects.”

Although the first iteration of 8900 was designed only as a guidance standard, it forms the basis of the international sustainable events standard ISO 20121, which was published last year and is a certification standard. 8900 is also being written into legislation such as the new UK planning regulations and the Welsh Sustainable Development Bill.



Sarah-Jayne Russell was the deputy editor of the environmentalist from March 2011 until June 2014.

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