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#71 How long will it take to achieve ISO 14001?

A question that we get every single time somebody asks about an ISO standard is ‘how long does it take to implement an ISO’, or ‘how long does it take to get certified to an ISO’?

In this episode, you’re going to find out what you need to take into consideration when it comes to timescales for implementing and getting certified to an ISO standard. ISO 14001 (the environmental standard) will be used as an example, but don’t worry -this can be applied to most other ISO standards.

So, are you looking to help your business? Create a system for success? To be kind to the planet, and improve your company’s brand reputation? Then we’re going to be talking about realistic timescales for making this happen.

If you’re ready to implement an Environmental Management System (EMS) to help reduce your company’s damage to the climate, then you’re in the right place!

First and foremost, make sure you download our FREE ISO standards blueprint here. This helps you to plan, create and launch your EMS, ready for getting certified.

Now, let’s dive into finding out about timescales for your ISO project!

What you’ll learn:

  • Timescales for your ISO project
  • The different variables involved with an ISO project
  • Scope of your certification
  • The assessment processes

The short and sweet answer is that most businesses take between 6 to 12 months to get certified. But it depends on the size of your organisation and the complexity of it.

Let’s get to know the different variables involved with this project because there is actually a way that you can implement any EMS in a much quicker timescale (we have had companies that have achieved this in less than three months!).

The main thing is to have a clear plan, which is well organised and disciplined. It’s worthwhile optimising both your internal and external resources. That would include your environmental champions, or your ISO coach (if you have one) if you’re looking at using the isology hub as well because that could have a detrimental impact on the timescales allowed. So, if you’re wondering what you should be doing, then it’s definitely worthwhile either getting help from someone that does know what they’re doing or finding other people within the business who have a bit more knowledge about environmental management and ISO 14001.

Now for larger organisations, it can take longer. You may take up to 12 months or even longer than that. What you need to do is consider breaking the project down into incremental phases. So, let’s say you had 10 locations across the globe. You may decide to break that down into incremental phases so that you get certain locations certified in year one, and then you can have other locations included in the scope of certification in years two and three. So, don’t think that you have to implement an EMS and get certified across all locations and services. You can go at your own pace. But ultimately, the scope would be for whatever you have set in your objectives for achieving implementation. What we do find is that some businesses implement an EMS across the entire organisation, but they might just get certified for a part of that business (this covered in a previous episode, where we look at assessments and getting quotes for certification as well!).

Remember you can extend your scope of certification at any time. It can be revisited at the annual surveillance visits that you get. Ultimately you want to build your ambitions, your objectives, and your targets for environmental management and achieving certification into your sustainability roadmap.

Now, it was mentioned earlier that you could fast-track creating an EMS, but you do need to establish a time to gather evidence and make sure that the system is working and is effective. So, when you’re planning your launch just make sure that you’re effectively targeting all key stakeholders (all stakeholders must be aware of this). And the general rule of thumb is to allow three months past the launch to make sure that your system is fully established because when it comes to certification, your certification body will expect to see some evidence and records. So, let’s say, within your EMS you say that you have provided training for employees. You need to be able to show the evidence of that on the records and that doesn’t happen overnight (obviously). So, with monitoring and measuring information on your environmental footprint, you need to allow time to do that. Ultimately what you’re doing is proving that you ‘walk the walk’, and you will allow plenty of time to demonstrate that you’re serious about reducing your company’s environmental footprint.

Finally, one of the things that a lot of businesses don’t really take into consideration is the time allowed for the assessment.  Make sure that you have briefed your employees ahead of the dates of an assessment. Essentially, ensure you consider the timescales for your stage one and stage two assessments.

Let’s find out what’s involved in the assessment process…

Typically stage one is completed first, and then stage two could be within a few weeks or up to a couple of months after. You need to manage timescales so you can go through stage two relatively quickly. You just need to allow a few days in case there are any findings and if you need to implement any corrective action! Once you’ve completed the assessment, you’re not actually formally certified as an organisation. There’s a due diligence process that takes place behind the scenes with the certification body, and it can even take several weeks before you actually get a copy of the certificate. Try and factor that into your overall planning, if you’re looking at having a communications plan for celebrating your success, that’s why six months is typically a good timescale.

A final factor to bear in mind is that if you’ve already got a management system in place, you could potentially fast-track the integration of ISO 14001 if you’re developing an integrated management system.

Now, hopefully, that’s been helpful to you for implementing an EMS and getting certified to ISO 14001.

And finally, don’t forget your FREE ISO standards blueprint here, where we cover timescales and there’s even a planner within it on timescales which you can use to get your ISO management system kick-started.

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