Transform web

Kirsten McLaughlin provides an account of upgrading to the 14001: 2015 standard at WSP

It took six months for WSP to achieve certification to the revised international standards for its environmental and quality management systems. The transition began with gap analysis comparing the EMS and QMS versions that were in use at the time against the requirements of ISO 14001: 2015 and 9001: 2015. For each new requirement we detailed several points of reference: what the business was already doing; what changes needed to be made; who would be responsible; the timescales to close gaps; and what evidence we would have for the auditor.

The document that came out of this became the framework for all our transition activities. There were four areas of significant change that we focused on to meet the requirements of the revised standard.

Interested parties

The revised standards require organisations to understand the needs and expectations of interested parties. To demonstrate this, we mapped our internal and external interested parties. For each, we detailed what they expected from us and whether there were any legal compliance obligations. We then ranked the parties so we could prioritise actions. We developed a simple graph on which we could plot their interest against their influence using a scale of one to ten. They were then placed in one of four categories: manage closely, keep satisfied, monitor or keep informed (see below).

We found it was beneficial to involve different business functions in the mapping exercise, including facilities management, human resources, sustainability, procurement and finance. This exercise was also used to develop a communication matrix plan highlighting the health, safety, environment and quality information we would need to communicate to interested parties, including the method and frequency. This single activity covered several of the new standard’s clauses.

What the auditors looked for

The auditors wanted evidence that stakeholders and their needs had been captured. Specifically, they wanted to see the compliance obligations and how this information would be used – in particular, whether it would feed into the management review and risk/opportunities planning.

Leadership and commitment

There is more focus in the new standards on the role of top management, ensuring compatibility between environmental policy and an organisation’s strategic direction. At WSP, the first action was to review and update our environmental policy. We involved the UK chief operating officer (COO), who signed it off. We also prepared a briefing note for the senior management team, explaining the transition, the key changes to the standards and our proposed actions. Presentations were delivered to operational directors. It was key to win senior management buy-in early.

What the auditors looked for

The auditors were keen to see where the ‘environment’ was included at senior leadership meetings and in the longer-term strategy, and whether their roles and responsibilities were documented in relation to the EMS. During the assessment, the auditor interviewed the COO and head of corporate social responsibility.

Risk and opportunity

The revised standards ask organisations to consider not only how it has an impact on the environment but also how the environment affects the business. WSP already operated a register for environmental aspects, covering all its offices in the UK and key business disciplines, including building services, energy, rail, environment, major projects, industry, highways and bridges. We built on this piece of work by focusing on business risks, opportunities, and external factors and trends.

A consideration in implementing 14001: 2015 was its definition of risk as ‘potential adverse effects (threats)’ and of opportunities as ‘potential beneficial effects’. To meet the implications of this we developed a risk and opportunity plan. It includes our significant environmental impacts identified in the aspects register, compliance obligations and other requirements. For each risk or opportunity, we detailed the impact, whether positive or negative and the proposed action to be taken to implement or rectify. To cover the external factors – that is, how the environment and other factors could affect our organisation – we conducted a PESTLE analysis. This tool helps business to look at the political, economic, social, technological, legal and environment factors that affect or may affect it and its activities now and in the future.

WSP already had an overarching business risk process so the PESTLE analysis focused on the factors that would affect environmental performance and the effectiveness of the EMS, whether client requirements could be met and whether the organisation could continually improve.

The key environmental trends that arose were:

  • political changes;
  • climate change;
  • land use;
  • population;
  • catastrophes; and
  • biodiversity and ecosystems

The results of the analysis, including forward planning, were added into the risk and opportunity plan.

What the auditors looked for:

The auditors wanted to see how WSP’s aspects registers, PESTLE analysis, risk and opportunity plan were linked together. They were keen to see that high-level risks and opportunities had been addressed and evidence that potential emergencies had been identified and documented.

Lifecycle perspective

Under 14001: 2015, organisations must ensure environmental needs are considered during design and development processes for products and services. They have to take into account each lifecycle stage and determine the environmental requirements for the procurement of products and services, consistent with a lifecycle perspective. We mapped two lifecycle perspectives: one for our offices and one for client projects. WSP has more than 40 sites in the UK, varying in size and occupancy but with typical impacts from inputs (raw materials, supplies), operation (use of IT equipment) and outputs (waste, emissions).

We already had project lifecycle as part of our QMS, so we built on this, identifying the environmental considerations at each stage. This ties in well with Future Ready, WSP’s flagship innovation and sustainability programme. It provides design teams with a practical view of the future and challenges them to engage with clients to design both for the long term and today. By mapping out the impacts we can identify where we already have good controls in place and where there are opportunities for improvement.

What the auditors looked for:

The auditors wanted to know what controls were in place to manage the impacts identified. They also wanted details on the environmental requirements related to procurement and suppliers/sub-contractors.

Words of advice

WSP achieved certification to 14001: 2015 and 9001: 2015 for its UK business in April 2017. We did so without receiving any major non-conformances and during a time of reorganisation within the business. There are some areas we still need to show further development, such as clarity on the difference between risk and significance in our aspects registers. We are also launching our new environmental and sustainability objectives, taking us to 2025.

Overall, we found the transition process demanding but achievable: the key was having a good gap analysis and implementation plan from the start. A lot of the activities, such as identification of interested parties, PESTLE analysis, and lifecycle mapping and communications planning are the same for 14001 and 9001. The process should also help WSP achieve the new health and safety standard, ISO 45001 when it is launched, probably in November.

It is important that people from business support functions and operational teams are involved. This lends reality to the system and raises awareness.

We also realised that the auditors are on a learning curve and, if we were open and honest with them, they would be realistic in their expectations. Finally, we still see this process as a journey. If you see the transition as an opportunity to improve your system, performance and embed 14001: 2015 in your organisation you will gain from it substantially.