Set high standards

31st May 2024

Chris Seekings reports from a webinar helping sustainability professionals to use standards effectively

How can businesses use standards to become more sustainable? What are the standards that are most appropriate to use, and where do businesses begin with transition planning?

These questions were all answered during an insightful webinar hosted by IEMA and the British Standards Institution (BSI) in March, which provided practical guidance and success stories for more than 150 sustainability professionals in attendance.

Moderating the webinar was IEMA’s policy and engagement lead for climate change and energy and social sustainability, Chloë Fiddy, who began by outlining the first steps that businesses can take when transition planning.

She explained how large firms are now required to publish climate transition plans in the UK, but warned that smaller companies will also be feeling the pressure to change the way they operate.

“If as an SME you are supplying a large organisation, sooner or later that organisation is going to ask you for your data because you are that organisation’s scope 3 emissions. They increasingly need to report on those scope 3 emissions, so SMEs need to start being prepared.”

After outlining recent IEMA guidance on transition planning for SMEs, including target-setting and engaging with supply chains, Fiddy was joined by the BSI’s UK and Ireland sustainability sector lead, Laurie Wood.

He explained how the BSI – the world’s first national standards body – has helped shape over 80,000 best practice standards and guidelines, and set out how businesses can identify the most appropriate ones to use.

“When selecting a standard, take a risk-based approach to identify the areas … that have the biggest impact”

“When selecting a standard to implement, take a risk-based approach to identify the areas, activities and processes that have the biggest impact, and require the highest level of control.”

Wood then summarised the best-known and most widely adopted standard, ISO 14001, which covers environmental management systems. He also gave a whistle-stop tour of ISO 50001 (energy management), ISO 14064-1 (greenhouse gases) and the BSI’s Net Zero Pathway.

“Standards are applicable to any type of organisation,” he said. “BSI certifies global companies with hundreds of thousands of staff, through to sole traders and very small micro businesses which are using standards to ensure their quality and sustainability is kept on track. It’s really important for them to be able to demonstrate to customers that they are working in a credible and sustainable way.”

It was then time for Sarah Handley FIEMA CEnv, head of sustainability and environmental governance at Siemens Energy, to provide some practical examples of standards being implemented successfully.

Her company employs over 6,000 workers across the UK, and decided to adopt the ISO 50001:2018 standard as part of its global target to become climate neutral by 2030, and to manage regulatory and inflationary pressures.

As a result, Siemens Energy experienced a 50% and 14% reduction in gas and electricity use from 2021 to 2023, respectively, as well as a 40% decrease in the energy used across its vehicle fleet per mile driven. This has led to a 38% drop in location-based emissions, a 43% fall in market-based emissions, and a 52% decline in emissions from gas turbine testing.

However, these successes haven’t been without challenges, with Handley explaining how standards implementation must have support from senior management, while funding, return on investment and access to alternative fuels can act as barriers.

She explained: “It does take time. We haven’t seen instant results on this; we have had to be consistent year on year, but we are now seeing some really brilliant results.”

Watch the ‘How to assure a credible sustainability strategy’ webinar at

Read IEMA’s guidance on transition planning for SMEs at


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