ISO 14001, the International Standard for Environmental Management Systems (EMS) launched in 1996, faced criticism in its early years for failing to deliver improved environmental performance for organisations that invested in its implementation and subsequent third party certification. Uptake of the Standard nevertheless continued to rise, with more than 300,000 organisations now certified worldwide. The International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) has taken on board the criticisms and lessons learned in the early years, with the third revision of the Standard released in September 2015 focussing more on actual performance and outcomes rather than the system for system’s sake.
In Australia, uptake of ISO 14001 has surged in recent years, with the third largest increase in certificates of any country in the world during 2014. Yet uptake in the Australian oil and gas industry lags behind other regions with established oil and gas industries, as well as the global average for the industry as a whole. Approximately one quarter of active oil and gas operators in Australia are certified to ISO14001. By comparison, in Europe, 65% of oil and gas operators are ISO 14001-certified and in South America 71%.
Why is uptake greater in Europe? In accordance with international legal commitments, European countries promote and encourage the use by offshore operators of externally certified or verified EMSs. To this end, the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change will not award a licence to any operator that does not have a certified / verified EMS.
Also in the UK, the Environment Agency (which regulates onshore industrial facilities) now offers businesses with ISO 14001 certification reduced levies and a lower inspection frequency. Several Australian state environmental regulators are applying similar initiatives, for example in South Australia where a 50% levy reduction is available for ISO14001 certified organisations. These initiatives indicate that earlier reservations about the value of ISO14001 certification have now been overcome. There is no equivalent incentive for operators in Australian Commonwealth Waters currently, although elements of ISO14001 are integrated into regulations and accompanying guidance, for example, in the implementation strategy components of Environment Plans. Given the need to cut costs in the current low oil price environment, there may be potential for offshore oil and gas regulators to consider adopting a similar ‘lighter touch’ approach to ISO14001 certified organisations.
Article by Max Goodwin of S2V Consulting. Max has 20 years’ experience in the field of EHS management system consulting, training, certification and verification. Max will deliver a paper on the subject at APPEA
2016 conference in Brisbane. For further information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org