Dynamic EMS go Beyond ISO 14001 to Bring True Sustainability to Customers
Thoughts on Earth Day by Dynamic EMS Managing Director John Dignan.
For quite some time, corporate social responsibility and sustainability have been targets for businesses across almost every industry in the UK. How to make businesses greener, while reducing waste to a minimum makes good business sense in general, so it is no surprise. The ISO 14001 standard has even been developed to provide a way of certifying companies as meeting a defined set of green objectives. Many companies look at gaining ISO 14001 certification as a good job done. This is true to an extent – meeting the requirements of the standard is definitely an achievement in itself, but does that mean that all the hard work is over? Personally, I think ISO 14001 is a just the beginning of the journey to sustainably and a platform to build upon, rather than the end-point in itself.
When Dynamic EMS was in the process of achieving ISO 14001 certification, I found a lot of the requirements pushed the company in the right direction, but stopped short of the need to meet real sustainability. At one point, I was even reminded of a time when I tried to be more sustainable in my own life, which led to me separating my household waste for recycling. Later, I discovered those carefully separated piles were all being disposed of in the same waste container by the contractor. In some ways, gaining ISO 14001 appears similar, it is possible to meet the set objectives without really complying with the spirit of the standard or making progress towards real sustainability.
Some companies may be happy to tick off the boxes and hang the resulting certificate in the corporate foyer, but I believed in sustainability as an objective that would bring tangible rewards and was determined to push further. In business, I’ve always been a proponent of looking to the longer term and building a network of trusted partners as both customers and suppliers that would help Dynamic EMS to achieve those long-term goals. By putting a greater emphasis on sustainability through that supply chain, the combined business and sustainability gains had the potential to be much greater than they would be for a company acting alone.
One of the first things I did to take the business beyond ISO 14001 was to get in touch with The Verdancy Group to assess the processes in place at Dynamic EMS. The Verdancy Group was founded to increase awareness of the circular economy and sustainability. The organisation was originally founded as Wasteswitch, and then as its focus grew beyond the elimination of waste from businesses, it changed its name to reflect the fact that it was dedicated to sustainability and the green economy as a whole. It works with companies, educational establishments and the community, offering courses in a variety of formats to meet its goal of promoting the circular economy.
According to Wikipedia, the circular economy “is an economic system aimed at the continual use of resources and eliminating waste”. The target of the circular economy is try to cut resource inputs as much as possible and reduce waste and emissions. The philosophy has been gaining popularity with businesses, as well as organisations like the EU, which has formulated a Circular Economy Action Plan to promote “initiatives along the entire life cycle of products, targeting their design, promoting circular economy processes and fostering sustainable consumption.”
From talking to the staff from The Verdancy Group during the process assessment, I realised that the circular economy provided a framework for the changes I already wanted to make in the company. Since the circular economy is focussed on the whole lifecycle of products, and manufacturing only forms a small part of that lifecycle, buy-in would be required from Dynamic EMS’ partner network. Fortunately, I have always prioritised building a close and trusted network of partners that encompassed the full supply chain. This made it much easier to work alongside The Verdancy Group and persuade the full partner network to buy into the programme. Our customers would have to change the way they look at the full design process and take additional factors, such as materials and excess packaging into account.
In some cases, especially in those customers with younger product designers, very little persuasion was required, as they had sustainability as part of their education and the changes we wanted to make were ones that they were already trying to push inside their own companies. Our suppliers were also very receptive to our message as the business case for a sustainable workplace was compelling and they had also been looking for ways to improve their own processes and reduce waste.
All of this highlights the added-value efforts that Dynamic EMS brings to our customers to ensure they understand the true meaning of designing and manufacturing for sustainability.