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03/03/2014 / Graham Lowe

A product of the environment

I’m Graham Lowe, sales director at Hochiki Europe, and I’d like to welcome you to a series of blogs where I, along with guest bloggers, examine the issues affecting the life safety industry.

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Richard Anderson

In this blog my colleague RICHARD ANDERSON, Hochiki Europe’s quality system administrator, examines the benefits of ISO 14001 certification and explains how our own environmental management system (EMS) is reducing our impact on the planet. His thoughts and opinions are intended to generate debate – so whether you agree or disagree, feel free to post your comments below.

The recent bad weather has once again put climate change and global warming top of the political and social agendas, with most experts suggesting that the flooding experienced in certain areas of the UK is a direct result of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

That’s not to say that the issue has been ignored over recent years – far from it. The targets for carbon reduction in the UK outlined by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) set out plans for achieving the reductions in carbon emissions stated in the Climate Change Act 2008. The Act aims to encourage the transition to a low carbon economy through targets which, when compared to 1990 levels, equate to at least 34 per cent by 2020 and at least 80 per cent by 2050.

However, according to an article printed recently by the BBC, the UK has failed to meet the EU restrictions for air pollution and faces possible legal proceedings as a result, so clearly more needs to be done.

Successive governments have flexed their muscles on this issue and the current coalition has reaffirmed its commitment to achieving these targets. To do this it has launched a number of initiatives and legislation. Perhaps the best known of these, certainly within the business world, is the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme, which is designed to improve energy efficiency and cut emissions in large public and private sector organisations using more than 6,000MWh per year of electricity. According to figures from the National Audit Office they are responsible for around 10 per cent of the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

Organisations are required to monitor their energy use and report their energy supplies annually and, despite the controversy that surrounds the CRC, it is likely to extend its scope to incorporate more businesses in the future.

Although it doesn’t affect every organisation, including Hochiki Europe, its indirect influence means we are all being encouraged to operate in a way that minimises our environmental impact. I am firmly of the opinion that this is a good thing, as it’s clear simply finding ways of reducing energy use alone is not enough – it’s essential that the ways businesses operate become more sustainable.

The most effective way that this can be achieved is through the development of an environmental management system (EMS) that is ISO 14001 certified. Over 223,000 organisations in 159 countries worldwide are now certified to ISO 14001 and it helps them systematically reduce any harmful effects they have on the environment by developing processes to lower energy and raw materials use, reduce waste and pollution, and mitigate the risk of emergency situations. It not only ensures that a company is environmentally friendly, it also makes it more profitable and efficient.

We became certified in 2003 and have never looked back. We are audited once a year to ensure that any identified policies and targets are being adhered to and that the entire operation is responding to them. And that means everybody – from our senior management to our administrative staff.

Maintaining our ISO 14001 certification isn’t easy and in many ways the culture of continual improvement that it requires can prove onerous. We have to help organisations in our supply chain control their own environmental impact, engage stakeholders, communicate our activities externally and make sure that our environmental objectives are compatible with the company’s overall strategic direction.

ISO 14001 compliance also means we have to meet all relevant legal and other statutory requirements that affect our operation. We are required to provide evidence that we have evaluated our activities against identified regulations and taken appropriate action. Laws, regulations and directives are always changing, so we update our legal register on a monthly basis.

This means that we can react quickly to any changes and I’m proud of the fact that we always complete our legal compliance processes before deadline. We’re currently adapting our manufacturing processes in order to comply with July 2014 deadline for the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS 2) Directive, which restricts the use of materials such as lead, mercury and cadmium in electrical and electronic equipment sold in the EU.

On a day-to-day basis we are continually looking at new ways to reduce our energy consumption, limit the amount of packaging we use and optimise our supply chain. Hochiki Europe builds in excess of 500,000 conventional and intelligent fire detection products a year, so anything we can do to improve our environmental management has a big impact, not only on our carbon emissions but also on our bottom line.

With ISO 14001 there’s no resting on our laurels, as it is a work in progress. In the year ahead we are looking to enhance our recycling capabilities by working with companies that can reuse printed circuit boards and materials such as metal and plastic. In addition we are introducing a set of key performance indicators (KPIs) to help reduce our levels of waste across the company.

We are proud of our achievements in this area but one question I’m often asked is, are there any benefits for installers and end users of our products? The simple answer is yes. By working with us they reduce their own environmental impact through the use of more energy efficient and longer lasting products. Furthermore, the savings we make in our manufacturing processes can be reinvested into the developing the type of cutting edge technology we are known for, and which our customers demand from us.

ISO 14001 has allowed us to build sustainability into the very heart of what we do and is a great vehicle for coordinating our environmental activities. I can’t recommend it enough and would urge others in the life safety sector to embrace the challenge of certification and not be daunted by it.

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