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For many of us, the dropping of the ISO Amendment in February 2024 was a huge surprise. However, in research for this article, it has become very clear that ISO has been working behind the scenes on this topic for a number of years. One example of this is the release of ISO 14090:2019 Adaptation to Climate Change – Principles, Requirements and Guidelines.

That document has several items in the definitions that include:

“3.1 adaptation to climate change(climate change adaptation): process of adjustment to actual or expected climate (3.4) and its effects”

“3.4 climate: statistical description of weather in terms of the mean and variability of relevant quantities over a period of time ranging from months to thousands or millions of years

Note 1 to entry: The classical period for averaging these variables is 30 years, as defined by the World Meteorological Organization.

Note 2 to entry: The relevant quantities are most often near-surface variables such as temperature, precipitation and wind.

[SOURCE: Adapted from IPCC, 2014]”

“3.5 climate change: change in climate (3.4) that persists for an extended period, typically decades or longer

Note 1 to entry: Climate change can be identified by such means as statistical tests (e.g. on changes in the mean, variability).

Note 2 to entry: Climate change might be due to natural processes, internal to the climate system, or external forcings such as modulations of the solar cycles, volcanic eruptions, and persistent anthropogenic changes in the composition of the atmosphere or in land use.”

These definitions are very interesting to me, as I studied Earth Sciences in college back in the 1970s and do remember the historical ice core records that the modern news media folks seem to either ignore or skip to fit some sort of news agenda. According to the World Meteorological Organization, as noted in definition 3.4 climate, an organization will need to look back at recent climate data to review the risks to their organization in providing products and services to clients.

With the news media starting to talk about the alleged coming of lack of electrical power in the United States, and probably globally with increasing electrical demands, your organization may need to conduct a lot more contingency planning to ensure that your company can even stay in business.

So where do you start, and how do you get ready for future customer demands and questions from your registrar audits around climate change?

The good news is that your company has probably already begun this journey if you are registered to either ISO 14001 or ISO 50001. But even if you aren’t, your management team has been looking at methods of reducing operating costs, which in many cases can directly relate to climate change improvements. The standard mantra when starting is to look for ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle anything in your operations.

So, if you have already installed LED lighting or motion sensors in your site, then the question might be why did you do that? For most of us, it was to reduce energy cost which is a foundation for climate change. What other continual improvements has your organization made that could be related to reduce, reuse or recycle? And, do you have a running record of these improvements?

The MSS auditable standards now all have the statement in 4.1 “The organization shall determine whether climate change is a relevant issue.” Please note that this statement is around the consideration of climate change issues at this time and does not require that you actually complete projects that will have impacts on climate change. With that said though, registrar audits are also being encouraged to look in other clauses for where your organization has added verbiage to your management systems that could impact climate change. These include:

4.3 Determining the scope of the management system

6.1 Actions to address risks and opportunities

6.3 Planning of changes

7.1 Resources

8. Operations

9. Performance evaluation and Improvement

Let’s look closer at each clause and what you might consider in adding to your management system:

4.3 Determining the scope of the management system

When the standards mention “scope” here, please note that we are not talking about the scope that is on your registration certificate from the registrar. What you are required to have is a document scope for your site that covers how your specific management system addresses issues as:

a) the external and internal issues referred to in 4.1;

b) the requirements of relevant interested parties referred to in 4.2;

c) the products and services of the organization.

As the registrar audit process is a random audit, many auditors may have glossed over your written scope in the past, but may now pay closer attention to how you are considering climate change in the processes and services that you provide to your customers. And are very likely to ask if there are any customer requirements related to climate change that you have agreed to in your contracts.

6.1 Actions to address risks and opportunities

For this clause, many companies have developed some sort of a matrix, including FMEA’s, to review the risks in their operations. This could also include the Job Safety Analysis (JSA) or Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) found in Safety Management System (SMS) audits. These documents will need to be reviewed and updated, maybe including an opportunity column, to address any related issues around climate change considerations. New line items may also be needed to add additional thoughts around climate change for your organization.

6.3 Planning of changes

When updating any documentation or anything around your organization, considerations may be needed to have a formal Management of Change (MOC) in place to ensure that the new activities are yielding the expected results, and if not, to take immediate corrective actions to ensure success.

In this clause, there are no formal documented information / records required. However, any organization that does maintain some sort of MOC log as part of their management system, needs to ensure that the verbiage does include climate change references.

7.1 Resources

In this clause, especially the 9001, the leadership team is expected to determine if additional resources will be needed to address climate change during improvement discussions. Is additional training needed on the topic? Are outside consultants needed? Will any new equipment be needed? Consider other aspects or impacts that may be needed as planning is being continued.

Again, since the current requirement is to consider the impacts of climate change, you will be required to show how you are planning for the future which could include making capital improvement requests for resource needs in the future.

8. Operations

Many organizations have and are working on recycling programs so this will be a good start in reviewing your daily operations. Nowhere else can potential recycle / reuse be implemented in the daily operation. There are any number of processes, as Six Sigma or Lean, that strive to make the operation more effective. In most cases, this will save time and energy costs which can be used as evidence of making positive impact on climate change.

Your internal audits might also be a big help during questioning all personnel in the operation around how things could be done: faster, better, cheaper to augment your internal suggestion program and to get more ideas for use in clause 6.1.

9. Performance Evaluation and Improvement

Most organizations have some method for monitoring their daily, weekly, monthly operations, i.e. scorecards, KPI, etc. You will probably have metrics that already relate to various utility usages that could now be also used to have metrics to address climate change.

Again, these are very common in the 14001 and 50001 schemes and could be used to benchmark your organization if you are not currently using either of those MSS processes. In addition, ISO has been working on a number of guidance standards and other documents that could be useful in honing your continual improvement of climate change.

One way to reframe this seemingly new push into climate change is to simply consider that your organization has been hunting for methods for years to improve the operations and or business unit that you are in. Few people remember that Henry Ford the first was very interested in saving resources and today would be called nearly a fanatic around saving the planet. Ford Motor Company actually did achieve ISO 14001 registration back in 1997 shortly after it was initially released. So your company has probably been working on things for a very long time to reduce, reuse or recycle. The only change now is the we may be renaming the efforts as climate change.

Some Items for Potential Study:

ISO 14021, Environmental labels and declarations — Self-declared environmental claims (Type II

environmental labelling)

ISO 14026, Environmental labels and declarations — Principles, requirements and guidelines for communication of footprint information

ISO 14040, Environmental management — Life cycle assessment — Principles and framework

ISO 14044, Environmental management — Life cycle assessment — Requirements and guidelines

ISO 14064-1, Greenhouse gases — Part 1: Specification with guidance at the organization level for quantification and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions and removals

ISO 14064-2:2019, Greenhouse gases — Part 2: Specification with guidance at the project level for quantification, monitoring and reporting of greenhouse gas emission reductions or removal enhancements

ISO 14064-3, Greenhouse gases — Part 3: Specification with guidance for the verification and validation of greenhouse gas statements

ISO/TS 14064-44), Greenhouse gases — Part 4: Quantification and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions for organizations — Guidance for the application of ISO 14064-1

ISO 14065, General principles and requirements for bodies validating and verifying environmental information

ISO 14066, Greenhouse gases — Competence requirements for greenhouse gas validation teams and verification teams

ISO 14067, Greenhouse gases — Carbon footprint of products — Requirements and guidelines for quantification

ISO 14068‑1:2023 — Climate change management – Transition to net zero

ISO 14090 – Adaptation to climate change – Principles, requirements and guidelines

ISO 14097, Greenhouse gas management and related activities — Framework including principles and requirements for assessing and reporting investments and financing activities related to climate change

ISO 26000:2010, Guidance on social responsibility

ISO Guide 51:2014, Safety aspects — Guidelines for their inclusion in standards

ISO Guide 82:2014, Guidelines for addressing sustainability in standards

ISO Guide 84:2020, Guidelines for addressing climate change in standards

Abbreviated terms

CO2e - carbon dioxide equivalent

GHG - greenhouse gas

GWP - global warming potential

IPCC - Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change