Nigeria and ISO 14001

By George Njoku and Acho Orabuchi
Listen to article

Is ISO 14001, the Environmental Management Systems, right for Nigeria? We affirm! The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is a worldwide federation of national standards bodies from about 140 countries responsible for the development or establishment of ISO 14001. In a nutshell, ISO 14001 is an international voluntary standard for environmental management system (EMS).

Environmental Management System (ISO 14001)
EMS is a management approach, which enables an organization to identify, monitor, and control its energy and environmental aspects. An aspect according ISO 14001 is element of an organization's activities, product or services that can interact with the environment. ISO defines EMS as “that part of the overall management system which includes organizational structure, planning activities, responsibilities, practices, procedures, processes and resources for developing, implementing, achieving, reviewing, and maintaining the organizations policy”. The EMS provides the structure by which specific activities related to environmental protection and compliance can be effectively and efficiently carried out. It enables an organization to reduce its environmental impacts and increase its operating efficiency. Environmental impact according to ISO 14001 is defined as any change to the environment, whether adverse or beneficial, wholly or partially arising from an organization's activities, products, or services. The intended result of EMS development is twofold: first to improve an organization's compliance with applicable environmental regulations and, second, to improve its environmental performance through setting and achieving the organization's environmental targets and objectives. In a nutshell, EMS ensures that energy and environmental programs and operations are enhanced through a commitment to continual improvement, a focus on aligning processes and procedures with goals and objectives, and a clear definition of responsibilities for energy and environmental issues from the top to the bottom of the organization. This focus on processes and practices is common to all EMS, which are generally founded on the Plan, Do, Check, Feedback cycle of continuous improvement.

The Components of ISO 14001 EMS
ISO 14001 EMS consists of five major sections that are critical in Nigeria. For simplicity, we will provide a synopsis of each component. They are as follows:

Environmental Policy
The Environmental Policy component establishes and communicates an organization's position and commitment as it relates to energy and environment. We assume that Nigeria has an effective environmental policy that establishes and communicates country's commitment to environmentally safe energy-related activities.

Planning part of ISO 14001 identifies energy and environmental issues and requirements, as well as defining the initiative and resources needed to achieve the environmental policy and economic goals.

Implementation & Operations
Implementation and Operations element describes the procedures, programs and responsibilities necessary to implement the key initiatives to achieve goals. This is essentially critical in Nigeria where the absence of structures has always impeded progress.

Checking and Corrective Action
Checking and Corrective Action section is required to regularly monitor and assess the effectiveness of energy and environmental management activities in a country or organization.

Management Review
Management Review section is a high level evaluation of the management system as a whole to determine its overall effectiveness in terms of driving continual improvement and achieving business goals. Continuous improvement has to be a recurring phenomenon in any government programs.

Benefits of EMS
Several studies have been performed to examine the benefits of EMS approach and the evidence indicates that the systems approach to managing environmental issues that is fundamental to EMS cause a deep, cultural shift in how organizations and countries address these issues. Some of the benefits include:

· Positive effect on environmental performance and compliance

· Improved environment/health/safety
· Improved employee training, awareness, involvement and competence

· Increased management and operational efficiency

· Improved relationships with community
· Reduced waste production and energy consumption

· Increased transparency and ability to respond to community request for information

· Demonstration of management control over highly complex and varied activities.

Whether ISO 14001 EMS is right for Nigeria and its states is what the authorities would decide. However, it is our opinion that ISO 14001 EMS is right for Nigeria and its states in view of the growing environmental awareness and concerns in Nigeria and all over the world. Nigeria must take the lead in Africa for environmental innovations because of her position in the continent. More importantly, the heavy oil and gas exploration in Nigeria necessitates the importance of implementing an environmental management system like ISO 14001 EMS. Furthermore, many European and Western countries have implemented ISO EMS. A clean environment that can sustain a robust economic viability and promote safe and healthy environment should not be the privilege and reserve of American and European citizens alone. Nigerian citizens deserve such privileges too.

As a result, we recommend that before Nigeria or any of its states embark on this process, they may need to gather additional information about EMS. The nation should assess both internal and external drivers before moving forward. Also, it must estimate the potential costs and benefits of the EMS approach to managing energy and environmental issues. And finally, Nigeria and its states should establish the level and goals they want to achieve. However, technical expertise in this area is readily available should there be any need for it. In any case, plethora studies have shown that the return on investments in ISO 14001 EMS often outweigh the cost of implementation.

Dr. George U. Njoku, Ph.D., PG, CES is an Environmental Specialist in Dallas, Texas USA

Dr. Acho Orabuchi, Ph.D. is an Opinion Writer and Adjunct Professor in Dallas, Texas USA

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."