ISO 50001 – Is it Really Worth the Bureaucracy?

by | Jan 21, 2021 | Resource Optimisation

Ordinarily, people think of audits and auditors when it comes to international standards and certification, and wonder if ISO 50001 is worth the bureaucracy. Audits and auditors often conjure up negative feelings. Auditors are perceived as people out to get companies, while audits seem costly and time-consuming, with lots of paperwork.

You fear international standard certifications come at a price – getting it will cost you time, money and resources.

In this blog post, we examine ISO 50001, and question whether it’s worth the bureaucracy.

So, what is ISO 50001 and what does certification involve?

ISO certification is a corporate seal of approval based on a standard published by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO). There are many different types of certification. In fact, ISO has published more than 20,000 standards.

For example, there is ISO 31000 which provides best practice for risk management, ISO 45001 which is the standard for occupational health and safety management and ISO 9001 is the most recognised and widely used quality management standard.

There has been huge uptake in the various standards, mainly because ISO is a globally trusted standard. Furthermore, governments are leaning on ISO standards.

For example, under the European Union (Energy Efficiency) Regulations 2014, which transpose Directive 2012/27/EU on energy efficiency, large enterprises are required to carry out an energy audit in each relevant jurisdiction.  All european companies that are not SMEs must carry out this energy audit. However, the Irish government has said companies that hold an ISO 50001 will not be subject to an audit (provided that certain conditions are met).

ISO 50001 is an international standard for an energy management system. The standard’s purpose is to provide a framework for establishing energy management best practice.

It’s a structure you install in a business for managing energy on an ongoing basis. There is a prescriptive way for implementing that structure that starts with implementing an energy policy about the company’s commitment towards energy management.

The framework also requires a company to create a multidisciplinary energy team. There should be a representative from every team that has an influence on energy management – someone from engineering/maintenance, legal/compliance, someone from finance/procurement, and someone from senior management/the Board. That team is required to meet regularly.

The job of that team is to conduct an energy review of the business. The team should meet and come up with a plan for conducting the energy review, decide most appropriate KPIs, identify opportunities for improvement, put these into a register of opportunities, and decide the most appropriate way to prioritise that register. Some opportunities might be low cost but low impact, other opportunities might be high cost, high impact but have a long payback period.

An energy collection matrix is created and becomes the single source of truth for energy use. For example, if I have 5 office buildings across Dublin, I need one spreadsheet across all 5 buildings, with electricity bills, gas bills etc. One centralised place to show total energy usage within the chosen measurement boundary.

An energy review is required involving an audit of all energy users, to identify the significant energy users (SEUs) on site (e.g. 20% on lighting, 30% on HVAC, 50% on compressed air). Identifying the key drivers for energy demand of the SEU’s will inform how KPIs are defined and then monitored on a regular basis.

In addition to the resources required to implement these measures, a certification body is required to audit the systems at various stages throughout the process, and upon completion. Non-conformities with the system will be highlighted and addressed before certification is finally awarded.

The truth is ISO 50001 is widely recognised as an excellent systematic framework for all energy management activities. ISO 50001 is worth the bureaucracy because it actually doesn’t involve much.

A recent study in the US found that companies which achieved ISO 50001 certification as part of the US Department of Energy Superior Energy Performance programme, delivered average savings of 10% within 18 months. Furthermore, 75% of the savings delivered were low cost measures requiring no capital investment.

There is also a CSR benefit to ISO 50001. For example, energy is only one spoke on the sustainability wheel. A company might have a target for reducing carbon emissions by a certain date, or a target for energy efficiency. The company can use a standard like ISO 50001 to substantiate their claims and demonstrate to their clients and their supply chain that they are fulfilling their sustainability obligations.

In conclusion, through successful implementation of this standard you can create a sustainable continuous improvement process that your business will benefit from through reduced energy consumption and cost, a lower carbon footprint, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, improved corporate image, increased energy awareness among staff and improved operational efficiencies and maintenance practices.

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