SMS:Greening Organizations Goes Mainstream
As the race continues for companies to stay afloat in an increasingly competitive market, one thing is for certain – staying competitive means going green. Be it financial savings, social responsibility, environmental reasons, or simply conveying a positive public image, most companies now realize the advantages to embracing sustainability. The difficulty lies in figuring out how to become sustainable and capitalize on the benefits. As with any goal, a company must have a plan for becoming sustainable in order to avoid failure and maximize results. This is precisely what a Sustainable Management Systems provides.
A Sustainable Management System (SMS) is a systematic plan that outlines and defines specific goals for companies or organization, methods for achieving identified goals, measurements of success of the goals, and a plan for reevaluation and revision should the goals not be achieving the desired outcome.,. The plan can include components as diverse as green policies, social equity, energy management, recycling and sustainable purchasing, or even green leasing standards. The system can expand upon a companies’ core mission or act as a standalone plan used to achieve more consistent environmental practices. Nevertheless, it should always result in natural resource conservation and net cost savings for the company.
Oftentimes Sustainable Management Systems are confused with Environmental Management Systems (EMS) like ISO Standard 14001. A Sustainable Management System differs from an ISO 14001 Environmental Management System in that the ISO standards require a third party audit and often does not address issues such as social equity.
Some companies choose to start with factors that directly affect the bottom line like energy and water savings. Others begin with the easiest to implement, like recycling and paper use reduction. And yet some find that giving back to their local community is their priority. The beauty of the SMS is that it allows each company to determine their individual goals and priorities. For some, it can be easier to start small, incorporating a few easy goals like recycling, paper use reduction, environmentally friendly cleaning and maintenance practices, and building occupant education. Other companies may find that a much more comprehensive SMS is desired and may want to include loftier goals that examine every process occurring within their company and analyzing the respective life cycle impacts, or obtaining net-zero energy and water within a certain number of years. No matter how in depth the SMS delves, it’s still a step in the right direction.
Many companies find it beneficial to share their environmental policies and goals with the public. As the public comes to expect sustainability and environmental commitment from companies expectations for responsible practices continue to rise. Committing to a sustainable business model will allow a company to stay competitive in the future while saving resources and maximizing profit margins. From property owners to eco-brokers to small business owners, everyone can reap the benefit of implementing an SMS and adopting sustainable practices.
There are several ways to get started in creating an SMS, the easiest being to hire a sustainability consultant knowledgeable in the creation of these plans. Extensive knowledge and one on one consulting can help a company define goals that are in-line with their corporate identity and branding. Consultants can easily formulate plans for achieving sustainability goals within a reasonable timeframe and budget. Some other options available include avenues such as the online tool offered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency which assists in energy and water management. Also, there are numerous carbon calculators with varying levels of functionality readily available. The ISO standard 14001 EMS can be purchased, but often requires additional training to fully utilize. This option is often useful for those already required to follow ISO standards in other areas. The most defining factor in creating a successful SMS is internal commitment. Once an organization identifies sustainability as a common goal nothing can get in the way of what can be achieved!