It's great to see the concrete industry take their environmental performance so seriously, but is the NRMCA Green-Star environmental management system right for you? Here we discuss the industry specific NRMCA Green-Star certification vs the internationally recognized ISO 14001 environmental management system, with the aim of helping you decide which is right for you.
We've been getting a lot of requests for more information about how concrete producers can improve their environmental programs at their facility. It's easy. There are so many benefits of having a sound environmental program, that it’s almost hard to imagine running a company today without one. The concrete industry is in a unique position, and we’re asked all the time by concrete producers:
“What is the difference between a ISO 14001 EMS vs NRMCA Green-Star EMS?”
This is a great question, and one we love to talk about. I really think the baseline difference in these two environmental management systems depends on the user. Why are you pursuing an EMS? What are you planning on using it for? What are you objectives? Why do you want an EMS in the first place?
ISO 14001 EMS vs. NRMCA Green-Star EMS
There are numerous differences between these two, so let's check them out:
- Facility Type - The ISO 14001 EMS standards are usable by anyone at any facility anywhere in the world. The Green-Star certification program is only for concrete facilities. If you’re not a concrete facility, or you run a unique operation that isn't strictly concrete, an ISO 14001 EMS is your obvious choice.
- Documentation and Paperwork - The ISO standard generally requires much more documentation, oversight, and management, and in general is much more complicated. The Green-Star standard, by comparison, is like the diet version of ISO. They're less in it, meaning less to do.
- Concrete Specific - The Green-Star EMS standard specifies that the user evaluate environmental aspects that are unique to the concrete industry, while the ISO standard is completely open-ended and dependent on the user to specify. Green-Star is specific to the concrete industry; ISO can be used by anyone, anywhere.
- Certification & Verification - The entire process of developing and implementing a program, then obtaining certification that the it's in conformance with the applicable standards, is much easier under Green-Star than it is under the ISO standards. Really, no comparison. You have to really prove what you're doing with ISO.
- 3rd Party Verification - ISO requires external verification for certification to the standards, while Green-Star allows for verification by internal auditors. This is “third-party verification” is absolutely required for ISO 14001 certification, but not required for Green-Star certifications. We find all too often that internal auditors can do their company a disservice by being lenient and overlooking necessary aspects of the certification. My advice to everyone is go 3rd party, every time. We find the programs run better, work better, the facilities are operating better, and staff understands the EMS better. There's plenty of auditors out there besides us, so don't think I'm trying to sell you on our services alone. Here's NRMCA's list of auditors, just be warned it's horribly out of date and much of the information is inaccurate.
- Global Recognition - The ISO 14001 EMS is globally known, understood, and respected through many industries and environmental agencies. The Green-Star EMS is more specific to concrete producers in the US, although there are some outside of the country. If you want or need recognition beyond the concrete industry, such as the approval of outside regulatory agencies, environmentally savvy customers, or your seeking something bigger (like pursuing a responsible sourcing scheme for your products), an ISO 14001 environmental management system is the way to go.
- They're Both an EMS - There are a lot of similar concepts between both standards, such as the core requirement for a program of continual improvement, identification of environmental aspects and the reduction of their associated environmental impacts, a program of checking and corrective action, training requirements, and more. While they are both at heart an EMS, they are definitely not the same thing.
So which environmental management system should I use?
The bottom line is you can’t go wrong with a strong, well-functioning environmental program constructed around either the ISO 14001 or Green-Star standards. Your choice should really be made based upon your particular needs and circumstances.
We've found producers who do a great job at Green-Star, and really get their organizations and staff into it, get a lot out of it. Those who get it, just 'have one', and barely understand it, use it, or take it seriously, get little to no value out of it.
Conversely, those who've gotten ISO certified at their facility, due to the strict nature of the program, almost always get value out of it. It's a widely accepted, internationally known, 3rd Party verified EMS. Virtually everyone, from government regulators to architects, have heard of it before, and it carries a lot of weight with it. Bottom line, if you can stick with it, you can't lose.
For many in the concrete industry, Green-Star can be a great place to start while working towards getting ISO certified. Those within the concrete industry with an ISO 14001 certification can likely qualify immediately for NRMCA Green-Star if they so choose.
It all really comes down to who you are, what you want out of your program, and where you’d like to see your company go in your industry and market.
Are you still on the fence about your environmental program? Not sure where to begin? Click here to contact us or give us a call at 609-693-8301 to discuss your challenges at your concrete plant today.