How does ISO 50001 differ from ISO 9001 and ISO 14000? If my company is certified to an existing ISO management standard what are the consequences or benefits for ISO 50001 certification?

ISO 50001, the energy management standard, specifically focuses on an organization’s ability to manage their energy sources and energy use. ISO 14001, the environmental management system standard, focuses on the environmental media the organization can affect. ISO 14001 includes energy topics, but does not prescribe detailed specifications for an energy management system. ISO 9001, the quality management standard focuses on the customer and the needs of the customer. Together, these management systems allow an organization to manage their business more strategically. ISO 50001 can be used in conjunction with other ISO management standards, to help identify further opportunities for energy savings, or as a stand-alone management system standard for organizations that are concerned about energy costs.

ISO 50001 focuses on energy management by providing a framework that enables organizations to improve their understanding of their energy use and consumption—and subsequently to improve their energy performance. It is based on the ISO management system model of continual improvement and is designed to be compatible with existing management system standards, such as ISO 9001 and ISO 14001. Unlike ISO 9001 and ISO 14001, ISO 50001 is more data driven.

The ISO 14001 standard specifies the criteria for an environmental management system and provides a framework for organizations to assure that environmental impact is measured and improved. The other standards in the ISO 14000 family focus on specific environmental aspects such as life cycle analysis, communication and auditing. Based on the latest ISO survey, more than 280,000 organizations in nearly 170 countries have implemented ISO 14001 since it was introduced in 1999.

ISO 9001 is the international standard that sets out the criteria for a quality management system. Companies and organizations use ISO 9001 and other standards in the ISO 9001 family to ensure that their products and services consistently meet customer’s requirements, and that quality is consistently improved. According to the latest ISO survey, more than one million companies and organizations in over 170 countries have implemented ISO 9001 since 1993.

Organizations with an existing ISO management standard can easily integrate ISO 50001 into their existing ISO management systems. The same tools and techniques can be used for the common activities of ISO 14001 and ISO 50001 such as document management, audit planning, corrective action management and management. One good example is the existing ISO 14001 audit and corrective action management processes. These ISO 14001 processes can be used for ISO 50001 corrective action and management processes. The benefits of such an integration include:

  • An organization’s ISO management procedures can be easily adapted to represent a single integrated system cutting down on information flow and duplication of documentation.
  • Better resource and time management by freeing up time administering the standard to actively pursuing more energy saving opportunities.
  • More dynamic workflow by enabling better teamwork and ensuring faster and more effective energy-saving action and approval.
  • Stronger document control with a history of audits, energy-saving actions and outcomes.
  • Less document duplication across management systems.
  • Ease of finding information so that no records get lost and that relevant information is delivered to the appropriate stakeholders.
  • Ease of planning of the management activities (e.g. audits, meetings, actions) with reminders when target dates approach.
  • Faster implementation of energy efficiency measures and the ability to keep track of the certifications.
  • Standard methods for processing environmental and energy-saving suggestions.
  • Efficient and strategic management of objectives and targets.
  • Automated reporting for monitoring energy performance improvements.

Some obstacles to integrating ISO management systems include, organizations have different teams with different skills and separate systems developed to address only those areas with which the teams are familiar. These systems make may include spreadsheets and different document and action management systems. Some approaches to overcoming these obstacles include, merging the different teams under one team-leader responsible for an integrated management system, having a two-person leadership team comprising the energy manager and a management systems specialist, and establishing interdisciplinary teams to effectively identify and implement improvement opportunities.

Some organizations may be reluctant to implement ISO 50001 due to “audit fatigue.” Because some organizations already have multiple certifications—ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001 (a British standard for occupational health & safety)—the thought of yet another audit, and all the documentation and data recording that go with it, is not attractive.

The ISO community understands these concerns and is working to help organizations realize more of the benefits of an ISO certification. First, they are rewriting global management standards within the ISO Technical Committees to ensure that they share a common language. The main body of the standards would comprise a number of major clauses with the same text, and each individual management category would have its own specific piece. In this way, an organization can easily integrate multiple standards into one management system with several specialized sections—a certification section for quality, one for safety, one for energy, and so forth—such that the certification is easier to manage. The first integrated common language document is being developed by the technical committees and is scheduled for release in mid 2015. Unlike other certifications, in which it is difficult to trace safety or environmental compliance to cost savings, a direct link will exist between energy management and operating costs. An effective auditor will be able to demonstrate very clearly how much money the organization stands to save by correcting each nonconformance.