IBM ISO 14001 frequently asked questions

Q: What is ISO 14001?

A: The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has been working for several years on the development of a series of standards on Environmental management which are patterned after the now familiar ISO 9000 standards on Quality. These standards have been designed to focus on the management systems which organizations employ to assure environmentally sound business practices. They are industry initiatives intended to benefit industry around the world by establishing a basis for consistency and commitment to environmental quality. In addition, it is thought that one international standard, rather than multiple national standards, may reduce the potential for environmental trade barriers.

The first standard in this series, ISO 14001, was released in September of 1996. It focuses on the elements of an organization's environmental management system (EMS) and a voluntary registration process similar to that employed with ISO 9000 for Quality Management Systems. The ultimate objective of the ISO 14001 standard is to integrate the EMS with overall business management processes and systems so that environmental considerations are a part of all business decisions.

Q: What does IBM think are the benefits of ISO 14001 registration?

A: While our gap analysis did not identify any major areas of substantive difference between our existing management system and ISO 14001, it did point out some areas in which we could improve the effectiveness and efficiency of our system and further integrate environmental considerations throughout the business. ISO 14001 also provided an opportunity to increase our focus on a common framework with common solutions and further demonstrate IBM's commitment to environmental leadership and continual improvement. Though it is still unknown how prevalent ISO 14001 will become, registration may become required by certain customers. If this occurs, IBM marketing units will be able to respond to customer inquiries with a single registration around the world.

Q: Why did IBM decide to pursue a single worldwide ISO 14001 registration of its manufacturing and development sites? What is the difference between that and simply having each of IBM's manufacturing and development sites get registered?

A: IBM has maintained a strong Environmental management system for over 25 years. The company has a corporate-wide environmental affairs policy. Its programs, requirements and management system are applicable no matter where in the world the company does business. It has a solid reporting and audit program, equally applicable worldwide, and its feedback process ensures site and country participation in the company's efforts of continual improvement. Given this, IBM was in an excellent position to pursue a single worldwide ISO 14001 registration for its manufacturing and development operations. For IBM, one single registration rather than over 25 individual registrations represents a much more effective and efficient business process. It promotes worldwide consistency and firmly demonstrates IBM's commitment to environmental leadership.

Q: Why did IBM hire Bureau Veritas Certification to be its single ISO 14001 registrar?

A: IBM representatives from around the world went through a rigorous registrar selection process. They evaluated a number of internationally recognized ISO 14001 registrars. At the end of this process, Bureau Veritas Certification (then BVQI) was selected because they best met our international needs and were best able to meet our strategic goal of a single registration.

Q: Why did IBM obtain a single registration only for its manufacturing and development operations initially? Why not the company overall?

A: Of all of IBM's operations, the greatest potential for environmental impact lies in its manufacturing and hardware development operations. The company therefore decided that its primary focus should be on those facilities. IBM has since expanded its global ISO 14001 registration to include its chemical-using research locations and several country organizations, covering their nonmanufacturing locations. Some business functions have also obtained ISO 14001 certification.

Q: Didn't IBM play a leading role in the drafting of the standard?

A: IBM personnel participated in, and even provided leadership for, the process to develop the ISO 14001 standard. Since we have people with expertise in environmental management systems, we felt that we could contribute to making them practical, effective, and truly international in scope.

Q: Does this single registration mean that IBM's products are certified to ISO 14001?

A: No. ISO 14001 is an Environmental management system standard, not a product labeling standard. ISO 14001 registration does, however, include IBM's management system for developing and manufacturing products with improved environmental attributes, but it does not certify the resulting products nor is it product specific.