South African industries have not yet fully maximised the enormous benefits that the ISO 50001 standard presents for them, says National Cleaner Production Centre South Africa (NCPC-SA) project manager Ngoanathari Maja.
ISO 50001 provides a framework for managing energy performance and addressing energy costs while helping companies reduce their environmental impact to meet emissions reduction targets.
A management system based approach to improving energy performance for any organisation is superior to the traditional ad hoc project based approach, which often limits the organisation’s ability to ensure sustained energy savings over long periods, she notes.
The standard was revised last year and features a stronger emphasis on leadership, the role of top management and, the integration of the energy management system into the organisation’s strategic management processes.
Further, the new ISO 50001:2018 features improved alignment and compatibility with other ISO management systems such as ISO 14001 and ISO 9001. If a company already has other ISOs or is in the process of obtaining them, the company can take advantage of that and expand their processes and systems to support and meet certification requirements for ISO 50001.
Maja tells Engineering News that ISO 50001 is a performance standard and being ISO 50001 certified directly translates to kilowatt-hours saved, which, in turn, translates to money saved.
“The standard can be used for businesses as a means to strategically inject efficiency in the overall business model to cut costs,” she notes. The standard provides companies with a great tool to go about meeting cost reduction objectives and to meet environmental performance targets.
However, she believes that there is a misconception around what it takes to implement the standard and companies mistakenly believe that it is going to cost them a significant amount of effort and resources to get the certification.
“Many companies are not realising the inherent benefit to the business that the standard can provide. There is still a lot of awareness raising that needs to happen.”
Moreover, the ISO 50001 standard contributes to the sustainability goals of affordable clean energy, sustainable cities and communities, responsible consumption and production and climate action.
Maja points out that at the heart of the standard is the drive to enable organisations to lower their energy consumption and this has a direct impact on greenhouse-gas emissions, which, in turn, contributes to climate change mitigation.
Meanwhile, the update of the standard also allows companies the opportunity to achieve group certification, which enables large organisations that have multiple operations to manage energy use across all business divisions in a standardised manner, says Maja.
She notes that most large organisations have one team that is responsible for group related environmental sustainability.
“Ensuring that all business units or sister companies are moving at the same pace and aligning their activities to what corporate level dictates, can be complicated. Group certification allows companies to centralise most of the activities and standardise the approach to energy management in line with the broader corporate strategic direction.”
She emphasises that it is important for top management to commit to energy efficiency by providing leadership and taking a strategic policy decision on how energy will be managed in the organisation and avail required resources to support the implementation of that policy.
Meanwhile, the NCPC-SA will continue to drive the implementation of energy management systems and increase the number of ISO 50001 certifications in the country.
“Through our skills development, training and awareness programmes we want to strengthen the understanding and adoption of systems thinking when it comes to running energy optimisation projects, adopting ISO 50001 methodology and formalising energy management programmes in the industry,” she concludes.