BALTIMORE, MD — Who would have thought that environmentalism could be profitable?

A new environmental management standard for companies, ISO 14001, has the purpose of spurring companies to improve their performance environmentally. But as Danfoss illustrates, the implementation can also provide quick paybacks and help a firm’s bottom line.

ISO 14001 is an all-encompassing system that includes everyone in the company. Lars Finsen, director of quality for Danfoss and the person in charge of the implementation, points out two elements of the system.

“One element is the need to make employees in general aware that all business activities have, to some extent, environmental implications,” he said. Some employees will be little involved, while others will be heavily involved.

“Another element,” Finsen added, “is a commitment to continuous improvement.”

Referred to as an Environmental Management System, it consists first of overall corporate policies and then individual guidelines. “You first make standards, then you make work instructions,” said Max Robinson, market communication manager.

All employees have to know the company’s broad policies. All employees have to be trained “in the environmental aspects of their particular job,” stated Robinson. “And they have to know what the consequences are of not following their work instructions.”

For example, he explained, “If I don’t recycle these boxes, they will go to the wrong landfill. They’re going to take up space in the dumpster and cause more dumpster pulls, and cost the company more money.”

The most for the investment

Finsen said that the reason the company implemented the system “is to get the most environmental quality for the money we invest.” He added, “It’s a way to prioritize your effort.

“What we go for are those activities where we can both improve environmental quality and save money for the company.”

When Danfoss first initiated this system, “We did a mapping of the company,” said Finsen, “to get a good idea of where the most significant impacts are.” They then concentrated on those areas with the greatest impact.

If paybacks are below two years, they go ahead with a procedure, he stated. Other units of the corporation have experienced paybacks down to six months. With a longer payback, he said, they would consider, “What would the consequences be if we don’t do anything?”

Water savings and energy savings, he noted, will always be a priority.

“Environmental regulation is going to increase over time,” asserted Finsen. “If you are forced to change due to regulation, that would be more time consuming.

“By being proactive, we hope we can incorporate those changes into daily management activities.

“You can say we are willing to pay a fee not to be surprised.”

Danfoss makes every effort to influence suppliers and contractors to be environmentally friendly, said Robinson. Contracting companies also can apply the system to make themselves better environmental performers.

“A hard thing for contractors would be to have things written down,” Robinson remarked. Once the ISO 14001 system is in place, it’s necessary to review or audit to make sure each area is in conformance.

“We trained some of our employees to audit to see if the system is being maintained,” said Finsen. The company decides for itself how often it will do an internal audit. Robinson pointed out that one department may be audited three times a year while another is reviewed once a year.

Third-party, accredited auditors then come in to certify the company and provide it with a certificate.

Danfoss will be in compliance with ISO 14001 by the end of the year. They expect to get the certificate by March or April.

Right now, said Robinson, they’re finishing standards, writing work instructions, and training auditors.

And like any dynamic system, it has to remain current. “If any changes in standards affect workers, you have to change your work instructions.”