Bowmer & Kirkland - ISO 14001
Why ISO 14001 certification?
For Bowmer & Kirkland – one of the UK’s most successful privately-owned construction, engineering and development groups – being able to demonstrate a firm commitment to environmental responsibility is essential to the continued prosperity of the business.
In today’s market, strong environmental credentials are key to remaining competitive. A reputation for green performance can put a company ahead of its rivals, and prospective clients – especially in the public sector – increasingly insist on recognised environmental certification as a prerequisite when tendering for contracts.
There is also the corporate governance perspective, with the group and its subsidiaries needing to be compliant with current environmental laws, prepared for future legislative and regulatory requirements and optimised for efficiency and productivity.
Bowmer & Kirkland recognises that construction business activities impact both directly and indirectly on the environment and society, and has worked hard to establish integrated standards and systems across its sites to manage these impacts in a responsible manner for the benefit of customers, employees, communities and other stakeholders.
The firm worked with world-leading multi-sector certification body Exova BM TRADA to achieve ISO 14001 environmental management systems certification, as well as ISO 9001 quality management systems and OHSAS 18001 health & safety management systems. By certifying to these internationally recognised standards, Bowmer & Kirkland would ensure that its own internal quality and corporate responsibility standards were in compliance with legal frameworks and demonstrate to clients that it was a company committed to delivering the highest level of service through ongoing environmental and operational improvements.
The journey to certification
Bowmer & Kirkland has been a client of Exova BM TRADA since 2001 and in that time has had all of its construction diversions, which represent its core business, certified to ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001. Given the sheer size and complexity of the business – the group employs 1,400 people directly, and thousands more indirectly, with offices in Derbyshire, Manchester, London, Sunderland and Glasgow, and between 60 – 70 sites operational across the UK at any one time – it took between 12 and 14 months to achieve each certification, with multiple certifications on-going at different stages throughout the group at any one time.
“With the size of the company and number of people involved, there was a lot required to become certified and compliant,” says David Gregory Quality & Environmental Systems Manager at Bowmer & Kirkland.
“When you look at the action required, what people need to do on a day-to-day basis, it’s quite involved and a learning curve for employees having to take on new things or do them in a different way.
“It’s a long journey for every business, but if you design the system correctly in the first place it reduces the amount of work required on a daily basis.”
For each certification assessment, Exova BM TRADA assigned an audit team who worked alongside managerial staff at Bowmer & Kirkland. The certification audit was completed in two stages; with the stage one visit spent reviewing the firm’s existing management system documentation and standard, and evaluating the locations and site specific conditions.
During the stage two visit, the audit team evaluated the level of implementation and effectiveness of the management system according to the requirements of the standard, undertook a sample audit of relevant processes and activities, and followed up with a written report on the audit findings, highlighting any non-conformances with the standard that still needed to be addressed.
Bowmer & Kirkland initially decided to use Exova BM TADA for all its certifications because of the body’s reputation and credentials. According to Gregory, this was the right move as the audit team proved to be an “excellent fit” for the company and the task in hand.
“We’ve had first-rate relations with the Exova BM TRADA team throughout. Their auditors are very knowledgeable and experts who understand our business and market.
“This is very helpful as it means they come in and get on with things straight away. When going through the implementation process it means we discuss real issues rather than wasting time on ones caused by a lack of understanding of our business and needs.”
The benefits of ISO 14001 certification
As well as ensuring legal compliance, the assessment process and subsequent certifications have brought many benefits to Bowmer & Kirkland.
The first is economic. Higher conformance with legislative and regulatory requirements improves an organisation’s efficiency and reduces its operating costs through a reduction in waste and consumption of resources.
“It has certainly added value to our business,” says Gregory. “The decrease in environmental impact has resulted in savings through reduced waste and energy costs.”
Compliance also minimises the risk of regulatory and environmental liability fines. Gregory cites falling carbon emissions as a good example.
“Because of the size of the business we are legally required under the CRC (Carbon Reduction Commitment) Energy Efficiency Scheme to monitor and pay tax on carbon emissions in the UK,” he said.
“Defining the scope of our carbon emissions through ISO 14001 has, in the two years reported on, resulted in a reduction of carbon emissions of eight percent during the second year.
“That equates to something like 600 tonnes of carbon and has brought significant cost savings, not least in the amount of tax we would otherwise have had to pay to the government.”
A third key benefit of the certification process has been reputational enhancement. The Bowmer & Kirkland ethos is firmly client-focussed, and meeting client requirements while seeking to develop long-term relationships is viewed as the group’s most important goal.
Certification to ISO 14001 assures clients that the company takes its environmental commitments seriously, resulting in an improved perception of the business and increased access to new customers
Gregory added: “The reputational benefit was one of the drivers for us in the first place. Getting certification demonstrates a commitment to environmental management and improvement in performance.”
“For many clients you need environmental management certification if you are going to tender for the project. With the market conditions as they are today, clients can afford to be selective.”
For Bowmer & Kirkland, the combination of ISO 14001 with ISO 9001 and OHSAS 18001 clearly shows that the group has highly competent management teams and a robust integrated management system in place to deliver on the goal of safely completing all projects on time, within budget and to the required quality, while mitigating the environmental impact.
Advice for certification
Gregory recommends certification to all companies large and small, as “every company has an environmental impact, no matter how low it is.”
He also advises that businesses and management teams “fully embrace” certification as once the hard work is done with making all processes compliant, “it doesn’t take too much additional effort to get the benefits.”
Lastly, Gregory recommends finding a certification body that is UKAS accredited. “There are a lot of people in the construction sector providing certification, but not all are UKAS accredited. For us, UKAS was a prerequisite,” he said.