Cummins manufactures engines and power generation products, and has been a household name almost since inception in 1919. It sells its products in over 300 countries, through approximately 6,000 dealerships employing 40,000 people. Because its product line runs off fossil fuel it is under steady pressure to display a cleaner carbon footprint.
Cummins decided to go for the big one by qualifying for ISO 14001 certification. This is a subset of a family of standards relating to managing environmental impact while complying with all applicable legislation. In this sense, it is similar to the ISO 9000 quality management system, because it focuses on how products are produced (as opposed to how those products perform). Compliance with ISO 14001 was a doubly important goal, because it is part of the European Union’s Eco Management and Audit Scheme and fast becoming mandatory on suppliers to governments.
The qualification process follows the well-established principle of plan, do, check, act. It begins with gap analysis to detect materials and processes that affect the environment. This is followed by implementation of necessary changes affecting operations, documentation, emergency strategies and employee education. The third step involves measuring and monitoring performance. Finally, the project moves into a phase of ongoing maintenance, and continuous improvement as circumstances change.
In Cummins case, the project was almost worldwide and called for environmental, health and safety reporting throughout the organisation. The information was shared via a globally accessible document repository, and then processed centrally at the head office in Columbia, Indiana USA.
Measuring environmental performance almost inevitably has other benefits that make it doubly worthwhile. Speaking at the 2014 National Safety Council Congress after receiving the top award for excellence, Cummins chairman and ceo Tom Linebarger commented on a journey that was ‘nothing short of amazing’ yet wasn’t even a ‘pathway to the finish line’.
‘All of us feel like we have way more to do to make sure that our environment is as safe as it could be,’ he added, ‘so that our sustainability footprint is as good as it can be and that we continue to set more aggressive goals every year. That’s just how we think about it.’ Linebarger concluded.
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