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The consultant’s view: user experience & ISO 14000

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Tim Smallwood FFCSI looks at how customers' environmental awareness can have a significant impact on the long-term success of a dining experience

These days there is a global consumer demand for environmentally friendly products and this inevitably leads to consumers being interested in where their food comes from and to value fresh ingredients which have been locally sourced. Many restaurants will have herb gardens and others located in country areas, full vegetable gardens the availability of which will determine their daily menu selection.

This response to their customers’ environmental awareness can have a significant impact of the long-term success of the restaurant and in fact this awareness will be carried over into other dining experiences such as cafeterias and even healthcare facilities.

Once the path of an environmentally sustainable kitchen has been set out, the caterer, be it a restaurant or an office canteen not only needs to maintain their customers awareness but also respond to the changes in expectations. What was novel and a point of difference yesterday, can suddenly become the norm and more expected to maintain the unique point of difference.

Improving environmental performance

If this caring for the environment is more than just a commercial decision, it has to be taken seriously and improving environmental performance can be made easier with formal systems in place. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is an international group whose members are the national standards bodies of 111 countries. The most familiar standard would be ISO 9000 Quality Management system and guidance on implementation.

The ISO 14000 standards which are developed to some extent from the ISO 9000 standards, promote a common approach to environmental management. What they don’t do is set limit values on pollutants and effluents or set environmental performance levels or standardisation of products that must be achieved.

The ISO 14000 standards provide guidelines that capture the processes needed to maintain and measure the value and benefits of an Environmental Management System (EMS). ISO 14001 helps businesses and organisations to effectively manage the risks and capitalise on the opportunities that our changing world brings.

Implementing an EMS can provide a number of benefits such as more efficient use of natural resources and energy; enhanced compliance with legal requirements and in the end, better relations with customers. Instituting an ISO 14000 programme enables an entity to measure the effectiveness and cost benefit of their improved environmental performance.

Phased and flexible

All this may seem a bit difficult for SMEs and of dubious benefit. In recognition of this, ISO 14005 Environmental Management Systems – Guidelines for a flexible approach to phased implementation has been introduced to provide SMEs a means of introducing an EMS in a phased and flexible way that starts benefitting them from the start while ultimately moving towards meeting the requirements of ISO 14001.

To keep it simple a business can start with a specific project that is most relevant or urgent, such as energy efficiency or the reduction of reliance on harmful chemicals, the successful implementation of which can have a measurable benefit in terms of both environment and operating cost.

While these actions can be undertaken independently, applying them through the ISO 14005 framework can ensure the benefits are formally measured and recorded and also can evolve to ensure continuous improvement and a return on investment.

Small steps

Employees can be encouraged to be involved and put forward ideas and are able to participate in the overall environmental benefit. The process is not a single big bang solution, it is a gradual improvement which can be measured and the benefits made transparent to all, employees and customers alike.

The environmental management will need to involve all employees and stakeholders but to work over the long term, there has to be a champion who becomes responsible for the maintenance of the effort. Their job can only be made possible with a documented policy and procedure framework.

It doesn’t need to be complex or onerous by starting with small steps while you find the best way for your particular organisation for the ultimate benefit of your customers, your business and the environment.

Tim Smallwood FFCSI (pictured above) is principal of Foodservice Design Management in Victoria, Australia