An old saying goes that honesty lasts the longest. I would like to claim the same for environmental sustainability. All organizations I know of – and over the last couple of years, working as chair of an employer’s network for sustainable mobility, I have seen quite a lot of them – that are actively working on improving the environmental impact of both their own organization and their supply chain’s, have benefitted from environmental sustainability in different ways, both in the short and long term.

Implementing an environmental management system is an efficient and effective way of continuously realizing the environmental benefits you aim for. In my opinion it should be the normal way of working for all organizations. That is why I am puzzled why not all organizations already have environmental ambitions and a management system in place. Or why reporting on environmental performance is not mandatory. That is why I love to help out other Capgemini countries with implementing ISO 14001. And that is why I am passionate about collaborating with national and local government and with other organizations on topics regarding sustainable mobility or new ways of working.

When we started integrating our environmental management system into our quality management system in the Netherlands, back in 2009, upcoming/potential government regulation was a major driver besides wanting to have the formal acknowledgement for doing ‘the right thing’ because clients were increasingly asking for ‘proof’ of our environmental efforts. Where compliance was the major force behind implementing ISO14001 at that time all internal stakeholders soon realized that it brought other benefits as well: cost effectiveness, employee satisfaction, client intimacy, new business, and competitor advantage to name the most important ones.

Looking at recent developments, with Urgenda forcing the Dutch government to take more and more effective environmental measures and the EU Energy Efficiency Directive forcing organizations to perform energy audits before December 5, 2015 I believe compliance will always be an important driver for organizations to start and keep working on their environmental impact. In the end they all must comply with local and international law and regulations including the environmental ones. Not knowing what those regulations are, and certainly not complying with them, implies a huge potential (financial) risk for organizations. The business case that drives decision making regarding environmental management often entails more than compliance, albeit that the focus can be different for every organization. Clients don’t always ask about or demand environmental performance improvements. However, cost effectiveness has always triggered the attention of an organization’s board.

It took us six months to get the ISO14001 certification in the Netherlands. Somehow, that seems a sort of ‘standard’ implementation period to get there. We recently implemented ISO14001 in both India and Sweden, totally different countries when it comes to both the number of employees and the number of office locations, and in both cases it also took us six months. These and future Capgemini countries benefit from the experience we, as a Group, gained during the last seven years. This experience has been transferred into standard tools and processes and into a global centre of expertise. Getting environmental sustainability into the veins of all (local) stakeholders involved might take a bit longer than six months. When a board decides to implement an Environmental Management System (EMS), like ISO14001, not all stakeholders are necessarily immediately intrinsically motivated to work on environmental sustainability. But what starts out as complying with an assignment from the board in my experience often develops into an intrinsic motivation to do an excellent (sustainable) job and proactively look for environmental improvements for the company. And that will always pay off with better business performance.