PPE supplies protect employees in their day-to-day work. But in the same way we protect employees, we also need to enhance our environmental strategies by better understanding the impact of the production, manufacture and disposal of these items.

The PPE industry manufactures and distributes products that help to protect employees in many different sectors. Some of these products need to be updated after a certain amount of wear and tear to maintain their effectiveness against potential hazards, and this creates waste. But by working closely with all parties in the supply chain, we can better manage PPE requirements, and, in turn, help protect the environment in line with our corporate social responsibility (CSR) principles. We can do this by developing a powerful programme that helps us minimise the impact of our industry. It’s called a PPE environmental management system (EMS).

What is an EMS?

An EMS assesses the strengths and weaknesses of a company in relation to the impact it has on the environment. Its function is best described by WRAP - a charitable organisation that works with UK governments and the EU to help deliver their policies on waste prevention and resource efficiency.

In its ‘Guide to Environmental Management Systems’, WRAP defines an EMS as a system that:

  • Helps staff to understand their environmental responsibilities and the impact of their activities and actions
  • Helps all operations minimise their impacts
  • Records environmental performance against set targets
  • Can be audited; and help identify opportunities to reduce waste and thus, reduce operating costs

In short, an EMS helps your business to better manage your resources, comply with environmental regulations and prove high ethical standards for environmental issues. WRAP says that using an EMS is voluntary but recommended, as organisations with an EMS can demonstrate their true commitment to environmental improvement.

Why should I certify an EMS?

In the UK, the Environment Agency encourages businesses to set up a comprehensive EMS “…that either meets the requirements, or is equivalent in scope to the international standard, ISO 14001”.

This standard is the most widely used for EMS and offers solid framework that a business can follow when setting up an EMS. ISO 14001 certification helps to ensure your business is following the most effective criteria, and offers you greater credibility when promoting your position with regards to your EMS.

What is Anchor Safety doing?

In March 2015, Anchor Safety launched a new project which focuses on continuous improvement to reduce the impact we have on the environment. This project will begin with the creation of a PPE environmental management system. This project has full support from Anchor Safety Senior Management. Its importance is stressed internally and will require full engagement from every employee.

Over the next two years, we will focus our efforts on scrutinising the effect of our operations on the environment. We have an environmental policy already in place but this is just the beginning.  We are currently undergoing ISO 9001 accreditation. When this is complete, we'll seek ISO 14001 accreditation to take advantage of the framework it offers for setting up an effective EMS. It will enable us to effectively measure and improve the impact that we have on the environment.

As part of our CSR efforts, we are also examining our supply chain to ensure that we are conducting business with suppliers that share the same ethos. We will investigate partnerships with organisations that can help us to recycle PPE supplies, and generate proceeds from this activity which can benefit our customers’ charities of choice.

Our EMS journey has begun, and we welcome input from our customers to ensure we are supporting their environmental philosophy and CSR agenda.