Improving Environmental Performance: Local Lessons from an International Standard

Fitzgerald Auto Mall
Fitzgerald Auto Malls, the Coca-Cola Bottling Company Consolidated (CCBCC) Production Facility in Silver Spring, and Montgomery County Government’s Yard Trim Composting Facility were recently welcomed into the County’s Green Business Certification Program because of their certification to the ISO 14001 standard. They are understandably proud of meeting this voluntary international standard which is based on a process-oriented approach to reducing environmental impact known as an Environmental Management System (EMS). Each organization had their EMS certified by an independent third-party organization which performed a thorough on-site audit and verified conformity with the ISO standard. The standard is available to all sorts and sizes of organizations, regardless of their business type.

How does an EMS work?

There is little mystery, but a lot of work, in creating and maintaining an environmental management system. For these three County leaders, it entailed documenting all processes, breaking them down into sub-processes, and listing the negative environmental impacts of each. After prioritization, a detailed document was created that lays out the steps to systematically improve those processes.

Why would anyone embrace such a big undertaking?

Representatives from each of the three organizations indicated that the main reason for concentrating on environmental performance ultimately came back to customer and stakeholder demand. CCBCC is proud to be a leader in environmental stewardship. Whether through water conservation, reduced emissions, program activation or partnerships with environmental organizations – CCBCC is committed to the safeguarding of natural resources. Part of that commitment is represented by the Company’s conformance with ISO 14001 which, since 2015, encompasses the Silver Spring Production Facility.
Management Staff of Coca-Cola distributing free Coke products at a
Community Engagement Event at the Silver Spring Production Facility. 
In 2004 Jack Fitzgerald of Fitzgerald Auto Malls, who has always followed the “lead by example” mantra, agreed to give it a try recognizing the sophistication and expectations of his customers, greater community, suppliers, employees and adjacent property owners. While he initially entered the process “kicking and screaming,” he now sets ambitious goals such as raising their recycling rate from an impressive 82.5% to an astounding 90%.
Senior members of Fitzgerald Auto Mall’s Green Team, including Founder Jack Fitzgerald (far left), in front of a banner celebrating their extraordinary recycling efforts.
Initially faced with community concerns about solid waste facilities in Dickerson, Montgomery County Government established a community group to advise the County on its solid waste facilities. They recommended an EMS for the Yard Trim Composting Facility. The EMS, begun in 2011, not only covers all operations occurring on the site but also transportation to and from the facility, an item of importance to the community.

Would you do it again?

Simply getting up and going with an EMS is a challenge. It takes organization, commitment, buy-in from senior leadership, and a lot of time to create one. Doubt, and a struggle to implement improvements, invariably characterize the effort. And while the EMS is so thoroughly developed it almost runs itself, maintaining the processes still requires time and vigilance. However, the proof is in the pudding. All three businesses have kept their management systems current and recertified multiple times. There have been numerous benefits. In their drive to reduce water use, the CCBCC Production Facility has realized synergistic benefits. Instead of chemicals, electrically charged water is used to clean floors and equipment. This eliminates the costly waste resulting from shipping chemical barrels on pallets and subsequent hazardous disposal of the barrels. Water contamination from the chemicals is also eliminated. In 2013, they replaced water-rinsers with air-rinsers that use ionized blasts of air to clean bottles before filling. In addition, because ISO 14001 is so comprehensive and focused on continuous improvement, it encourages the Company to implement long-term solutions. Replacing service doors with lighter and faster ones, Fitzgerald found that the doors paid for themselves after two years and the remaining energy savings can be reinvested in the business. With closing time reduced from 30 to 6 seconds, temperature swings are moderated and staff are more comfortable and productive. The Dickerson composting site is surrounded by fields of grass, which previously required mowing every summer to keep down on vermin. This was time-consuming and expensive. Now, they have a farmer from the community mow for hay, which he bales and removes for free. This solution is a win all around. This innovative thinking, unleashed by ISO 14001, is among its most compelling features. It essentially sparked a cultural shift among employees at the facility who are now empowered to think “outside the box” and suggest alternate solutions that often save time and money. Now staff jockey to present ideas and receive recognition.
A win-win situation at the Montgomery County Composting Facility in which a local farmer bales and removes hay for free, saving the County money from mowing and maintaining the fields while generating revenue for the farmer.

All the organizations expressed great satisfaction in their ISO 14001 certification. We thank them for sharing their experiences and leading the way for others to improve their business operations and profitability with environmental management systems.

Written by Julia Craighill, Founder, Ensight Consulting

Special thanks to:

Joseph Richardson, Brett Clarence, Rebecca Young and Bradley Faley at the Silver Spring Production facility of CCBCC; Jack Fitzgerald, Larry Branche, Travis Roberts and Doug Wolf at Fitzgerald Auto Mall; and Godfrey Ampadu and Marilu Enciso at the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection.