ISO 50001: A Framework for Continuous Energy Improvement

February 16, 2020
  |   1 Comment

If you’ve been benchmarking your energy use for a few years now, you should have a good idea of how your building performs relative to others like it and how energy use in the property has changed over time. What might be less clear is how to begin improving energy performance of your facility and what concrete steps to take in support of energy management.   

What is ISO 50001?  

Despite the cryptic acronym, ISO 50001 – Energy Management Systems is a simple and flexible methodology that fosters continuous improvement of energy performance. Created by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), it specifies requirements for establishing, implementing, maintaining, and improving an energy management system (EnMS). Any organization—regardless of size, function, or mission—can develop an effective energy program if they are willing to make the commitment.  

ISO 50001 provides a framework of requirements for organizations to: 

  • Develop a policy for more efficient use of energy 
  • Fix targets and objectives to meet the policy 
  • Use data to better understand and make decisions about energy use 
  • Measure the results 
  • Review how well the policy works, and 
  • Continually improve energy management. 

Plan, Do, Check, Act — Repeat! 

The standard guides an organization through the whole lifecycle of energy management and follows a plan – do – check – act process. With this structured approach, an organization is more likely to see some tangible financial benefits.


Unlike other certification systems like LEED, where a minimum energy performance standard is a prerequisite to certification, or ENERGY STAR, where buildings must score 75 or higher, ISO 50001 does not specify quantitative targets – an organization chooses its own goals then creates an action plan to reach the targets.  

Like other ISO management standards (e.g. ISO 9001 – Quality Management System or ISO 14001 – Environmental Management Systems), certification to ISO 50001 is possible but not obligatory. The standard can be applied solely for the benefits it provides without needing any formal certification, however external certification bodies can be enlisted to verify certification.

Choosing a standard

ISO publishes a whole host of standards related to improving management systems. While ISO 50001 focuses purely on energy management, organizations looking to address and improve all aspects of environmental sustainability might also use ISO 14001 – Environmental Management Systems, which leverages the same framework but to improve a broader range of metrics such as resource efficiency, waste reduction, and cost avoidance. 

Around Montgomery County, several organizations have been awarded Green Business Certifications by employing ISO 14001. The Coca-Cola Bottling Company Consolidated Production Facility in Silver Spring, Fitzgerald Auto Malls, and Montgomery County’s own Yard Trim Composting Facility have all been certified to the ISO 14001 standard. The breadth and diversity of these businesses shows how environmental and energy management can be applied to become more efficient, reduce waste, and improve sustainability regardless of size or function.  

Get started!

To get started, the full 50001 standard can be purchased via the ISO website. The EPA also provides a free ENERGY STAR Guidelines for Energy Management document that captures many of the steps outlined in ISO 50001. Organizations can apply all aspects of the EPA guidelines first to make the process of and certification to ISO 50001 smoother.  

No matter what approach or standard you use, we applaud all efforts to set bold policies and improve energy performance. Has your organization used ISO 50001 standards to manage energy? Contact us at to tell us about it. We’d love to share your story!  

One comment on "ISO 50001: A Framework for Continuous Energy Improvement"

  1. Suraj Singh says:

    A step towards the improvement of energy. A great organisation which has a great vision…

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