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High Level Structure

The basis of standard-compliant energy, environmental and climate management systems

31.08.2022 4 Minutes

Anyone wishing to establish an energy, climate or environmental management system in their own company must first keep the higher-level management system in mind. New structures must be integrated into it. At the same time, however, possible future scenarios should already be considered. How can potential new requirements for an energy, climate and environmental management system be implemented as sensibly and straightforwardly as possible at a later date?

It is becoming apparent that the areas of energy, environment and climate are growing ever closer together. It is no longer sufficient to consider only one aspect in isolation. Not least, climate change is making us aware of the need for sustainable management of natural resources and environmental protection. In view of this, legal requirements and reporting obligations are becoming more stringent, and companies with the appropriate management system must increasingly comply with them.

Overview of energy, climate and environmental management systems

Energy management systems

Energy management systems are essentially concerned with energy-related performance and energy efficiency. The standard for this is the ISO 50000 family of standards. The focus is on ISO 50001.

Climate management systems

Climate management systems focus on greenhouse gas reduction. A standard can be drawn from various sources. ISO 14064 and the GHG Protocol, which are very similar in terms of content, are particularly worthy of mention here. A uniform, binding management system standard on the subject of climate does not yet exist.

Environmental management systems

Environmental management systems pursue the improvement of environmental performance. The standard for environmental management is the ISO 14000 family of standards. ISO 14001 is essential, although the EMAS (Eco-Management and Audit Scheme) regulation is also frequently referred to. EMAS was developed as a voluntary standard for environmental management by the European Union. It includes not only all the specifications of ISO 14001, but also some additional requirements.

Intersections and differences between the management systems

The various standards and objectives of energy, climate and environmental management systems have some overlaps.

EMAS, for example, includes the basic core content of ISO 50001 and climate management. In principle, therefore, it can be said that environmental management according to EMAS can fulfill the requirements of ISO 50001 with just a few adjustments. Conversely, ISO 50001 provides a good basis for the introduction of EMAS.

Nevertheless, there are requirements and contents within the standards that are not covered by EMAS. For example, ISO 50001 requires the development of a plan for energy measurements, whereas this point cannot be found in the content structure of EMAS. Depending on the objective, it is therefore not sufficient to limit oneself to this.

Energy management and climate management or the standards of CO2 balancing also have a clear thematic overlap: the determination of energy-related GHG emissions.

High Level Structure

Many similarities can be identified between energy management, climate management and environmental management systems. A common basic structure not only helps to optimise management processes, but also to establish links in terms of content and to avoid redundancies.

This is where the High Level Structure (HLS) comes into play: It is specified by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) as a unified basic framework for management systems. The HLS forms the basic structure for all ISO standards for management systems and provides a standardized wording for companies. Its scope is not limited to energy, climate and environmental management: it also covers the standards for quality management (ISO 9001), occupational health and safety (ISO 45001) and requirements for other areas.

The High Level Structure consists of the following ten sections:

  1. Scope
  2. Normative references
  3. Terms
  4. Context of the organisation
  5. Leadership
  6. Planning
  7. Support
  8. Operation
  9. Performance evaluation
  10. Improvement

HLS pays special attention to the organisation (4.) and the top management (5.). The subsections of the sections listed above may be individual depending on the standard and topic. However, the basic information on the structures of an organisation is the same. The compatibility with the PDCA cycle (Plan-Do-Check-Act), which is relevant in many standards and their certifications, is fully given in the HLS:

4. context of the organisation
5. leadership
6. planning
7. support
8. operation
9. performance evaluation10. improvement

Due to the High Level Structure, organisations do not have to start from scratch each time they implement a new management system. New content can easily be fitted into the existing system without having to renew structures from scratch. Audits for certifications in the different sectors can consequently also be combined and carried out more efficiently.

Thus, HLS provides a very good basis for the integration of ISO management system standards. But also in the field of climate management, where no standardised management system exists so far, it is worthwhile to use the advantages of the High Level Structure.

Flexible software solution: How companies can achieve their goals

If a management system is supported by software, it should be as uncomplicated as possible and at the same time comprehensively map and link new subject areas and measurement structures in the company. IngSoft InterWatt, our software solution for environment, climate and energy management offers this necessary flexibility. Feel free to call us at +49 (911) 430879-100 or send us an email to learn more:

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