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What is ISO 50001 and why does energy management matter?

ISO 50001 is the international standard on energy management practices so can help save energy, cut costs and meet environmental requirements. We explain how.

A standard is an agreed way of doing something, whether it’s making a product, managing a process, delivering a service or supplying materials.

ISO 50001 (pronounced ‘fifty-thousand, one’) is the international standard covering the energy management practices considered to be the best, globally: energy management experts from more than 60 countries developed it.

It outlines what businesses need to consider to develop and implement a robust energy policy – establishing objectives, targets and action plans to control energy use.

‘Not just for big business’

Businesses of all sizes can benefit from ISO 50001, as David Fatscher explains. He works for national standards body BSI, which helped shaped the content of ISO 50001, and he says standards aren’t just for big business.

“I know where that thinking comes from. It’s because the term ‘energy management system’ sounds complicated. This leads small businesses to think ‘oh, but we don’t have a dedicated energy manager so we don’t need an energy management system’, but this standard is applicable to any sector where energy is a cost – and it’s a cost for any business.”

Managing and reducing energy consumption

Rowan Wallis, energy auditor at the Sustainable Business Partnership in Brighton, says ISO 50001 “is about putting in place a structure and process for managing and reducing energy consumption”.

“Take a large manufacturing business which has several premises with various buildings. This is the sort of business where control of energy spend becomes more tough. Putting a management system in place reduces the risk of something going wrong, and you should also see efficiencies in the process from that.”

Plan-do-check-act: ISO 50001 for small business

“These standards are voluntary,” says Fatscher. But a business can be audited and certified to ISO 50001 standard.

Certification is likely the reserve of larger businesses but a small business might decide to implement ISO 50001 on a more simplistic level.

“You can scale a standard down to meet your needs,” says Fatscher. “The principle behind the standard is plan-do-check-act.”

Plan-do-check-act (sometimes with the ‘a’ standing for ‘adjust’) or PDCA is a well-known project management tool for continuous improvement:

  1. Plan: Assess where you are and where you want to be;
  2. Do: Identify beneficial changes, implement them;
  3. Check: Measure/assess your performance;
  4. Act: Review performance; Revisit and update plans.

How a hairdresser benefits from ISO 50001

Fatscher says: “With a hairdressing business for example, it’s not that you would directly win additional business as people don’t choose a salon based on its energy management.

“But the standard could help you develop effective and efficient strategic good practice, saving money that can be invested back in the business.

“You might use these savings to carry out a new refit leaving people saying ‘have you seen that place, it’s looking good now’, and to help keep your prices competitive.”

Find out how ready you are with the BSI’s self-assessment questionnaire on ISO 50001 for small and medium-sized businesses.

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