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Don Sayre

Health Care

Inside ISO 50001

Management strategies to increase energy efficiency and reduce costs

Published: Tuesday, June 21, 2011 - 05:30

There is a new international standard published June 9, 2011, that might just warrant your attention. This standard’s purpose is help organizations follow a systematic approach to improving energy performance, including energy efficiency, energy use, and consumption. It applies to variables that affect achieving these goals, thus cutting energy costs, reducing energy-related impacts on the environment, and lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

Sound like it’s worth a peek inside? Presenting ISO 50001—“Energy management systems—Requirements with guidance for use” from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

This new management systems specification and guidance document is built upon the same plan-do-check-act (PDCA) logic model as the popular quality and environmental management system standards, ISO 9001 and ISO 14001.

The need for an international energy management standard comes straight from the United Nations, which wants to respond as effectively as practical to climate change. A simple request from the UN Industrial Development Organization to ISO boosted the notion of energy management even higher on the ISO list of standards whose time is now.

To quote the recent ISO marketing brochure, “Win the energy challenge with ISO 50001,” the ISO 50001 document is designed to “provide public and private sector organizations with management strategies to increase energy efficiency, reduce costs, and improve energy performance.”

According to ISO, this new voluntary consensus standard “is intended to provide organizations with a recognized framework for integrating energy performance into their management practices.” Multinational organizations are to “have access to a single, harmonized standard for implementation across the organization with a logical and consistent methodology for identifying and implementing improvements.”

The ISO 50001 standard aims to accomplish at least these agenda items:
• Assist organizations with better use of assets that consume energy
• Create transparency and facilitate communication on managing energy resources
• Promote best practices and energy management behaviors
• Assist in prioritizing new energy efficiencies to try out and implement
• Provide a strong and lasting framework for energy efficiency throughout the supply chain
• Facilitate energy management improvements that reduce greenhouse gas emissions
• Empower integration with environmental, quality, health, and safety management systems


The ISO 50001 standard is written to highlight the data that can best be used to understand and make decisions on energy performance (use + consumption + efficiency) and measure the results.

An energy management system (EnMS) is defined as a “set of interrelated or interacting elements to establish an energy policy and energy objectives, and processes and procedures to achieve those objectives.” Like ISO 9001 and ISO 14001, top management is to document a commitment in its energy policy to demonstrate support for the EnMS and provide the human resources, specialized skills, technology, and financial resources needed to maintain it.

Energy planning is a requirement early in the ISO 50001 specification, with continual improvement as the ultimate achievable goal. Energy use and consumption are to be reviewed against an energy performance baseline for areas of significance in terms of facilities, equipment, systems, processes, and personnel. Opportunities for improved performance are to be identified, prioritized, and recorded against the baseline for energy use, consumption, efficiency, and intensity.

The launch and maiden voyage of the standard is here. Let’s christen her with our finest magnum of welcome to our world.


About The Author

Don Sayre’s picture

Don Sayre

Don Sayre is an author, actor, and engineer. He is also a senior member of the American Society for Quality (ASQ), and editor of publications for The Human Element newsletter of ASQ’s Human Development and Leadership Division. He is a member of the ANSI/ASQ Z1 Standardization Committee and three U.S. Technical Advisory Groups to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) on energy, environmental, and quality management systems. He is the author of Inside ISO 14000: The Competitive Advantage of Environmental Management (St. Lucie Press, 1996). Sayre continues a progressive career in the nuclear and other industries, currently with Spectra Tech Inc. on assignment as quality assurance coordinator to the government-owned, government-operated New Brunswick Laboratory near Chicago.


For the right reasons

The standard is a framework for making decisions which will have a positive effect on supply chain cost vs. benefit. There is no gain to anyone to waste energy for the sake of it (except the power company) no matter how it is generated.

While there is some disbelief of climate change, (especially on the other side of the pond, what?) This is almost a side issue to the main effort of saving waste, in all it's forms which should be at the core of our professional position.

Regards Government interference - that seems pretty par for the course, but this standard is just that, an ISO standard, you don't have to follow it, and if a government introduces compliance and certification as a requirement for supply, then it is no different for us when asking for statements of compliance to other standards from our suppliers.

ISO 50001

Sounds like government intervention into private business. The next step will be to mandate ISO 50001..... 

Richard Barbieri

Re: Government intervention

Re: "Sounds like government intervention into private business. The next step will be to mandate ISO 50001..... " The problem is not ISO 50001 unless it calls explicitly for measurement and reduction of so-called greenhouse gases: a politically correct metric and a waste of stakeholder resources. Since a good management system limits its performance metrics to a handful, the way to go is to measure the cost of energy expenditures (including not only production but logistics). Any action that reduces these costs will have the incidental effect of reducing carbon emissions if the energy comes from fossil fuels. ISO 50001 itself sounds like a valuable guide and framework for doing this. On the other hand, focus on carbon emissions makes wasted energy from non-carbon sources essentially invisible! The problem is instead cap and trade, carbon taxes, and so on all of which will be enormously destructive to our economy and will serve only to enrich special interests. It won't even get rid of the carbon dioxide, as energy-intensive industries will simply move the jobs offshore.

Use ISO 50001 for the right reason: saving supply chain resource

I have zero use for the United Nations and I have zero confidence in the good faith of its position on greenhouse gases and climate change. The delegates to the Climate Change conference in Copenhagen (2009) flew in on private jets and then rented limousines, both of which emit far more carbon dioxide than ordinary business travel on commercial flights and compact or mid-sized rental cars. The delegates also stayed in hotel rooms for which no private employer would ever pay, and dined on caviar wedges. This is how the "global warming" people behave when they believe nobody is watching them; their agenda is a convenient excuse for junket travel paid for by anybody but themselves. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) meanwhile wrote in a letter to the Wall Street Journal that cap and trade will help New York via "climate exchanges" set up by Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan Chase for what are doubtlessly purely altruistic reasons with no profit motive in mind.

Having said this, however, I advocate the use of ISO 50001 for the right reason: a framework to guide the reduction of energy waste, whether from carbon or non-carbon sources, to eliminate muda (waste) from the supply chain for the benefit of all stakeholders. The article also mentions ISO 14000 and I support it for exactly the same reason; avoidance of the production of environmental waste, or processing it into saleable products reduces costs and therefore increases the supply chain's value. Henry Ford could have registered to ISO 14001 even though he could have legally thrown into the nearest river whatever waste he couldn't send up his smokestacks.

In summary, my position (which I have not hesitated to make the official position of my company) is that green manufacturing and related activities are the right thing to be done for the right reason (more value for supply chain stakeholders) and not for the wrong reason (preventionof alleged climate change, which is scientifically arguable from both sides although the self-serving behavior of the agenda's advocates like Goldman Sachs, Enron, J.P. Morgan Chase, GE, and so on decrease its credibility enormously). In general, there will be no conflict between doing the right thing for the right reason (improving supply chain value) and the wrong reason (emulation of King Canute's futile command that the tide not come in), because actions to reduce energy waste will automatically reduce carbon emissions if the energy comes from fossil fuels. Only when an organization buys carbon offsets--a practice I equate to the purchase of medieval indulgences for sins--buys cost-inefficient solar or wind energy, or otherwise allows itself to be guided by political correctness as opposed to sound business--does it exercise poor stewardship of stakeholder and supply chain resources.

In fact, the statement “provide public and private sector organizations with management
strategies to increase energy efficiency, reduce costs, and improve
energy performance" says everything that needs to be said. With this in mind, I agree that the standard should be welcomed as this article describes, and that everybody in the quality profession learn as much as possible about it.