They don’t directly affect products, they can’t stop carbon emissions directly and they don’t kill coronaviruses. Yet as a high-level network of processes and systems, management systems provide companies with a structure and pave the way for achieving predefined goals.

Helpful tools for taking action

From quality to OHS and the environment, all of these topics and targets have their own international standards, such as ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and ISO 45001. These supply the foundation and framework around which businesses set up their management system. Such systems provide clear and fully documented answers to questions of responsibilities, namely who does what, and when? Everyone knows what has to be done at which point in a clearly defined workflow in order to achieve a specific result, while also ensuring that companies properly account for key laws and important interests.

A systematic approach – even in times of crisis

I’d imagine that many of us have experienced how a step-by-step approach is an extremely helpful way to ensure the achievement of a specific goal.

But what about the major events and issues of our time – such as the coronavirus pandemic or climate protection? Can management systems help out here?

Yes, they can, since they play their part in influencing the bigger picture. They can help us to save energy, for example, which in turn reduces our carbon emissions. And they can ensure that we offer better protection against infection for our employees, customers and business partners.


Example 1: occupational health and safety

As one example, ISO 45001 lays the groundwork for an occupational health and safety (OHS) management system. This involves the consideration of aspects such as employee training and communication, and assuring the involvement of employees, partner companies and customers. The Covid-19 pandemic has forced businesses to respond quickly to accommodate the necessary health regulations. Different sets of stakeholders – customers, partners and staff – all need to be informed about the various rules and measures taken. Companies need to be clear about communication channels and tools, and ways to involve and train up their workforce.

At the start of the pandemic, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that many a company had difficulties in meeting all of these requirements within the given timeframe. Yet businesses who have an ISO 45001 management system in place when these sorts of crises occur can build on existing structures and process flows, making them better placed to take action. These companies already have their designated OHS officers, and the relevant communication channels and tools for interacting with employees and other important stakeholders are already up and running.

In these kinds of situations, companies benefit hugely from an occupational health and safety management system, since speed and effective structures are all-important for handling a crisis. Another helping hand in this kind of health crisis is offered by the document PD ISO/PAS 45005:2020, which was published in 2020. Businesses who already run an ISO 45001-certified management system can use these guidelines to extend their system to handle pandemic rules and regulations, in order to verify that all relevant aspects have been accounted for. This is a key benefit, because, alongside obvious requirements like hygiene and distancing, some of these aspects might not immediately spring to mind. Such as the physical constraints – and psychological stress – of being asked to work from home with an improvised setup, for example, or the potential absence of first aiders and fire safety personnel from the actual workplace.


Example 2: climate protection

Management systems also offer support for engagement with the topic area of climate and CO2 reduction. Companies needing to set up an energy management system should look no further than ISO 50001: this standard provides the high-level framework within which businesses can define their energy targets and fulfill these by means of appropriate measures, monitoring and controls. An ISO 50001-certified energy management system can help to identify key points of energy consumption in the enterprise, for example, and facilitate the application of measures to cut energy use and measure progress towards goals. Apart from cutting costs, taking action on saving energy also has a positive effect on carbon emissions.

Both of these examples show how management systems can offer an effective approach to improving crisis management and reducing the company carbon footprint. Whether for business as usual or the big issues of the day, setting clear targets and charting a clear course towards them is always the right approach.


Antje Golbach

Antje Golbach


Antje Golbach is press spokesperson for the Systems division and also deals with social media networks relating to the certification of management systems. She appreciates the diversity of topics in the communications department at TÜV Rheinland, the constant familiarisation with new topics and the fact that no day is like the previous one. To compensate for the time spent at her desk, she enjoys jogging through Cologne’s Green Belt and going on hiking excursions in the nearby Eifel mountains. She also likes to swap the forest floor for the yoga mat occasionally.

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