ISO 14001 certification boosts U.S. transit agency’s environmental performance


ISO 14001 certification boosts U.S. transit agency's environmental performance

Sustainable transport system

In February 2008, Lloyd’s Register Quality Assurance (LRQA) formally presented Sound Transit with a certificate of approval for the transit agency’s environmental management system against the internationally recognised ISO 14001 standard.

Compliance with ISO 14001 has helped this U.S. transit agency to identify, prioritise and manage environmental risks, and LRQA certification has provided a public demonstration of the authority’s commitment to environmental improvement.

Sound Transit provides transportation choices to nearly 3 million people around Seattle in Washington State, carrying about 50,000 riders each working day, operating regional express buses, Sounder commuter rail, and Link light rail. Light rail from SeaTac International Airport to downtown Seattle will open in 2009.

In 2007, nearly 14 million journeys were provided, representing an increase of 12.3% over the previous year, which is around 6 times the U.S. national increase in public transport usage.

Many new riders are citing high gas prices and the comfort and convenience of the commuter train as their motivation for changing to public transit. Gas prices in Washington State are some of the highest in the country and are currently around $4/gallon for regular unleaded. One of the reasons for Washington’s higher prices is that its gas tax is one of the highest in the nation.

A recent Sound Transit rider survey reveals that environmental benefit was one of the top reasons new riders cited for a switch to public transit.

In the United States 33% of total Greenhouse Gas Emissions are derived from mobile sources; mostly automobiles and light trucks.

However, a single commuter switching to public transportation can save around 10% of a family’s carbon footprint and a two car family switching all travel to public transport can reduce its carbon footprint by 50%.

It is clear, therefore, that public transport must play a major role in the fight against climate change.

ISO 14001 at Sound Transit
In 2004 Sound Transit began a long-term initiative to develop an Environmental and Sustainability Management System (ESMS) designed specifically to meet the requirements of ISO 14001.

From the outset, Sound Transit was keen to ensure that its sustainability objectives should impact upon every aspect of its operation, from the maintenance and construction of fixed assets to the operation of the public transport system.

The creation of an inter-departmental Steering Committee with subcommittees was key to the successful implementation of environmental strategy at all levels. This has provided a strong foundation to support Sound Transit in choosing sustainable and environmentally responsible practices, whilst promoting predictability and consistency in the management of environmental obligations.

Key benefits of ISO 14001
Attainment of ISO 14001 necessitates the adoption of an holistic approach to environmental management, ensuring that implementation of environmental objectives takes place in every area of activity and at all levels. It also ensures that environmental and sustainability performance is continually improved, and for a public body, the attainment of ISO 14001 helps to promote corporate and individual social and environmental responsibility.

Transparency and accountability are vitally important for public bodies such as Sound Transit, so it was important for environmental initiatives to be ratified by an internationally renowned and highly respected organisation. Furthermore, it was essential for Sound Transit to partner business assessors with the experience, technical ability and credibility with which to challenge and continuously improve the program. For these reasons, Sound Transit chose to partner with LRQA in the certification process.

Perry Weinberg, Environmental Compliance Manager for Sound Transit says,
“In our view, ISO 14001 isn’t a destination – it’s a direction, so we are really excited about the future. We feel that we have created an innovative, robust but flexible, environmental management system that will take us beyond merely fulfilling our environmental responsibilities. The expertise and insight that LRQA has shown throughout the certification process has been invaluable to us.”

Before presenting Sound Transit with their ISO 14001 Certificate, Andrew Smith, Senior Vice President, Lloyd’s Register Americas Management Systems said, “With this certificate, Sound Transit joins more than 7,500 other recipients of the ISO 14001 approvals that LRQA has issued worldwide. I commend Sound Transit for the important steps it has taken to reduce its environmental footprint.”

Results so far
Crucially, the implementation of ISO 14001 has created a comprehensive range of measureable objectives. In 2008, Sound Transit is working on programs to achieve in excess of 50 objectives that fall into 7 key areas. Namely,

  1. Fuels, vehicles, and emissions (e.g. Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel and idling reduction)
  2. Ecosystem protection (e.g. pesticides reduction, mitigation projects, habitat protection)
  3. Sustainable design and building (e.g. environmental strategies during the construction and operation of a new $1.8 billion light rail project)
  4. Green procurement (e.g. recycled content paper, office supplies, cleaning products, and electronics)
  5. Recycling and waste prevention (e.g. paper reduction, recycling organic waste, salvage and recycling during construction)
  6. Energy and water conservation (e.g. natural and low energy lighting)
  7. Education and awareness (e.g. Seattle Climate Partnership and employee education/involvement)

As an example of the environmental and cost benefits that such initiatives can generate, 35 express buses are now parked in Seattle after the morning commute until they are needed to return to the suburbs in the evening. Previously, they returned empty to the suburbs at midday, and Sound Transit estimates that the mid-day bus storage program saved 122,000 gallons of fuel in 2007 and approximately $700,000 in fuel and maintenance costs.

The Big Picture
“Government needs to lead by example when it comes to combating global warming. Sound Transit provides the critical transit options people in the Puget Sound region need to reduce their own carbon footprint, but it is also important that we as an agency do our part strongly,” said Sound Transit Board Chair and Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels. “Earning the ISO 14001 certification for our Environmental and Sustainability Management System means that Sound Transit is not just talk–we have measurable targets, tangible goals, and real actions that we will continue to take at every level of the agency to help protect the environment.”

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Notes to editors:

1. The contact details are as follows:
Phillippa Weare
LRQA Centre
Lloyd’s Register Quality Assurance Ltd.
Hiramford, Middlemarch Office Village
Siskin Drive
Coventry CV3 4FJ
T +44 (0) 24 7688 2382

2. Conscious of the need for organisations to have confidence in the delivery of their promises to clients and stakeholders, LRQA has developed a new approach to the assessment of management systems. LRQA calls this Business Assurance.
LRQA helps businesses to ensure that they meet objectives, improve competitiveness, control risks and deliver on their promises.

LRQA Business Assurance helps provide assurance that management systems are designed around the most critical business risks; that processes produce the outcomes that stakeholders want and that management systems are capable of delivery continuous improvement. In short, LRQA helps organisations to create more certainty in their business.

For further information, visit