How an integrated management system (IMS) supports sustainability and controls compliance

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1. Annex SL supports the integrated approach by aligning the multiple ISO Management System standards to simplify the complexity and help workforce understanding.

 2. More compliance….UK Government will review suppliers Carbon Reduction Plans for internal central Government contracts before award.

 3. Climate Change and the drive for sustainability has increased the need for processes to be controlled within a centralised integrated management system.

For those who work within Business Assurance/QHSE and have responsibilities within the company management system, the standard job description for this position might include some, if not all the following responsibilities:

  • Quality
  • Health and Safety
  • The Environment
  • Risk
  • Process Improvement
  • Audit
  • Quality Control
  • Certification
  • Regulatory Compliance
  • Data Protection
  • Supply Chain Quality

…and more.

It would be apt to include the quip ` I’ll sweep the yard` but we will move on…

With the vital drive for net-zero by 2050 which refers to the balance between the amount of greenhouse gas produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere, this priority will likely increase QHSE/Business Assurance responsibilities significantly.


How will this affect QHSE? Given the skill-set and competencies required for positions in this field, this discipline will be expected to play a major role in managing the information related to climate change and processes that promote sustainability through developing a company-wide sustainability plan.


From a compliance viewpoint, a centralised process-based management system is needed to provide the foundational controls that will manage the increase in complexity created by net-zero, and from past experience, the bog standard Document Management System is not flexible enough to cope with the demands of what is needed for such a comprehensive array of information.

Integrated management systems certainly have significant benefits to both the workforce and the boardroom of any business – from complexity, efficiency and practicality standpoints.


From a compliance perspective, an ISO directive – PAS 99 Integrated Management Systems – espoused the benefits of implementing integrated management systems, but many organisations continued to struggle to establish them because of either having no budget or lacking innovation or awareness as to what solutions are out there.


However, a subsequent update changed the landscape. ISO decided the solution wasn’t a single standard but, instead, many specific standards that could be maintained and consolidated around a consistent structure and format. This was Annex SL.


Why is Annex SL relevant?

Previously, ISO management system structures would share common elements, but they would be translated in different ways according to the ISO standard. This was often confusing and resulted in inconsistencies throughout organisations due to the vagueness and obscurity when processes were implemented.


The ISO revision of 2015 (ISO 9001:2015) introduced Annex SL, which was to become a common structural framework, alongside advocating for risk mitigation to be integrated into management processes. Now, and for the foreseeable future, Annex SL will ensure structural elements and technical terminology are harmonised across ISOs – making things easier to construct, comprehend and follow.


What is Annex SL?

The ten-clause structure of Annex SL is designed to create uniformity across your organisation, especially when using multiple ISO management system standards to provide the harmonisation that a varied business needs, without setting inflexible boundaries.

It harmonises structural elements and technical terminology, transforming them into something adaptable that fits around the specific requirements of your business.

Wind Turbine

The integrated management system provides the baseline to guide the company and supply chain (as per ISO 14001) into delivering less of a carbon footprint across all stakeholders, however, the framework is also ideal to control a large percentage of the current non-regulated principles of ESG.


While currently unregulated and based on self-disclosures, ESG provides measurements of a company’s contribution to sustainability and ethical principles and is now being adopted as a key measure of risk and compatibility. Core to ESG are the processes that reside in the integrated management system and provide the quality data that ultimately feeds the performance measure.


The current regulatory landscape is complex and has some new demands.  For example, the UK Government are already influencing business behaviour by setting out how suppliers Carbon Reduction Plans and commitment to Net Zero will be considered in the procurement of in-scope central Government contracts (UK Government Procurement Policy Note (PPN) 06/21). There are tie-ins to PAS 2060 which provides a specification on carbon neutrality and ISO 50001:2018, the energy management standard.


It can all get quite complicated as I’m sure you have worked out, hence the need to view specification content within an IMS and cherry pick the elements that relate specifically to your delivery model.

Operating an integrated management system is more practical and cost effective than an outdated, document-heavy siloed approach that has proven to be expensive and complicated to manage. In many cases, it has influenced the workforce’s reluctance to engage with `best practise` guidelines that ultimately increases the risk of non-compliance, reputational damage and financial penalties.


In turn, one of the core benefits of the integrated approach is the greater flexibility of presentation and more visual representation of the processes and compliance obligations that help your workforce to deliver their responsibilities as planned.


While many companies are transforming from text documents to visual swim-lane processes, taking the next step to automate some of the more labour intensive processes becomes a natural progression and less onerous from a change management perspective.


The management system has morphed from being a store for quality documents into a business critical application that will support the adoption of sustainability methods and practices, however, the continued use of archaic tools, convoluted repositories and low investment from senior management acts as a brake to retard progress and will prove to be costly and a waste of valuable resources.

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