Don’t Overdo It

by Einar Du Rietz


Last time I had to visit the hospital, the first thing I noticed, apart from the hilarious waiting line, was the rather outdated, but proudly displayed ISO14001 certification. This seemed to be the great pride of the place and apparently, the certification had nothing to do with the – just reported in media – lack of proper daily cleaning for the past five years, all the nurses quitting because they could not stand the working environment, some doctors who never should have been admitted to medical school, a new – thus crashed – medical record system, numerous – sometimes fatal – cases of maltreatment, and an epidemic flu spreading in some departments. The facility is considered one of the top university hospitals in Europe, and – rightly – renowned for it’s infant and cancer care, but the rest was in real crisis. Don’t know how they established their EMS, or was it a matter of cutting down on cutlery for the food no one dared to touch.

Guess most patients would have been more comforted by a certificate for quality.

The problematic thing with an EMS as such is really the E. On the one hand, it’s used for cost control, appreciated by all interested parties, as long as quality does not suffer, but also something carried out without an EMS. Secondly it’s used for marketing, with disputable impact. For the hospital mentioned above, they did not need any marketing, being both governmental and overcrowded. In the private sector, it’s a good communication tolls with the financial analysts, who on the other hand are only interested in the costs, and in risk awareness and control.

But I don’t doubt that the ISO people are doing a good job. It’s just that maybe they are taking it a bit too far. The most recent introduction on the certification market – ISO 14005– is tailor made for small and middle sized business. Guess some people will buy this, but my prediction is that the certificate will only serve as an excuse for restricting the use of daily necessities, like office material, fuel, electricity and water. Guess some people still can see though that, but next time you stay in a hotel, consider the sign in the bathroom asking you to think about the environment and reuse the towels. I don’t mind saving some time and money for the busy personnel, but please don’t treat your guests as imbeciles.


About the Author: Einar Du Rietz

Einar Du Rietz is a journalist and communications consultant based in Europe. He has authored several environmental reports for the Electrolux Group and written many blogs for the Center for the New Europe at CNE Environment.