ISO and Japanese Cities
Itabashi ward is one of Tokyo Metropolitan area's 23 wards, located in the northwestern part of Tokyo. It has an area of about 32 square kilometers, with a population of about 50,000. Since mid 80s, the ward experienced rapid urbanization which brought about serious deterioration of its natural environment, and since then, the ward office has promoted afforestation and other environmental activities as one of its core policies.
Background for the movement toward the acquisition of ISO14001 certificate:
In facing the urgent need to take measures for the environment, the ward office carried out various environmental activities such as introduction of low pollution vehicles and establishment of a center for environmental education called "The Eco-Police Center". In 1993, the ward declared that it would become "a city of environment", in order to show internally as well as externally that it considered the creation of a town that could coexist with the environment as one of the prioritized policies. In addition, in order to take Agenda 21 into account (adopted at the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992), the ward established a Local Agenda called "Agenda 21 Itabashi", which became the core of environment-related activities of the ward. In 1997, the ward office developed its own environmental management and auditing system, and since then, under the framework of the system, it has carried out assessment of energy use as well as waste generation and recycling in its office, and has provided environmental training courses for its staff members. However, in recognizing the need to further develop the system and establish more effective management system in conformity with the concept of ISO14001, a new EMS for Itabashi was developed in 1998. It should be noted that the new EMS was developed based on the one that already existed, and the objective was to find a way to transform the existing EMS into one that would better suit the requirements of ISO14001.
Stage of acquisition of ISO14001 certificate:
Initiation of preparation for the acquisition: December 1997
Features of activities:
Itabashi Ward is the first ward of Tokyo's 23 wards and the fifth local government in Japan to acquire ISO14001 certification. The final decision to acquire ISO14001 certificate was made by the Ward Mayor. The scope of the application of EMS includes all activities carried out by the ward office, and all the facilities of the ward, except schools. It was reported that the consensus on the scope of the application was made relatively smoothly, since there was sufficient understanding and support for the acquisition of ISO14001 from each section of the office.
One of the main advantages that the ward office could obtain from the acquisition was that it enabled the integration of various activities carried out separately by individual sections of the office, and establish an integrated and effective management system. The main internal objectives and long-term internal benefits of the acquisition were: 1) to promote the planning and implementation of policies for environmental protection; 2) to raise environmental awareness of staff members; 3) to reduce negative impact on the environment by the activities of the ward office; and 4) to save operational costs by saving energy and resource use. On the other hand, external objectives and long-term external benefits were: 1) to establish greener commercial distribution channels and markets by prioritizing the purchase of recycled papers and eco-friendly goods; 2) to raise environmental awareness and cooperative attitude of residents on environmental activities carried out by the ward office; 3) to support local enterprises in their acquisition processes, based on its own experience; and 4) to increase transparency of its activities by disseminating information regarding its environmental policy and its experience.
With regard to the information dissemination and communication, the ward office has been disseminating information regarding its experience on ISO14001 and EMS to residents, other stakeholders in a town, as well as other local governments by distributing manuals and newsletters, and organizing seminars particularly targeting businesses that need support for acquisition of ISO certification.
Based on the experience of the ward office, it was reported that the cooperation and full understanding by all the sections of the office was indispensable for the acquisition of the certificate. Furthermore, it was noted that the acquisition itself was just a starting point, and what is more important is to keep making the efforts to raise environmental awareness of each individual staff member, as well as to constantly improve the EMS itself.