As of April 2005, according to the Federal Environmental Agency in Germany, 88,800 companies worldwide were ISO 14001 certified, with 4,761 of those in the United States. Gladys Thomas, Schneider Electric's operations manager for safety, security, and environment, says that this certification 'is rapidly becoming a necessary qualification to remain competitive in the global marketplace' and Schneider Electric, a Paris-based supplier of electrical distribution, industrial control, and automation products and systems, has recently completed certification registration for the 31 facilities making up its North American division.

First published in 1996, ISO 14001 specifies requirements for an environmental management system, applying to environmental aspects over which the organization has control and those it can be expected to influence. Although it does not state specific environmental performance criteria, the standard is pertinent to any organization that wishes to implement, maintain, and improve an environmental management system, demonstrate conformance with its own stated environmental policy, ensure compliance with environmental laws and regulations, seek certification of its environmental management system by an external third-party organization, and make a self-determination of conformance.

'A growing number of world-class corporations are requiring their suppliers to be ISO 14001 certified,' minimizing harmful effects on the environment caused by company activities, and achieving continual improvement of environmental performance. The North American division of Schneider Electric, which will be combined with the recently acquired Juno Lighting, is the first of its four geographic divisions to register for certification. Not only has environmental awareness become part of the company's everyday business, but it is also saving money with increased efficiencies in the use of energy and materials.

Numbers of other companies following suit are on the rise, but it may be a few years before the United States can match Japan, who claims the number one spot with 18,104 ISO 14001-certified companies.

For more information, visit