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Interview
Sheila Leggett – Canadian champion of environmental management standards

October 14, 2020

Sheila Leggett – Canadian champion of environmental management standards

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Interview
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ISO technical committee ISO/TC 207 Environmental management develops international standards that help organizations operate in a sustainable way. The high-impact ISO 14000 Environmental management series is just one example of the committee’s contribution to the fight against climate change. Canadian Sheila Leggett is the Chairperson of the technical committee. Her distinguished career spans environmental consulting and regulatory roles, including with Alberta’s Natural Resources Conservation Board and the former National Energy Board.

 

Q.

What are some of Canada’s key contributions to advancing the work of ISO technical committee ISO/TC 207 Environmental management?

A.

Canada’s key contributions include the expertise and commitment of Canadians who are involved. It’s really astonishing what Canadian volunteers in this area are accomplishing. We are fortunate to have governments who want to be global leaders in standards. To have that supported by the volunteer commitments and expertise of individual Canadians is very motivating for me. We are fortunate to have the kind of talent we do in our country.

 

Q.

The strategic business plan of ISO/TC 207 is informed by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. What are some of the committee’s top priorities for the next five years?

A.

Different people have different priorities and I’d like to share my own perspective. As chairperson of the technical committee, my priorities are to consolidate and package groups of standards so that they are more user friendly to the industrial sector who are the principal users.

I want us to continue to improve our outreach so that the standards are of greater relevance and help in all areas of environmental management. We have great talent; fabulous standards have been produced and continue to be produced. Now, it’s a matter of establishing how we can share this with the world. It’s kind of a best kept secret. For example, I was at a meeting in China a few years ago and visited a manufacturer to see how they were implementing ISO 14000 standards. It was fascinating. The company we visited was glowing in their praise for the ISO 14000 standards. They said that by using the 14000 standards, they had identified a use for previous waste product which had increased their market share.

I think in North America we’re not yet seeing the value of these standards. I’m a former regulator and to me, a key application of these standards would be in the regulatory review and oversight of proposed projects and operations. For a few years now, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has referenced the 14000 standards in their guidance to applicants. I think that using these globally accepted standards as part of our regulatory framework can improve regulatory decision-making and operations oversight.

 

Q.

As a Canadian leader in international standardization, what are you most proud of?

A.

Canada’s commitment. The fact that the Government of Canada understands and sees the purpose of international standards and that as a country, we’re moving towards the adoption of these standards to help guide our sustainable development of resources.

 

Q.

What steps can industry leaders take to improve gender representation of women in standardization?

A.

ISO is leading a diversity and inclusiveness program right now. When you log on to the website, they invite you to take a survey. From my perspective, business leaders can raise awareness of the importance, relevance and impact of standards.

In raising that awareness, hopefully they will offer anyone who is interested in standards development the opportunity to become involved.

 

Q.

What advice to do you have for the next generation of professionals who want to shape environmental management standards?

A.

Get involved! You’ll be welcomed. Bring your voice and your expertise to the table. Don’t be shy about stepping up because you’re really smart and we need your input. Renewal of people and energy at the table leads to better outcomes.

It’s a great way for young professionals to expand their window of experience beyond their education and work, especially in the early days. You get access to many different points of view, which helps broaden your perspective. The flexibility of the younger brain is fabulous and can bring to the table other ways of thinking. This helps spur everybody on so we don’t risk falling back into doing things the same old way because we’ve always done them so. Bringing new thinking and new energy is very important.

 

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