ISO 14000 Introduction


ISO 14000 is a family of standards related to environmental management that exists to help organizations (a) minimize how their operations (processes, etc.) negatively affect the environment (i.e. cause adverse changes to air, water, or land); (b) comply with applicable laws, regulations, and other environmentally oriented requirements; and (c) continually improve in the above.

ISO 14000 is similar to ISO 9000 quality management in that both pertain to the process of how a product is produced, rather than to the product itself. As with ISO 9001, certification is performed by third-party organizations rather than being awarded by ISO directly. The current version of ISO 14001 is ISO 14001:2015.

Development of the ISO 14000 series

The ISO 14000 family includes most notably the ISO 14001 standard, which represents the core set of standards used by organizations for designing and implementing an effective environmental management system (EMS). Other standards in this series include ISO 14004, which gives additional guidelines for a good EMS, and more specialized standards dealing with specific aspects of environmental management. The major objective of the ISO 14000 series of norms is to provide “practical tools for companies and organizations of all kinds looking to manage their environmental responsibilities.”

The ISO 14000 series is based on a voluntary approach to environmental regulation. The series includes the ISO 14001 standard, which provides guidelines for the establishment or improvement of an EMS.

ISO 14001 Standard

ISO 14001 defines criteria for an EMS. It does not state requirements for environmental performance but rather maps out a framework that a company or organization can follow to set up an effective EMS. It can be used by any organization that wants to improve resource efficiency, reduce waste, and reduce costs. Using ISO 14001 can provide assurance to company management and employees as well as external stakeholders that environmental impact is being measured and improved. ISO 14001 can also be integrated with other management functions and assists companies in meeting their environmental and economic goals.

ISO 14001 is known as a generic management system standard, meaning that it is relevant to any organization seeking to improve and manage resources more effectively. This includes:

  • single-site to large multi-national companies
  • high-risk companies to low-risk service organizations
  • the manufacturing, process, and service industries, including local governments
  • all industry sectors, including public and private sectors
  • original equipment manufacturers and their suppliers

ISO 14001:2015

All standards are periodically reviewed by ISO to ensure they still meet market requirements. The current version is ISO 14001:2015, and certified organizations were given a three-year transition period to adapt their environmental management system to the new edition of the standard. The new version of ISO 14001 focuses on the improvement of environmental performance rather than the improvement of the management system itself. It also includes several new updates all aimed at making environmental management more comprehensive and relevant to the supply chain. One of the main updates asks organizations to consider environmental impact during the entire life cycle, although there is no requirement to actually complete a life cycle analysis. Additionally, the commitments of top management and the methods of evaluating compliance have also been strengthened. Another significant change linked ISO 14001 to the general management system structure, introduced in 2015, called the High Level Structure. Both ISO 9001 and 14001 use this same structure, making implementation and auditing more uniform. The new standard also requires the holder of the certificate to specify risks and opportunities and how to address them.

Basic Principles and Methodology

The basic principles of ISO 14001 are based on the well-known Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle.

Fig.1 The PDCA Cycle

  • Plan: Establish objectives and processes required

Prior to implementing ISO 14001, an initial review or gap analysis of the organization’s processes and products is recommended, to assist in identifying all elements of the current operation, and if possible, future operations, that may interact with the environment, termed “environmental aspects”. Environmental aspects can include both direct, such as those used during manufacturing, and indirect, such as raw materials. This review assists the organization in establishing their environmental objectives, goals, and targets (which should ideally be measurable); helps with the development of control and management procedures and processes; and serves to highlight any relevant legal requirement, which can then be built into the policy.

  • Do: Implement the processes

During this stage, the organization identifies the resources required and works out those members of the organization responsible for the EMS’ implementation and control. This includes establishing procedures and processes, although only one documented procedure is specifically related to operational control. Other procedures are required to foster better management control over elements such as documentation control, emergency preparedness and response, and the education of employees, to ensure that they can competently implement the necessary processes and record results. Communication and participation across all levels of the organization, especially top management, is a vital part of the implementation phase, with the effectiveness of the EMS being dependent on active involvement from all employees.

  • Check: Measure and monitor the processes and report results

During the “check” stage, performance is monitored and periodically measured to ensure that the organization’s environmental targets and objectives are being met. In addition, internal audits are conducted at planned intervals to ascertain whether the EMS meets the user’s expectations and whether the processes and procedures are being adequately maintained and monitored.

  • Act: Take action to improve performance of EMS based on results

After the checking stage, a management review is conducted to ensure that the objectives of the EMS are being met, the extent to which they are being met, and that communications are being appropriately managed. Additionally, the review evaluates changing circumstances, such as legal requirements, in order to make recommendations for further improvement of the system. These recommendations are incorporated through continual improvement: plans are renewed or new plans are made, and the EMS moves forward.

  • Continual Improvement Process (CI)

ISO 14001 encourages a company to continually improve its environmental performance. Apart from the obvious – the reduction in actual and possible negative environmental impacts – this is achieved in three ways.

    • Expansion: Business areas increasingly get covered by the implemented EMS.
    • Enrichment: Activities, products, processes, emissions, resources, etc. increasingly get managed by the implemented EMS.
    • Upgrading: The structural and organizational framework of the EMS, as well as an accumulation of knowledge in dealing with business-environmental issues, is improved.

Overall, the CI concept expects the organization to gradually move away from merely operational environmental measures towards a more strategic approach on how to deal with environmental challenges.

ISO 14001:2015 topics

At the highest level, ISO 14001:2015 covers the following topics with regard to environmental management systems:

  • Context of the organization
  • Leadership
  • Planning
  • Support
  • Operation
  • Performance evaluation
  • Improvement

Conformity assessment

ISO 14001 can be used in whole or in part to help an organization better manage its relationship with the environment. If all the elements of ISO 14001 are incorporated into the management process, the organization may opt to prove that it has achieved full alignment or conformity with the international standard, ISO 14001, by using one of four recognized options. These are:

  • make a self-determination and self-declaration, or
  • seek confirmation of its conformance by parties having an interest in the organization, such as customers, or
  • seek confirmation of its self-declaration by a party external to the organization, or
  • seek certification/registration of its EMS by an external organization.

Benefits

Using ISO 14001:2015 has many benefits for organizations with environmental management systems. Organizations and companies find that using the standard helps them:

  • Improve resource efficiency
  • Reduce waste
  • Drive down costs
  • Provide assurance that environmental impact is being measured
  • Gain competitive advantage in supply chain design
  • Increase new business opportunities
  • Meet legal obligations
  • Increase stakeholder and customer trust
  • Improve overall environmental impact
  • Manage environmental obligations with consistency

ISO 14001 CERTIFICATION

Organizations that have already achieved ISO 14001 certification are encouraged to transition to the 2015 version. Organizations will have a three-year transition period to update their environmental management systems to the new standard.

To get started with ISO 14001:2015:

Review existing quality management system requirements (ISO 9001:2015)

Purchase ISO 14001:2015

Get ISO 14001 training

Certify to ISO 14001

Fig.2 ISO14000 Certificate

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