What is ISO 14001?

ISO 14001 was developed to provide a management system to help organizations reduce their environmental impact. The standard provides the framework for organizations to demonstrate their commitment to the environmental by:

  • Reducing harmful effects on the environment
  • Providing evidence of continual improvement of Environmental Management

The standard is generic and does not apply to any particular industry or business sector. It provides a strategic framework that can be used to meet internal and external objectives for Environmental Management.

Environmental Management System

By achieving ISO14001 certification you will be able to clearly demonstrate your commitment to reducing waste and recycling materials where appropriate. The benefits to your organization will not just be in cost savings, they may also prove beneficial when tendering for new business.

Who is it for?

Because of its generic nature and universal acceptance, the ISO 14001 standard has the potential to affect the environmental management practices of virtually every manufacturing company in the world. It can also be used by charities, voluntary organizations and trade associations. Any organization whose products, services or day-to-day activities have an impact on the environment needs to be aware of ISO 14001.

Background to ISO 14001

Like ISO 900, ISO 14001 is a product of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). ISO 14001 is the world’s first generic, internationally recognized standard for environmental management. Of the group of ISO 14000 standards, ISO 14001 is the actual standard to which companies get registered. Experts are predicting that the impacts of this dynamic standard will transcend the vast popularity of the world-renowned ISO 9001 quality standard. ISO 14001 measures the conformance of an organization’s Energy Management System (EMS) to the specified requirements.

Benefits of ISO 14001

It is becoming more and more important to demonstrate that organizations are thinking about their environmental impact and putting in place systems that will not only benefit the environment but will also reduce costs and improve efficiency within the organization.

The benefits of showing conformance to the ISO 14001 standard are numerous:

  • Cost savings in waste, recycling and consumption
  • Advantage over competitors when tendering for business
  • Management of environmental risks
  • Compliance with individual countries environmental regulations
  • Demonstrates your commitment to improving the environment
  • Shows you are a responsible future focused organization
  • Can reduce insurance cover costs
  • Can increase employee engagement in the knowledge that they are working in an environmentally friendly organization

Having a well-defined Energy Management System (EMS) framework will provide your organization with a systematic approach to compliance. In some cases regulatory bodies are more flexible with companies with performance and public accountability records.

In addition, Officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) have indicated that certification may lead to a reduction in the number of inspections required for obtaining permits. In unique circumstances, the EPA has reduced fines on the condition that financial resources are put into better practices, including compliance to ISO 14001.

Through the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), ISO 14001 is expected to become a prerequisite for doing business worldwide. Experts say that it is the market forces, which will drive acceptance of the new global environmental standards.

ISO 14001 is also compatible with other management standards such as ISO 9001, OHSAS18001and ISO 27001.

ISO 14001 assessments

You will need to employ someone internally or from an external source who has the experience of implementing Environmental Management Systems and who knows what is needed to achieve ISO 14001 Certification.

The first stage will be to assess all areas of your organization that have an impact on the Environment.

Your appointed Auditor will be able to check current systems and documentation that is being used and inform you of any improvements or additions required.

Some of the main areas they will be assessing:

  • Site activities
  • Documentation compliance
  • Documentation management
  • Processes
  • Regulatory requirements of ISO 14001
  • Preventive and corrective measures
  • Recording of information
  • Management reviews of the system
  • Internal Audits
  • Staff awareness and training

ISO 14001 Regular Auditing Procedure

The next stage is the audit to check processes are being followed and documentation is kept up to date.

During the audit you will be assessed on:

  • Documentation control
  • Records being kept
  • Staff and management conformance to the system
  • How the system is working in each area of the organization
  • Staff training necessary to meet the requirements

ISO 14001 certification is frequently used in both private and public sectors to increase the confidence level of interested parties in an organization’s environmental management system.

ISO is the developer and publisher of ISO 14001, but does not itself carry out auditing and certification. These services are performed independently of ISO by certification bodies. ISO does not control such bodies, but does develop voluntary International Standards to encourage good practice in their activities on a worldwide basis. For example, ISO/IEC 17021 specifies the requirements for bodies providing auditing and certification of management systems.

One option for certification bodies wishing to provide further confidence in their services is to apply to be accredited as competent by an IAF recognized national accreditation body. The IAF is an international association whose membership includes the national accreditation bodies of 49 economies. ISO does not control such bodies, but does develop voluntary International Standards such as ISO/IEC 17011 which specifies the general requirements for carrying out accreditation.

NOTE: Accredited certification is only one way that an organization may demonstrate conformity to ISO 14001. ISO does not promote accredited certification over other conformity assessment methodologies.

Expected Outcomes for Accredited Certification to ISO 14001 (from the perspective of interested parties)

“For the defined certification scope, an organization with a certified environmental management system is managing its interactions with the environment and is demonstrating its commitment to:

A.    Preventing pollution.

B.    Meeting applicable legal and other requirements.

C.    Continually enhancing its environmental management system in order to achieve improvements in its overall environmental performance.”

What accredited certification to ISO 14001 means

The accredited certification process is expected to ensure that the organization has an environmental management system, suitable for the nature of its activities, products and services, that conforms to the requirements of ISO 14001, and in particular can demonstrate for the defined scope that the organization:

A.    has defined an environmental policy appropriate to the nature, scale and environmental impacts of its activities, products and services.

B.    has identified the environmental aspects of its activities, products and services that it can control and /or influence and determined those that can have a significant environmental impact (including those related to suppliers / contractors).

C.    has procedures in place to identify applicable environmental legislation and other relevant requirements, to determine how these apply to its environmental aspects and to keep this information up to date.

D.    has implemented effective controls in order to meet its commitment to comply with applicable legal and other requirements.

E.    has defined environmental objectives and targets that are measurable, where practicable, taking into account legal requirements and significant environmental aspects, and has programs in place to achieve these objectives and targets.

F.    ensures that people working for or on behalf of the organization are aware of the requirements of its environmental management system and are competent to perform tasks that have the potential to cause significant environmental impacts.

G.    has implemented procedures for communicating internally, as well as responding to and communicating (as necessary) with interested external parties.

H.    ensures that those operations associated with significant environmental aspects are carried out under specified conditions and monitors and controls the key characteristics of its operations that can have a significant environmental impact.

I.    has established and (where practicable) tested procedures to address and respond to emergencies that can have an effect on the environment.

J.    periodically evaluates its compliance with applicable legal and other requirements.

K.    aims to prevent nonconformities, and has procedures in place to

  1.  correct any nonconformities that do occur
    2.    analyze the cause of any such nonconformities and take corrective action to avoid their recurrence
  2.  has implemented effective internal audit and management review procedures.

What accredited certification to ISO 14001 does not mean

  1. ISO 14001 defines the requirements for an organization’s environmental management system, but does not define specific environmental performance criteria.
  2. Accredited certification to ISO 14001 provides confidence in the organization’s ability to meet its own environmental policy, including the commitment to comply with applicable legislation, to prevent pollution, and to continually improve its performance. It does not ensure that the organization is currently achieving optimal environmental performance.
  3. The ISO 14001 accredited certification process does not include a full regulatory compliance audit and cannot ensure that violations of legal requirements will never occur, though full legal compliance should always be the organization’s goal.
  4. Accredited certification to ISO 14001 does not necessarily indicate that the organization will be able to prevent environmental accidents from occurring