ISO 14001:2015 has been released

ISO 14001 celebrate its 20 year birthday in 2016 having first been published in 1996. It has matured and fulfilled the potential on how to manage all environmental issues be they water, air, climate change or others in a ‘holistic’ manner.

What changed in ISO 14001:2015 ?

The main changes in ISO 14001 are:

  • Strategic Environmental Management

  • Leadership 

  • Protecting the environment 

  • Environmental performance 

  • Lifecycle perspective 

  • Communication 

  • Documentation


trategic Environmental Management

There is an increased prominence of environmental management within the organization’s strategic planning processes. A new requirement to understand the organization’s context has been incorporated to identify and leverage opportunities for the benefit of both the organization and the environment. Particular focus is on issues or changing circumstances related to the needs and expectations of interested parties (including regulatory requirements) and local, regional or global environmental conditions that can affect, or be affected by, the organization. Once identified as a priority, actions to mitigate adverse risk or exploit beneficial opportunities are integrated in the operational planning of the environmental management system.


To ensure the success of the system, a new clause has been added that assigns specific responsibilities for those in leadership roles to promote environmental management within the organization.

Protecting the environment

The expectation on organizations has been expanded to commit to proactive initiatives to protect the environment from harm and degradation, consistent with the context of the organization. The revised text does not define ‘protect the environment’ but it notes that it can include prevention of pollution, sustainable resource use, climate change mitigation and adaptation, protection of biodiversity and ecosystems, etc.

Environmental performance

There is a shift in emphasis with regard to continual improvement, from improving the management system to improving environmental performance. Consistent with the organization’s policy commitments the organization would, as applicable, reduce emissions, effluents and waste to levels set by the organization.

Lifecycle perspective

In addition to the current requirement to manage environmental aspects associated with procured goods and service, organizations will need to extend its control and influence to the environmental impacts associated with product design and development to address each stage of the life cycle, i.e. acquisition of raw materials, design, production, transportation/delivery, use, end-of-life treatment and final disposal. This does not imply a requirement to do a life cycle assessment.

Outsourced processes

Organizations need to control or influence outsourced processes.


The development of a communications strategy with equal emphasis on external and internal communications has been added. This includes a requirement on communicating consistent and reliable information, and establishing mechanisms for persons working under the organization's control to make suggestions on improving the environmental management system. The decision to communicate externally is retained by the organization but the decision needs to take into account information reporting required by regulatory agencies and the expectations of other interested parties.


Reflecting the evolution of computer and cloud based systems for running management systems, the revision incorporates the term ‘documented information’, instead of ‘documents’ and ‘records’. To align with ISO 9001, the organization will retain the flexibility to determine when ‘procedures’ are needed to ensure effective process control.

Benefits of using ISO 14001

A survey was conducted in 11 languages through National Standard Bodies and garnered an unprecedented response of close to 5000 participants in 110 countries worldwide.

The survey among other asked about the benefit of using ISO 14001. The following values were identified

  • 75% high or above for meeting legal requirements and improving the organization’s environmental performance
  • 60% high or above for management commitment and employee engagement 
  • 50% high or above for business management, notably for meeting stakeholder requirements, improving public image, achieving strategic objectives, and integrating with business management systems
  • 60% moderate value or higher in the area supplier environmental performance
  • 75% moderate or above for providing a competitive advantage
  • 60% moderate value or above for providing financial benefit

ISO 14001 - Environmental Standard

The ISO 14000 family of standards provides practical tools for companies and organizations of all kinds looking to manage their environmental responsibilities.

ISO 14001:2004 focus on environmental systems to achieve this. The other standards in the family focus on specific approaches such as audits, communications, labelling and life cycle analysis, as well as environmental challenges such as climate change.

ISO 14001:2004

ISO 14001:2004 sets out the criteria for an environmental management system and can be certified to. It maps out a framework that a company or organization can follow to set up an effective environmental management system. It can be used by any organization regardless of its activity or sector.

Using ISO 14001:2004 can provide assurance to company management and employees as well as external stakeholders that environmental impact is being measured and improved.

There are more than 300,000 certifications to ISO 14001 in 171 countries around the world. 

Key Aspects of ISO 14001

  • Environmental management  
  • Scope of the environmental management system 
  • Environmental policy  
  • Environmental aspects and legal requirements 
  • Environmental objectives, targets and programmes  
  • Resources, roles, responsibility and authority 
  • Competence, training and awareness 
  • Communication  
  • Documentation 
  • Operational control 
  • Emergency preparedness and response 
  • Checking and Internal audit
  • Management review and continual improvement 
  • Demonstrating conformity  
  • Integration with other management systems