What is the ISO 14001 Standard?

The ISO 14001 standard provides organizations with the framework for an effective environmental management system (EMS) focussed on achieving their environmental and economic goals and objectives.

The overall goal is to protect the environment; prevent pollution and to continually improve overall environmental performance and regulatory compliance. ISO 14001 defines best practice requirements for proactive management of the environmental impact of your organization.

In 1996, the International Organization of Standardization published the first edition of ISO 14001 EMS standard. It is an international voluntary standard describing specific requirements for an EMS. ISO 14001 is considered the foundational document of a family of EMS documents published by the ISO organization.

While part of a series of EMS standards, ISO 14001 is the only standard that specifies requirements to which an organization may receive certification by a Certification Body. ISO published the new ISO 14001:2004 EMS on November 15, 2004, allowing organizations currently certified to ISO 14001:1996 until May 15, 2006 to make the transition to the new standard, and old standard will expire at that time.

The ISO 14001:2004 standard is generic and does not prescribe specific environmental performance policies, objectives or targets. These are defined internally by the organization or established externally by state, federal or international regulations and laws. While not prescriptive, ISO 14001 does expect organizations to make specific commitments to regulatory compliance, prevention of pollution, and continual improvement.

The success of an EMS depends on the commitment from all levels and functions within an organization, especially top management.

What is the definition of an Environmental Management System (EMS)? An environmental management system, as defined in ISO 14001, is the part of an organization’s overall management system that relate to the development, implementation, achievement, review, and maintenance of the organization’s environmental policy.

An EMS is a management tool to improve environmental performance by providing a systematic way of managing an organization’s environmental affairs. It provides organizations, an orderly and consistent process to address environmental concerns through the allocation of resources, assignment of responsibility and ongoing evaluation of practices, procedures and processes, while focusing on continual improvement of the system. The focus is on both the immediate and long-term impacts of its products, services and processes on the environment

Stakeholders are increasingly insisting that organizations work actively to reduce any impact its operations have on employees and the public, local communities, and the environment.

Since it was first published in 1996, ISO 14001 has rapidly become the most important international environmental standard. It has established itself as a cornerstone of effective business practice along with the management of quality, security, and health and safety issues.


Can ISO 14001:2004 be integrated with ISO 9001 and other management systems?

** ISO 14001 shares many common management system concepts, principles and requirements with ISO 9001 and OHSAS 18001 system standards. While the technical requirements of these standards may differ, the management and administrative requirements of these standards are very much the same in many cases. Similar clauses include: management review, document control, and corrective and preventive action.

Many organizations have successfully integrated these systems. The ISO organization as well as Certification Bodies have a longer-term objective to provide integrated auditing services for these standards. Not all interested parties necessarily agree that this is the right way to go.

What are the ISO 14000 family of standards?

ISO 14000 refers to a family of voluntary standards and guidance documents to help organizations address environmental issues on how to manage the environmental aspects of their activities, products, and services more effectively. These include:

ISO 14001:2004 environmental management system requirements ISO 14004:2004 general guidelines, principles and system support techniques; ISO 19011:2002 - Guidelines for quality and/or environmental management systems auditing ISO 14015:2001 on the environmental assessment of sites and organizations. ISO 14025 on environmental labels and declarations ISO 14040 dealing with principles and requirements for conducting and reporting life cycle assessment studies ISO 14044 specifies requirements and guidelines on life cycle assessment of environmental aspects and their potential impacts throughout a products life cycle ISO 14050:2002 on the vocabulary used in environmental management; Other new drafts include:

ISO 14063, which gives organizations guidance on general policies and strategies with examples, to help improve internal and external environmental communication. As stated earlier ISO 14001:2004 is the only standard that an organization can get certified too. The rest provide guidance on concepts, principles, terminology, specific issues and continual improvement.

Who does ISO 14001 apply to?

ISO 14001:2004 can be applied to any type of business; organization or industry; service or manufacturing sector; for profit or non-profit operations; and irrespective of their size,. A wide range of industries, including; Agriculture, Forestry & Mining; Petrochemicals & Plastics, Food, Tobacco, Textiles & Wood products, Electronics & Instruments, Manufacturing, Metals & Machinery, etc. have taken an active role in implementing this standard.

Note: Registration to ISO 14001 has become a requirement for some sectors and organizations, eg., the automotive industry has placed requirements for ISO 14001 registration of supply chain manufacturing facilities.

What are the key requirements of ISO 14001?

Environmental Policy - develop a statement of the organizations commitment to the environment.

Environmental management system (EMS) - define and establish organizational structure, responsibilities, authorities, relationships, functions, processes, practices, procedures, and resources needed.

Environmental Aspects and Impacts - identify environmental attributes of products, activities and services and their effects on the environment

Legal and Other Requirements - identify and ensure access to relevant laws and regulations

Objectives and Targets and Environmental Management Program - set environmental goals for the organization and plan actions to achieve objectives and targets

Training, Awareness and Competence - ensure that employees are aware and capable of their environmental responsibilities

Communication - develop processes for internal and external communication on environmental management issues

EMS Documentation - maintain information about the EMS and related documents

Document Control - ensure effective management of procedures and other documents

Operational Control - identify, plan and manage the organizations operations and activities in line with the policy, objectives and targets, and significant aspects

Emergency Preparedness and Response - develop procedures for preventing and responding to potential emergencies

Monitoring and Measuring - monitor key activities and track performance including periodic compliance evaluation

Evaluation of Compliance - develop procedure to periodically evaluate compliance with legal and other requirements

Nonconformance and Corrective and Preventive Action - identify and correct problems and prevent recurrences

Records - keep adequate records of EMS performance

EMS Audit - periodically verify that the EMS is effective and achieving objectives and targets

Management Review - review the EMS These key and other requirements are established and implemented within the framework of a PDCA (plan - do - check- act) methodology.

Do all the (requirements) clauses of ISO 14001 apply to an organization?

In developing their EMS, organizations must meet all requirements of the ISO 14001 standard with no exceptions. However, the size and complexity of the EMS, the extent of documentation, and the resources allocated will vary significantly from organization to organization, based on several factors that include:

The organizations size; location; EMS scope; content of the environmental policy; nature of activities, products, and services; The environmental impact of the environmental aspects; and the legal and other requirements that must be met.

What options does my organization have for demonstrating EMS 14001 conformity?

You can demonstrate your organizations commitment in several ways:

Self declaration of conformity - You make a declaration affirming that your EMS is in compliance with ISO 14001, usually supported by legally-binding signatures. This declaration can be based on your internal audit system.

Second party assessment - You can request your customers or other interested parties to confirm that your EMS complies with the ISO 14001 standard.

Third party certification - You can request an accredited certification body to verify that your EMS is in compliance with the ISO 14001 standard.

How can an EMS certified to ISO 14001 benefit an organization?

An effective EMS certified to ISO 14001 can help an organization:

Reduce the organizations impact on the environment Reduce environmental liability Improve the management of environmental risk Comply with relevant environmental legislation and its own environmental policy Operate in a more cost efficient and environmentally responsible manner by managing its impacts on the environment Provide increased credibility through third part certification. An ISO 14001:2004 certificate proves that your EMS has been measured against a best practice standard and found compliant and shows customers and stakeholders that you are actively minimizing the environmental impacts of your organizations processes, products, and services. Provide a competitive edge over non-certified businesses in seeking business opportunities in national and international markets Facilitate continual improvement through more efficient use of raw materials and enhanced operational performance leading to cost reductions in energy consumption, waste, and materials. Facilitate integration of your quality, environmental and occupational health and safety management systems Visibly demonstrate conformance through fulfilling policy commitments and making continual improvement against specific targets and longer-term objectives Be better positioned to deal with increasingly stringent and demanding environmental regulations by controlling and successfully managing the most significant environmental aspects, e.g. emissions, waste-handling, utilization of natural resources, and energy-efficiency Improve public image with the public, local community, clients, regulatory bodies, and other stakeholders Identify opportunities for cost savings Help report environmental performance to shareholders

What is the ISO 14001 certification process?

Most Certification Bodies (CB’s) use the following process with slight variations:

1. Apply for certification The CB generally sends you an Information Request package that includes a questionnaire. They use the information to plan your certification program and the cost to your organization.

The information requested, generally includes: · Details of your organization in terms size, number of facilities, area, headcount, type of manufacturing operations and equipment, etc.

· Your industry category; products and services; and business processes to ensure they are qualified to provide you with certification services.

· Your proposed scope of registration in terms of - the number of sites, processes, and range of products and services.

· Your preferred dates for the documentation review, pre-assessment, and registration audit

· Key contacts of executive and environment management representatives

There is a lot of other information they will request of you in their questionnaire. Don’t just automatically provide them the information; engage in a dialogue with them (preferably in person with their sales/marketing personnel), when filling out the information, so you have an understanding and appreciation of the basis and use the information will be put to.

2. Pre-assessment Before the actual certification audit, the CB auditor makes a preliminary visit of your facilities, briefly reviews your EMS documentation and an informal check of the EMS implementation. In essence, this preliminary audit intended to uncover areas in your EMS that might need special attention. During the initial visit the audit scope and audit program is agreed upon, as well.

3. Documentation review The CB audit team evaluates your EMS manual. The documentation review report summarizes any findings from this process. The report indicates if your organization is ready to proceed with the certification audit.

4. Certification audit During the certification audit, the CB audit team conduct interviews, examinations and observations of the system in operation. It provides the team essential information required for the certification process and assesses the degree of compliance of the EMS with the requirements of the standard. When found compliant, the CB issue the certificate of compliance to ISO 14001.

  1. Surveillance audits Each issued certificate has a three-year life period. Upon certification, the CB create a periodic audit schedule for surveillance audits over the three-year period. These audits confirm the on-going compliance of the EMS with specified requirements of the standard. At least one periodic audit per year is required.

6. Re-certification audit After the three years are up, your certification will be extended through a re-certification audit.

How can an organization go about implementing ISO 14001? The following is an overview of the key steps:

Get a copy of the EMS 14001:2004 standard Familiarize yourself with the requirements and determine if certification to this standard makes good business sense for your organization.

Educate yourself There is a variety of training courses available to gain deeper insight into the requirements for system development, implementation and auditing. Also read up on the subject matter. The more you read, the more informed you will be in making choices and developing your EMS.

Review consultant options Experienced and expert consultants can fast track your EMS program development and implementation with realistic and effective strategies and solutions in a cost effective and timely manner. We have the expertise to assist you. Call us for a no-obligation discussion of your needs.

Planning - strategy, resources and project planning The adoption of an EMS is a strategic decision for the organization. It is vital that your top management provides leadership, resources, involvement and support. In addition, you need to assemble a team to develop and implement your EMS. You also need to plan your implementation steps, time line, responsibilities and resources needed.

Determine training needs Your implementation team will need training in the ISO 14001 and other guidance standards. There are a wide range of courses, workshops, and seminars available designed to meet these needs. We provide a number of these training courses. Call us for more information.

Develop a EMS manual Your EMS manual should describe the EMS policies and operations of your company. Through the manual, you will provide an accurate description of the organization and the best practice adopted to consistently satisfy customer expectations.

Develop procedures and needed documentation Procedures describe the processes of your organization, and the best practice for effective planning, operation and control of these processes.

Implement your EMS Work to your implementation project plan. Communication and training are key to a successful implementation. Monitor progress and get management support to overcome hurdles along the way.

Consider a pre-assessment Consider having a preliminary evaluation of the EMS documentation and implementation by a Consultant or certification body. The purpose of this is to identify areas of non-compliance and allow you to correct these areas before you begin the formal certification process.

Select a certification body Your business relationship with the certification body will be in place for many years, as your certification has to be maintained. Read our article on “Tips on selecting a Certification Body” before you select your CB.