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Environmental management system ISO 14001 update

Considering expected changes to the ISO 14001 standard.

by Austin Simmons

Image © Designsstock |

Stringent legislation, development of global environmental policies and objectives – as well as increased concerns about environmental matters and sustainable development – have led many organisations to focus on understanding and controlling the impact their operations have on the world around them.

First published in 1996 and suitable for all types of organisations, international environmental management system standard ISO 14001 is intended to aid organisations to reduce their environmental impacts and assess the effectiveness of environmental policies and procedures. ISO 14001 is the only internationally recognised standard for environmental management systems developed for this purpose.

ISO 14001 is currently being reviewed by ISO technical committee WG5/SC1/TC207, which is working towards its second revision. Since it was first published in 1996, ISO 14001:2004 – ‘Environmental management systems – Requirements with guidance for use’, has been implemented by more than 250,000 certified users in over 150 countries worldwide to demonstrate their commitment to managing and minimising their environmental impacts. The new standard could be published as early as the end of 2015.

Following input from the various stakeholders associated with the standard and an ISO study group which considered the implications of new developments in the field of environmental management, a number of significant changes are anticipated. Although it is expected that most of the standard will remain virtually the same as the current version, aspects of this revision are likely to be more far reaching than in 2004 (when it was last updated). This will have particular implications for organisations that have already established ISO 14001 systems, as these will, in all likelihood, need to revise some of their systems, processes and thinking in order to remain compliant to the new standard. It is important to stress that the standard is still in draft form and, therefore, is subject to change. This means that organisations already holding ISO 14001 should be cautious about making too many changes at this stage.

As with the current standard, it is expected that the revision will retain the requirement for ISO 14001 to integrate with other ISO management systems (such as ISO 9001), so that multiple management systems can be implemented more easily within an organisation. However, the standard format will change in line with common revisions proposed for the other ISO management system standards.

One main aim of the revision is to strengthen some clauses and make more explicit some key areas. This will encourage organisations to consider environmental issues more strategically, take a broader view and increase their focus on performance results.

Some key aims

Top management are expected to treat ISO 14001 as an integral part of the business, implementing its requirements into core business processes and the organisation’s overall business strategy. This includes making specific commitments to sustainable development and social responsibility.

It is intended that the organisation will look at the broader context of its environmental strategy – how this impacts externally – as well as including the interests of associated stakeholders.

The organisation is also expected to introduce requirements to control or influence the supply chain, both upstream and downstream. Even those environmental impacts which occur outside the organisation’s direct control (such as transport, packaging and end-use/disposal) and the processes governing procurement of goods and services will need to be considered.

Another aim is to introduce a requirement to determine criteria against which performance can be evaluated, and for the organisation to be aware of compliance rather than rely on being informed of problems by external parties.

The revised ISO 14001 standard puts more responsibility on companies to integrate their ISO 14001 activities with their business process. This means that organisations must have a more focused approach and strategic plan for implementing ISO 14001.

Publishing Data

This article was originally published on page 14 of the June 2014 issue of SATRA Bulletin.

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