ISO 14001, a highly successful International Management Standard for the implementing of environmental management systems, is undergoing change.   The ISO 14001:2015 (the “ISO 14001 Standard”), currently in Draft format, is expected to come into effect in the second half of 2015.  It will replace the current 2004 version and also the corrections which were made in 2009, relating to the correspondence between ISO 14001:2004 and ISO 9001:2008.

ISO 14001 Overview Video

The ISO 14001 standard (the “Standard”) sets out the criteria for an environmental management system (“EMS).  It provides practical tools for organisations to identify, assess and control the impact that their activities have on the environment, with a view to improve environmental performance.  An ISO 14001-aligned EMS  is primarily concerned with identifying the organisations aspects that affect the environment, evaluating the level of impact and planning measures to continually reduce the harmful effects.

Organisations benefit by implementing an EMS through the improvement of their environmental performance, achieving savings in the consumption of energy and materials, incurring lower costs in waste management, obtaining improved corporate image, improved trade relations and increased market share, to name a few.

Main Changes from ISO 14001: 2004 to the ISO 14001:2015

There has been a change to the structure of the standard to the “high level structure” which will ensure that it is structured in the same manner as all other management systems and that the context of the core text and terms are standardised to facilitate more efficient management system integration and combined certification.  The new structure will follow the Plan-Do-Check-Act (“PDCA”) and will contain three introductory sections, namely:

  1. Section 1: “Scope”
  2. Section 2: “Normative References”
  3. Section 3: “Terms and Definitions”

Additionally, there are seven new sections, many with additional requirements, which are detailed under the section “Changes in more detail” below.

Thus, the Standard has been completed restructured, not simply amended.

On a high level, these changes include:

  • A greater expectation on top management to understand the environmental issues and increase their commitment and involvement in the EMS.
  • A broader focus on the organisations context to include stakeholder interests and business direction.
  • Risk-based approach.
  • Value chain influence, both up-stream and down-stream, with implications for procurement.
  • Life cycle considerations.
  • Environmental design as a tool for improvement.
  • Environmental compliance status.
  • Flexibility in the use of documentation
  • Using performance indicators to track performance

Changes in more detail:

Section 4:  “Context of the Organisation”
This section requires that the company gains an understanding of all factors affecting its environmental responsibilities.  The company shall determine the internal and external issues which could affect its environmental performance and identify and understand the needs and expectations of interested parties.

Section 5: “Leadership”
This section requires that top management play a stronger role and take on much more responsibility in the implementation and management of its management system and to ensure its integration into business processes.  Top management are required to ensure that the environmental policy and objectives include commitment beyond the organisation’s boundaries and is compatible with the context and direction of company.

Section 6: “Planning”
This process has been completely re-structured and requires organisations to determine what their risks associated with hazards and opportunities are and includes specific requirements for taking preventative measures.  A consideration should be made to both up-stream and down-stream processes. The section also focuses on more specific requirements for legal and other requirements, which are related to its significant environmental aspects, and their obligations to comply.  When establishing objectives the organisation is required to do so at different levels and functions and examine all its commitments including internal commitments, legal commitments and external commitments such as customer specific obligations.

Section 7: “Support”
This section addresses more consideration to be given to communication, competence and awareness and the regulating of external representation and reporting.  With respect to documentation, there is a lot more flexibility regarding “documented information”.

Section 8 “Operations”
It has become essential to pay attention to both the up-stream and down-stream activities in conjunction with the organisations processes and take into consideration a life-cycle perspective.  A stronger emphasis is placed on the control of change within the organisation and outsourced operations.

Section 9 “Performance Evaluation”
Performance monitoring and measurement has always been necessary for the organisation to determine its environmental performance; however, the standard is now being raised.  It is now a requirement to include all corporate requirements and commitments, which can affect the environmental performance, in the performance monitoring programme.

Section 10 “Improvement”
This section addresses the raising and closing out of non-conformances in a more structured manner, which should include the organisation and its surroundings, with a view to continually improve in its environmental performance.

The way forward

For an organisation that is currently certified with ISO 14001:2004, the implementation and management process will remain the same as current, but with the additional requirements being added. Also, the EMS will need to be restructured to align with the updated Standard.  A period of three years has been agreed upon for transition to the updated Standard.

Standards & Legal (incorporating The Environmental Law Consultancy) can assist with the transition to the new ISO 14001 Standard, by:

  1. Providing a Gap Analysis to identify the need for change and opportunities for environmental performance improvement in line with the new Standard;
  2. Assistance with implementing the changes to the EMS required; and
  3. Once the changes have been implemented into the organisation management system, training can be provided to inform all employees of their role in the new management system requirements.

ISO 14001 Changes Overview Video