What is ISO 14000?

The ISO 14000 environmental management standards were created to assist organizations reduce environmental impact during operations, to ensure compliance with relevant laws, regulations, and other requirements within the environmental sector. These standards also help to foster continual improvement throughout operations. ISO 14000 is comparable to the ISO 9000 quality management standards as it also governs the process rather than the actual product. The standard underwent a revision May 2004, in which the updated version was renamed ISO 14000:2004.

ISO 14001:2004 is the requirement standard in the ISO 14000 family of standards. It identifies a milieu for an Environmental Management System, and organizations are certified by a third party.

The standard is applicable to organizations of any type and size, and although it does not establish total requirements for environmental performance, it requires an obligation to continuous improvement as well as compliance with appropriate legislation and regulations.

Introduction to ISO 14001

IISO 14001 requires the creation of an Environmental Policy that provides an overview of the organization’s policies to its stakeholders. This policy is also required to be fully maintained by senior management. The policy provides guidance for the Environmental Management System, and as such, must show clear compliance with the applicable Environmental Legislation while also highlighting a commitment to continual improvement.

The policy document should be written in clear, easy to understand language. The document should be relevant to the sites covered by the Management System, as well as outline a basic overview and description of the organization’s operations.

The preliminary review and definition of the organization’s environmental strategies gives external auditor’s essential information on methods and processes, even though this is not part of the ISO14001 Assessment. The preliminary review takes into account all pertinent past, present and prospective future environmental facets of activities that occur on sites. It also considers the applicable legislation and determines whether compliance criteria are met.

The organization should outline its environmental objectives, which become the key focus areas within the improvement process and the environmental program. The program determines the intermediate objectives that will be attained in order to meet the objectives. The Environmental Management System outlines all procedures, work instructions and controls that are required to implement the policy and achievement objectives.

The Environmental Management System calls for full periodic audits in order to gauge its effectiveness, determine that targets are met, and ensure that the system continues to comply with regulations and standards. The audits also identify any opportunities for improvement within the system and operations.

The standard also requires a Management Review to ensure that the system is applicable to the organization and that it is effectively meeting its purposes.

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