What is ISO 14000?

ISO 14000 is a group of international standards addressing environmental management systems (EMS), environmental auditing, environmental labelling, environmental performance evaluation and life cycle assessment. As a continuation of the standardization process that was initiated with the ISO 9000 series, the ISO 14000 series of international standards sets the framework on how organizations may include environmental aspects into their operations and product standards. It is a set of voluntary environmental management standards, guides and technical reports, which specifically focuses on corporate environmental management systems, operating practices, products, and services. The ISO 14000 standards do not prescribe environmental performance targets, but provide organizations with the tools to assess and control the impact of their activities, products or services on the environment.

The first standard in the ISO 14000 series, ISO 14001, provides an organization with the requirements for a structured environmental management system (EMS) that can be easily integrated into their overall management process. This structured system permits an organization to move away from reactive and fragmented responses to environmental issues and to follow a proactive approach allowing for the early identification of issues and opportunities and to achieve increasingly high standards of environmental performance.

ISO 14001:2015 is the latest revision of the EMS requirements standard and it was introduced in September 2015.

Changes to ISO 14001

The major changes in ISO 14001:2015 from the prior version of the standard are as follows:

  • High Level Structure (HLS) - ISO 14001:2015 has been written using the same high level structure that is shared by all new ISO management systems standards. This will simplify integration when implementing more than one management system.
  • Top management more accountable – An organization’s top management has been more closely defined, making the Environmental Management System (EMS) more strategic and integrated into the organization’s decision-making process. Environmental and Corporate Social Responsibility managers are now expected to interact more frequently with top management.
  • Life cycle approach - There is a requirement to consider environmental impacts throughout the value chain and consideration of life cycle issues…although there is no requirement for a formal life cycle analysis.
  • Rethinking impact - The revision introduces the term ‘environmental condition’, which it defines as ‘long-term environmental changes that can affect the organization’s activities, products and services, requiring adaptation’. This aims to have the organization think about the environment’s impact on them…rather than the impact they have on the environment.
  • Risks and opportunities - There is a specific requirement to demonstrate how significant environmental risks and opportunities are managed within the supply chain. The organization will need to demonstrate that environmentally driven issues are identified, how they relate to the business and how the interfaces with the business are managed.
  • Pro-active reporting - The revision will require the organization to more pro-actively consider the need for external reporting on environmental issues and to demonstrate much greater control on how it uses and manages environmental data.
  • Strengthened compliance - There is a stronger requirement on evaluation of compliance – previously there was a requirement to evaluate compliance, but in the proposed new standard, the requirement is to specify exactly how compliance is evaluated and recorded.
  • Continual improvement - There is less room for misinterpretation with a specific clause on the requirement for continual improvement in line with the policy set by top management.