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The ISO 14000 family addresses various aspects of environmental management. The very first two standards, ISO 14001:2004 and ISO 14004:2004 deal with environmental management systems (EMS). ISO 14001:2004 provides the requirements for an EMS and ISO 14004:2004 gives general EMS guidelines.
The other standards and guidelines in the family address specific environmental aspects, including: labeling, performance evaluation, life cycle analysis, communication and auditing.
An EMS meeting the requirements of ISO 14001:2004 is a management tool enabling an organization of any size or type to:
Identify and control the environmental impact of its activities, products or services
Improve its environmental performance continually
Implement a systematic approach to setting environmental objectives and targets and to ensuring and demonstrating they have been achieved.
ISO 14001:2004 does not specify levels of environmental performance. If it specified levels of environmental performance, they would have to be specific to each business activity and this would require a specific EMS standard for each business. That is not the intention.
ISO has many other standards dealing with specific environmental issues. The intention of ISO 14001:2004 is to provide a framework for a holistic, strategic approach to the organization's environmental policy, plans and actions.
ISO 14001:2004 gives the generic requirements for an environmental management system. The underlying philosophy is that whatever the organization's activity, the requirements of an effective EMS are the same.
This has the effect of establishing a common reference for communicating environmental management issues between organizations and their customers, regulators, the public and other stakeholders.
Because ISO 14001:2004 does not lay down levels of environmental performance, the standard can be implemented by a wide variety of organizations, whatever their current level of environmental maturity. However, a commitment to compliance with applicable environmental legislation and regulations is required, along with a commitment for continual improvement – for which the EMS provides the framework.
ISO 14004:2004 provides guidelines on the elements of an environmental management system and its implementation, and discusses principal issues involved.
ISO 14001:2004 specifies the requirements for such an environmental management system. Fulfilling these requirements demands objective evidence which can be audited to demonstrate that the environmental management system is operating effectively in conformity to the standard.
ISO 14001:2004 is a tool that can be used to meet internal objectives:
Provide assurance to management that it is in control of the organizational processes and activities having an impact on the environment.
Assure employees that they are working for an environmentally responsible organization.
ISO 14001:2004 can also be used to meet external objectives:
Provide assurance on environmental issues to external stakeholders – such as customers, the community and regulatory agencies.
Comply with environmental regulations support the organization's claims and communication about its own environmental policies, plans and actions.
Provides a framework for demonstrating conformity via suppliers' declarations of conformity, assessment of conformity by an external stakeholder - such as a business client - and for certification of conformity by an independent certification body.
BTS Consulting provide advice to interested parties on transition arrangements to be considered before and during the implementing ISO 14001:2015. The ISO 14001:2015 introduces significant changes. The standard is based on Annex SL of the ISO Directives, a high-level structure (HLS) which standardizes sub clause titles, core text, common terms and core definitions to enhance compatibility and alignment with other ISO management system standards such as ISO 9001 and ISO 45001.
A new requirement to understand the organization’s context has been incorporated to identify and leverage opportunities for the benefit of both the organization and the environment. Particular focus is on issues or changing circumstances related to the needs and expectations of interested parties (including regulatory requirements) and local, regional or global environmental conditions that can affect, or be affected by, the organization. Once identified as a priority, actions to mitigate adverse risk or exploit beneficial opportunities are integrated in the operational planning of the environmental management system. Leadership – To ensure the success of the system, a new clause has been added that assigns specific responsibilities for those in leadership roles to promote environmental management within the organization.
Protecting the environment – The expectation on organizations has been expanded to commit to proactive initiatives to protect the environment from harm and degradation, consistent with the context of the organization. The revised text does not define ‘protect the environment’ but it notes that it can include prevention of pollution, sustainable resource use, climate change mitigation and adaptation, protection of biodiversity and ecosystems, etc.
Environmental performance – There is a shift in emphasis with regard to continual improvement, from improving the management system to improving environmental performance. Consistent with the organization’s policy commitments the organization would, as applicable, reduce emissions, effluents and waste to levels set by the organization.
Lifecycle thinking – In addition to the current requirement to manage environmental aspects associated with procured goods and service, organizations will need to extend their control and influence to the environmental impacts associated with product use and end-of-life treatment or disposal. This does not imply a requirement to do a life cycle assessment.
Communication – The development of a communications strategy with equal emphasis on external and internal communications has been added. This includes a requirement on communicating consistent and reliable information, and establishing mechanisms for persons working under the organization's control to make suggestions on improving the environmental management system. The decision to communicate externally is retained by the organization but the decision needs to take into account information reporting required by regulatory agencies and the expectations of other interested parties.
Documentation – Reflecting the evolution of computer and cloud based systems for running management systems, the revision incorporates the term ‘documented information’, instead of ‘documents’ and ‘records’. To align with ISO 9001, the organization will retain the flexibility to determine when ‘procedures’ are needed to ensure effective process control.
ISO 14001:2004 certifications will not be valid after three years from the publication of ISO 14001:2015 (September of 2015). The expiry date of certification to ISO 14001:2004 issued during the transition period needs to correspond to the end of the three year transition period.
For any organization the degree of change necessary will be dependent upon the maturity and effectiveness of the current management system, organizational structure and practices, therefore an impact analysis/gap assessment is strongly recommended in order to identify realistic resource and time implications.
Organizations using ISO 9001:2008 Organizations using ISO 9001:2008 are recommended to take the following actions: a) Identify organizational gaps which need to be addressed to meet new requirements.
b) Develop an implementation plan.
c) Provide appropriate training and awareness for all parties that have an impact on the effectiveness of the organization.
d) Update the existing environmental management system (EMS) to meet the revised requirements and provide verification of effectiveness.
e) Where applicable, liaise with their Certification Body for transition arrangements.