ISO 14001 is an Environmental Management Standard (EMS). It defines a set of environmental management requirements for environmental management systems. The purpose of this standard is to help all kinds of organizations to protect the environment, to prevent pollution, and to improve their overall environmental performance.
ISO 14001 certification provides an organization’s customers, suppliers, employees and other stakeholders with evidence of the operations commitment to environment protection.
Since it was first published in 1996, ISO 14001 has rapidly become the most important environmental standard in the world. Thousands of organizations use it, environmentalists support it, and governments actively encourage its use. ISO 14001 applies to all types of organizations. It doesn’t matter what size they are or what they do.
How to use ISO 14001
If you don’t already have an Environmental Management System (EMS), you can use this ISO 14001 standard to establish one. And once you’ve established your EMS, you can use it to manage the environmental aspects of your organization’s activities, products and services, and to improve its overall environmental performance. Environmental performance is all about how well you manage and control your environmental aspects and the impact they have on the environment.
You can also use this standard to demonstrate that you are doing everything you can to protect the environment and improve your environmental performance. You can demonstrate your organization’s commitment in several ways: -
- You can simply announce to the world that your EMS complies with the ISO 14001 standard (if it actually does).
- You can ask your customers or other interested parties to confirm that your EMS complies with the ISO 14001 standard.
- You can ask an ISO 14001 registrar or external auditor to verify that your EMS complies with the ISO 14001 standard.
ISO 14001 expects organizations to comply with all of the requirements that make up the standard. No exceptions. According to ISO, every ISO 14001 requirement must be built into every EMS. However, the size and complexity of Environmental Management Systems vary quite a bit.
How far you go is up to you. The size and complexity of your EMS, the extent of your documentation, and the resources allocated to it will depend on many things. How you meet each of the ISO 14001 requirements, and to what extent, depends on many factors, including: -
- The size of your organization.
- The location of your organization.
- The scope of your organization’s EMS.
- The content of your environmental policy.
- The nature of your activities, products, and services.
- The environmental impact of your environmental aspects.
- The legal and other requirements that must be met.
Your general approach
If you don’t already have an EMS, ISO 14001 suggests that you start with a review of your organization’s environmental status. Your environmental review should: -
- Identify your organization’s environmental aspects. Study normal and abnormal operating conditions, as well as accidents, disasters, and emergency situations. Identify the environmental aspects associated with all operating conditions and situations.
- Clarify the legal and other requirements that apply to your organization’s environmental aspects. Legal requirements include National and International as well as local and regional laws and regulations. Other requirements include agreements that have been established with governments, customers, community groups and others as well as commitments, guidelines, principles, or codes of practice that influence how your environmental aspects ought to be handled.
- Examine your organization’s current environmental management policies, procedures, and practices. Pay special attention to your organization’s purchasing and contracting policies, procedures, and practices.
- Define the scope of your EMS. When ISO 14001 asks you to define the scope of your EMS, it is asking you to define its boundary. You can choose to apply ISO 14001 to the entire organization or only to a specific operating unit or facility. Once you’ve made this decision, you’ve defined the scope or boundary of your EMS. Henceforth, all activities, products, and services that falls within this boundary must comply with the ISO 14001 standard.
Once you’ve considered the above factors, you can begin the development of your organization’s unique Environmental Management System.
But if you’ve already established an EMS and you simply need to update it to meet the new standard, you need to do a Gap Analysis. A Gap Analysis will compare your current EMS with ISO’s new ISO 14001 standard.
This comparison will pinpoint the areas that fall short of the standard (the gaps). Once you know where to focus your attention, you can begin to make the changes that are needed to comply with the new ISO 14001 standard