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What is ISO 14001 and how can it help companies?

ISO 14001 requirements provide a framework and guidelines for creating your environmental management system so that you don't miss important elements needed for an EMS to be successful.

ISO 14001 has become the de facto standard for designing and implementing an environmental management system.

An environmental management system - often called an EMS - needs to be tailored to your particular company, because only your company will have the exact legal requirements and environmental interactions that match your specific business processes.

However, the ISO 14001 requirements provide a framework and guidelines for creating your environmental management system so that you do not miss important elements needed for an EMS to be successful.

A brief history of ISO 14001

In March 1992, the British Standards Institute (BSI) published the world’s first environmental management systems standard, BS 7750, as part of a response to growing concerns about protecting the environment. Prior to this, environmental management had been part of larger systems such as ‘Responsible Care’ (a voluntary initiative developed autonomously by the chemicals industry in Canada). BS 7750 supplied the template for the development of the ISO 14000 series in 1996.

Prior to the development of the ISO 14000 series, organisations voluntarily constructed their own Environmental Management Systems (EMS), but this made comparisons of environmental effects between companies difficult: therefore, the universal ISO 14000 series was developed.

An EMS is defined by ISO as: “part of the overall management system, that includes organizational structure, planning activities, responsibilities, practices, procedures, processes, and resources for developing, implementing, achieving, and maintaining the environmental policy.”

Why you should use ISO 14001:2015 as your Environmental Management System

ISO 14001 is an EMS which provides a structure for measuring and improving your environmental impact. The areas you’ll need to look at would be:

  • Developing an Environmental Policy

  • Risk assessing your processes and identifying environmental aspects and impacts, and significant environmental impacts that the organisation may cause

  • Identifying environmental compliance requirements

  • Creating and maintaining a Legal Register to show that you are monitoring and complying with current environmental legislation and regulation changes

  • Developing objectives and targets, and their environmental management programmes

  • Defining resources, roles, and responsibilities for environmental management

  • Developing competence, training and awareness

  • Creating communication processes to stakeholders and interested parties

  • Developing operational control processes

  • Developing emergency preparedness and response procedures

  • Developing processes to monitor and measure operations that can have significant impact to the environment

  • Developing processes for management review by senior management

ISO 14001 enables companies to put in place an effective environmental management system which is designed to address the balance between a company’s environmental impacts while maintaining profitability.

Common requirements between ISO 9001 and ISO 14001

When you implement an ISO 14001 management system you’ll find that the requirements are very common between the ISO 14001 and ISO 9001 standards. Both require you to:

  • Look at the context of your organisation

  • Demonstrate leadership and commitment

  • Have a company policy (one for Quality and the other for Environment)

  • Demonstrate organisational roles, responsibilities and authorities

  • Demonstrate planning, including actions to address risks and opportunities

  • Have objectives with a plan on how to achieve them

  • Show appropriate and adequate resources to implement your management system

  • Show competence

  • Demonstrate awareness across your organisation

  • Use effective communication both internally and externally

  • Have control of documented information

  • Demonstrate operational planning and control

  • Use performance evaluation (e.g. internal audit and management review)

  • Show improvement measures (e.g. nonconformity and corrective action and continual improvement)

However, ISO 14001 has three distinct requirements in addition to the above:

  • Environmental aspects

  • Compliance obligations and evaluation of compliance

  • Emergency preparedness and response

We’ll go into more detail about these over the coming months, so if you’re considering getting ISO 14001 then stay tuned!

Article originated in The Ideas Distillery blog

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