Changing standards for environmental management and how it can affect your bottom line

ISO 14001 is the international standard used by organizations designing and implementing an effective Environmental Management System (EMS). The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) released the 2015 edition of ISO 14001 in September of 2015, with the previous edition having been released in 2004.

This new edition marks the culmination of input from experts from 70 countries and is a significant milestone that boosts the profile of environmental management in business more than ever before. The chief drivers for improving the ISO 14001 standard were adoption of a common clause structure with other ISO standards, integration with business management, engaging stakeholders, and influencing external providers throughout the value chain.  All organizations that are certified to the 2004 edition are now required to adopt the new requirements of the 2015 edition and be certified by a Registrar by September 2018.

The new standard continues to help organizations keep up-to-date with changes in environmental management, but it also helps them to reduce waste, save energy and protect their reputation with investors, customers and the public. So, what are the main changes from the 2004 to 2015 edition, and what do they mean for your company?

New Common Clause Structure

With the 2015 update, ISO 14001 has adopted a new Annex SL structure.  The new high level structure (HLS) brings a common framework for documentation and processes to different types of management systems including quality (ISO 9001) and health and safety (with the upcoming ISO 45001). Therefore, the new ISO 14001 standard will become easier to integrate with other management systems, helping organizations become more efficient and save time.

Expanding the Focus on Risk

Under “Clause 4 – Context of the Organization,” a major new requirement is the identification of internal and external issues outside of the traditional focus on risk identification only within the operational processes. The focus on risk has expanded to take into account issues that affect the organization’s capability to achieve the intended outcomes of the EMS.  Examples of internal issues are technological capability (the ability to implement solutions) and strategic direction (do environmental efforts coinciding with business direction?).  Examples of external issues are customer opportunities or complaints, and vendors’ environmental performance. Vendors come into consideration in “Clause 6 – Planning” where the 2015 edition has incorporated the term “lifecycle perspective” in order to ensure the impacts of raw materials/resource depletion, design and disposal of products are all considered.

Increasing Management’s Responsibility

“Clause 5 – Leadership” has eliminated the Management Representative position and has shifted more responsibilities to “top management” (those who have influence over resources). Top management will need to demonstrate leadership and commitment through integration of the EMS into business processes, promoting continual improvement, and being accountable for the effectiveness of the EMS. Greater involvement in the management system by the leadership team will ensure the whole organization will be motivated toward its goals and objectives.

More Details on Communication and Monitoring

Under “Clause 7 – Support”, more requirements have been added to the internal and external communication process with organizations now having to notate details on “who,” “what” and “how” for each type of expected EMS communication. The requirements in the 2015 edition continue with the EMS policy and significant aspects being discussed with employees; however, emphasis has been placed on communication to facilitate employee’s participation in continuous improvement (e.g., discussion of objectives and programs).  In Clause 9 – Performance Evaluation, the parameters for monitoring and measurement have been better defined to include notating the methods and timeframe for monitoring environmental performance. Likewise, requirements in the 2015 edition are more descriptive on the input and output discussion topics for the Management Review process.

Eliminating Documentation Requirements and Preventative Action

The 2015 edition has continued to limit the requirements for documented procedures to be appropriate to the needs of the organization in maintaining and improving its EMS.  Notes have been added to the 2015 edition notating that organizational needs may be based upon size of the company and complexity of its processes.  In a major shift from the 2004 edition, the term “record” has been removed and is now a subset of “documented information”; therefore, the previous 2004 edition of “Control of Documents” and “Control of Records” clauses have been merged.  Another major change is that the Preventative Action process has been eliminated, and in its place, the non-prescriptive requirement for continual improvement has been listed under Clause 10.  Continual improvement signifies that the organization will need to demonstrate how its environmental performance has improved over time including new or progressive objectives.

The evolution in requirements for ISO 14001 has been adopted in order to improve the structure, processes and reach of global environmental management systems. Your organization’s environmental performance can improve through this standard’s evolution, The revised standard will ensure that environmental management is now completely integrated and aligned with the business strategies of your organization. This strategic focus will result in optimizing the performance of your EMS, making it more sustainable, saving money and helping preserve the world’s resources for future generations.

HRP Russell BallardAbout the author:

Russell Ballard is Senior Project Manager at HRP Associates in Greenville and has guided organizations through the process of ISO 14001 certification through development, improvement and verification of management systems. His expertise in environmental health and safety has helped numerous organizations develop custom strategies for their management systems to reduce risks and be in symmetry with current operational processes.



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