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Here's What You Need to Know About Revisions to ISO 14001


By Robert Fenn

Being ‘green’ is often considered quite an informal subject, but in fact, there’s been an international standard dedicated to environmental management available since 1996.

The standard – ISO 14001 – sets out requirements for creating an Environmental Management System so that organizations can have a plan in place for managing resource efficiency and waste.

The 1992 United Nations Earth Summit has often been credited for inspiring the creation of the standard. The Summit was hailed as historic due its scope and size, with governments urged to halt the destruction of irreplaceable natural resources and pollution of the planet.

Today, ISO 14001 has been implemented by hundreds of thousands of organizations all over the world as governments have put pressure on both the public and private sector to set a benchmark for environmental performance. However, with a lot changing since 1996, it’s been important that ISO 14001 has remained relevant. This is why a revision to the standard was announced to be published in September.

What’s changing?

ISO 14001’s structure is being brought into line with other ISO management standards for improved continuity, which will be good news for those with multiple standards in place too. With the Final Draft available we know there will be only small editorial changes left. As such, we can be sure in terms of real changes to expect:

  • Stronger requirements on the involvement of top management and the emphasis of environmental management within strategy, and core business processes

  • The addition of a communications strategy

  • Greater focus on environmental performance improvement across the value chain

  • The addition of proactive initiatives to protect the environment (e.g. sustainability and climate change)

  • A consideration of the environmental impacts across the lifecycle

What should I be doing?

Fundamentally, ISO 14001:2015 will remain the same. No need to panic – those with a good Environmental Management System in place will still have a good one with ISO 14001:2015.

The real challenge for some will be the focus on incorporating the environment into the core thinking of the business, which can only happen with management involvement. As a result, those responsible for their ISO 14001 environmental management system will need to have access to the leaders of the business and the confidence to challenge them.

This will be made easier if a strong business case is made. While an ISO 14001 certificate provides external value in the shape of a marketing and competitive edge, the new ISO 14001:2015 is a great opportunity to benchmark your organization and ensure your green efforts are truly delivering to the bottom-line. Support from both management and all staff will undoubtedly make the impact of a new and improved Environmental Management System far greater when everyone is singing off of the same hymn sheet.

If you hold certification to ISO 14001 already, then it’s time to start planning for the transition to the new version. Who will perform the gap analysis to the new requirements? What opportunities are there? How will you communicate the changes? If you haven’t already spoken to them, it’s worth contacting your certification body to see what they have planned to assist you in the transition.

Are you ready for ISO 14001:2015? Join the conversation via Twitter @TriplePundit.

Robert Fenn is a Director at the British Assessment Bureau, a UK based Certification Body. Robert is an experienced speaker and writer on sustainability and corporate responsibility within the business world.

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