What is ISO 14001?

Environmental Management Systems

ISO 14001 is a series of environmental management standards developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in 1996. Following the development and success of the ISO 9000 series of Quality Management, ISO 14001 is a tool for organizing and incorporating environmental aspects into operations and product standards. It also provides a way to monitor, control and improve performance relating to regulations and legislation. ISO 14001 does not replace ISO 9000. However, a company that is already ISO 9000 registered or has a Quality Management System in place does have a good foundation for ISO 14001. Some of the same principles of ISO9000 such as document control, auditing, operational controls, training, and corrective and preventive actions are used in ISO 14001.

The ISO 14001 series includes:

  1. Environmental Management Systems (ISO 14001)
  2. Environmental Performance Evaluations
  3. Environmental Auditing
  4. Life Cycle Assessment
  5. Environmental Labeling

Most companies are registering for ISO 14001, which specifies requirements for an Environmental Management System (EMS). The key elements are established below.

EMS Key Elements

  • Policy
  • Planning
  • Implementation and Operation

Policy: The environmental policy provided by upper management gives direction to the EMS. It must include a commitment to continuous improvement, pollution prevention, and compliance with legislation and regulations. It must be implemented, maintained and communicated to the public and within the organization.

Planning: The planning stage includes identification of environmental aspects, objectives and targets, environmental management programs (EMPs) and legal and other requirements. Aspects are elements of an organization’s activities, products or services that can interact with the environment. The identified significant impacts that the company has control over then set the basis for objectives and targets. Objectives are generalized goals while a target would be a quantifiable measurement. EMPs relate all of these in a broader sense. Finally, legal and other requirements must be taken into account throughout the entire planning process to ensure proper management.

Implementation and Operation: Implementation and Operation includes a list of subdivided elements including structure and responsibility, training, awareness, and competence, communication, environmental management system documentation, document control, operation control, and emergency preparedness and response. Structure and responsibility is how the different levels of management and employment relate to each other and what roles exist within the company relating to the EMS. Training, awareness, and competence simply refer to the proper education of employees within a company regarding the EMS. Communication exists on two levels, internal and external. Procedures must be in place that dictate how communications involving the environment and the EMS are handled. Environmental management system documentation and document control go hand in hand. A documentation system must be set up that logically provides organization, identification and access to the documents of the EMS . Document control measures must also be in place to support the creation, deletion, revising, and distribution of EMS documents. Operational controls required to provide instruction on environmental aspects within the company. Operational controls are usually the most technical in nature, and have names such as procedures, practices, or work instructions. Finally the implementation and operation must include an emergency preparedness and response element to handle these types of situations.

Implementation of an Environmental Management System

  • Checking and Corrective Action
  • Management Review

Checking and Corrective Action: Once a system is implemented, it must routinely be checked against the ISO 14001 standard. The elements here include monitoring and measuring, non-conformance and corrective and preventive actions, records, and system audits. Monitoring and measuring refers to the measures that the company must take to ensure that the activities and aspects it has control over are making progress toward the objectives, targets, and EMPs. Non-conformances must also be examined, which may lead to corrective and preventive actions. Environmental records provide evidence of conformance and compliance for the EMS. System audits likewise must be established and carried out to ensure that the EMS is adequate, efficient, and reliable.

Management Review: Management review must be able to examine many of the prior elements in order to make timely decisions about the EMS’s future, growth, and policies. An EMS must continually evolve and be incorporated into all aspects of management decisions.

EMS Implementation