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Environmental management & ISO 14001 : What you need to know

Posted by Bertrand Duteil on 09/03/2017

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Environmental management is an important topic for companies of all sizes across industries. Along with legal regulations to reduce pollution, a consequent environmental policy within a company can help reduce energy costs and lead to a sustainable production.

The only internationally recognized standard for environmental management is the ISO 14001 Standard. They contain guidelines for an environmental management system to reach the company environmental performance goals. The standard is made for companies of all sizes and applicable across all industries. The primary goal of the ISO Standard is the promotion of environment protection and the reduction of environmental pollution.

Content of the environmental management standard

The standard describes different environmental management processes that should be covered by a system, but no concrete guideline a company could follow and implement. Nevertheless, the standard requires the commitment to a environmental management guideline self defined by the company.

One of the first and most important steps of the ISO standard is the establishment of an environmental management system. The other important steps to follow are:

  • the establishment of an environmental management system
  • the steady improvement of the environmental performances
  • the involvement of employees
  • the public communication about this topic

ISO 14001: Versions and revisions

The ISO 14001 Standard has been first developed and released in 1996 by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

The first revision of the document on an international level has been published in 2004. It contained more precise requirements descriptions and offer a better compatibility with the quality management standard ISO 9001.

The last version of the standard has been realised in autumn 2015.

Structure of ISO 14001:2015

The last version of the standard is structured around the following topics:

  1. Scope
  2. Normative references
  3. Terms and definitions
  4. Context of the organization
  5. Leadership
  6. Planning
  7. Support
  8. Operation
  9. Performance evaluation
  10. Improvement

The last revision of the ISO 14001:2015 brings several extensions and improvements regarding the coverage of environmental management systems.

The goal of this revision is to extend the environmental goals to as many process areas as possible and to include the third party logistic processes as well in it. The philosophy of the standard is to steadily improve environmental performances across areas along the production and supply chain - from the production of raw material through the development, production and transport up to the application and removal.

Another major change is the importance given to KPIs to measure in the future the environmental performances and to the standards reference documentation.

Learn more about the changes and improvements made in the last revision of the ISO 14004:2015 (PDF).

Certification process

A certificate proving the compliance to the ISO 14001 standard can be issued by official bodies. The certification results from a two-stage audit process operated by an accredited certification body. Once the certification is passed, a certificate is issued and the official ISO seal may be used for external communication. The certificate is valid 3 years and subject to a new certification process after this period of time.

ISO 14001 and the Eco Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS)

The Eco Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) is a voluntary instrument based on the EU Regulation No 761/2001 and the Environmental Audit Act with which companies can improve their environmental performances through a systematic environmental management. In the facts, the requirements of the ISO 14004 regarding an environmental management system are a fundamental part of the EMAS. While the ISO standard has an international range, the EMAS is limited to the European Union and completes the requirements made by the ISO standard through an environmental statement. Nevertheless, the EMAS is more focused on publicity around environmental performances than the ISO standard.

There is no official certificate existing for the EMAS but a monitoring of the compliance to EU requirements can be made by national authorized environmental auditor according to the Environmental Audit Act. Once the audit is successfully passed, the registration application to the competent Chamber of Commerce EMAS register is accepted.


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Tags: Certifications, tips, ISO standard