The latest version of ISO 14001, ISO 14001:2015 has brought changes to the most widely used standard on Environmental Management Systems (EMS). One of the major changes is its structure. ISO 14001:2015 now has the high level structure that is now common to all ISO management system standards referred to as Annex SL. This new common structure brings a more strategic focus to the standard and facilitates the integration with other ISO management system standards. In addition to this new structure, there are many differences between ISO 14001:2015 and ISO 14001:2004. Here we will briefly explain the most relevant ones.
Organizations are now required to systematically take into account the organizational context. Organizational context can be looked at as the environment in which your business operates. Now you will need to consider which internal and external factors can influence the environmental goals of your organization.
This will allow organizations to have a better understanding of the risks and opportunities it will encounter and to be better prepared to minimize (risks) and maximize (opportunities) in order to favour the organization’s environmental performance.
Needs and expectations of interested parties
Organizations are now required to take a careful look at the needs and expectations of interested parties (stakeholders). They will need to identify relevant stakeholders and understand how these can impact the EMS if their needs and expectations are not met.
Leadership and commitment
Top management is now required to demonstrate commitment and leadership to the EMS. In the new standard there is no such a thing as a management representative, now everyone is required to commit in a number of specified ways.
In ISO 14001:2004, organizations were required to commit, among other things, to reducing negative environmental impacts. Now, the new standard goes further by requiring organizations to also aim at having a positive impact and improve environmental conditions.
Life cycle perspective
The term life cycle has been included many times more in the new standard than in the 2004 revision. While in the last version, organizations were not required to consider the life cycle of products or services for the identification of environmental impacts, the new one does.
Organizations are now required to take a life cycle perspective when identifying and evaluating environmental aspects. For example, procurement, designed, transportation and disposal activities will now need to be considered. The purpose of this life cycle perspective is to contribute to sustainable development and prevent negative environmental impacts from shifting through the life cycle of a product or service.
The standard is now more specific regarding the evaluation of environmental performance. Organizations are required to use quantitative data in the evaluation process.
According to this new version, organizations are required to communicate externally relevant information regarding the EMS. This should be done following a communication process that the organization must establish.
In general, this new standard emphasises environmental performance improvement and drives organization to focus on organizational context and relevant stakeholders. It also promotes risk based thinking and a life cycle perspective.