ISO 14001 is an internationally recognized standard for environmental management systems (EMS). It is designed to help any organization (small or large) identify and control the environmental impact of its activities, products and services and to continuously improve its environmental performance, taking into consideration environmental protection, prevention of pollution, and socio-economic needs.
The ISO 14001 is intended to support the implementation of an environmental management plan in any organization in the public or private sector. It was created by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), an international network of national standards institutes working in partnership with governments, industry and consumer representatives, whose mission is to promote the development of global standardization for the purpose of facilitating the international exchange of goods and services.
ISO 14001 is part of a series of environmental management standards (the ISO 14000) which provide a guideline for organizations that want to systematize and improve their environmental management efforts. Organizations can use any standard from the ISO 14000 series to assist their EMS; however, only ISO 14001 can be certified, that is, only in using this standard can an organization provide assurance to company management and employees, as well as external stakeholders, that environmental performance is being measured and improved.
The adoption of this standard is voluntary, however, in an ever more globalized and competitive world that demands us to respond to the many issues that affect our environment and society, many organizations decide to use ISO 14001 aiming to:
- Implement, maintain and improve an EMS
- Ensure compliance with its environmental policy
- Demonstrate conformity with this international standard
Who can benefit from ISO 14001?
Any organization can use ISO 14001 as a framework to put an effective EMS in place. The size of the company is irrelevant (it can be a small single-site or a multi-national), nor the sector (manufacturing, process, or service). It doesn’t even matter if it’s a private or a public organization, because even local governments can implement an EMS based on ISO 14001. As mentioned before, the standard highlights what an organization needs to do to meet its own environmental goals. Each organization is responsible for setting their own targets and performance measures; the standard provides knowledge, tools and techniques that serves to meet objectives and goals and in the subsequent monitoring and measurement of them.
If an organization decides to implement ISO 14001, it can demonstrate its conformity with this standard by:
- Conducting a self-assessment and self-declaration
- Seeking confirmation of its conformance by parties interested in the organization
- Seeking confirmation of its self-declaration by a party external to the organization
- Certifying its EMS by a party external to the organization.
Whichever way an organization chooses to demonstrate its conformity with this International Standard will benefit the organization by showing relevant interested parties, including customers, suppliers, and regulators, that an appropriate environmental management system is in place.