ISO 14001 is the international standard for an effective environmental management system (EMS). It is a tool to assess organizational goals and performance and can be integrated with multiple other standards, such as ISO 9001. The standard focuses on optimizing an organization’s processes based on the international standard to ensure the organization is operating in a manner that will consistently produce products with no negative environmental impacts and strives for a positive impact on the environment. ISO 14001 was revised in 2015 and as of the ISO Survey Results released in 2018, ISO 14001 has been utilized by over 300,000 companies with over 440,000 physical sites certified around the world. These guidelines are all-inclusive and generic such that they can be applied to any industry and can be adopted by any organization regardless of its sector, location or size.
ISO 14001 was first established in 2004 and its most recent revision was released in 2015. The initial standard was confined to a narrow scope of environmental concerns and included only bigger enterprises. The revision brought about significant advancements including a high-level structure, expansion in the scope of environmental management services, expanded operational requirements and inclusivity of companies of all levels and sizes. Moreover, it also covers an extended array of domains concerning environmental management systems. It includes performance evaluation, improvement, support, operation, management, leadership, and support.
ISO 14001 facilitates the environmental performance and operations of organizations and enables them to gain the trust of the stakeholders. The standard forms a basis for a continuous system of improvement and caters to stakeholder relevant environmental issues such as waste management, resource utilization and management, air and water pollution, and climate change alleviation. Properly utilizing ISO 14001 also works towards minimizing energy wastage and optimizing resource usage and efficiency, leading to decreased costs and increased operational savings. ISO 14001 aims to address the environmental concerns of organizations in a holistic pattern and provide companies with a competitive edge in the market.
Benefits for Organizations
Companies have reported multi-faceted perks directly as a result of implementing ISO 14001 such as:
- increased engagement of employees,
- financial advantage,
- better market image,
- the confidence of stakeholders, and
- competitive advantage
It was observed through research that SMEs are reluctant to adopt standards, with the most common reason being a lack of capital required for its adoption. ISO 4001 is specifically made to include both larger enterprises and SMEs on a similar set of regulations, meaning your larger competitors would be held to the same standards as you are if government entities were to move to mandate ISO 14001. Having a system in place before growth also sets your organization up for success as you grow, allowing your system to utilize best practices from the start without the costly need for external help after the fact. Preparing now will be a more cost-effective solution than fixing, evaluating, researching, and implementing a solution later on.
ISO 14001 is largely meant to enable your organization to minimize hazardous impacts to the environment. In this way, the companies abide by the environmental regulations alongside specific performance and operational indicators to ensure continual improvement. ISO 14001 also allows you to consider local, regional, and international regulations in an effective manner, to ensure your organization is compliant with all laws and regulations of every market you are present in, and any you wish to enter. Because of this, certification not only drives market compatibility but also brings about positive changes in the internal dynamics of your company.
Integrating ISO 14001
If you are interested in becoming certified to ISO 14001, you will need to first implement the system in your business effectively. This is done through properly understanding the standard, its requirements and an understanding of your organization and its capabilities. Proper implementation and certification to ISO 14001 is possible without certification to any other standard, or alongside other standards like ISO 9001:2015. It is our recommendation that any organization, no matter what industry can benefit from more than one standard certification. You may want to consider adopting both ISO 9001, the standard for quality management systems, and ISO 14001 and consider standards like ISO 45001, the health and safety management system, and ISO 27001, for information security management. At ISO Update, we believe strongly in the benefits that utilizing standards brings to companies.
The following approaches are effective for all ISO Standard management system implementations, just ensure the people you utilize have the correct credentials and experience.
Utilizing internal resources such as a quality management team or department is a great implementation method. Internal quality representatives with insider knowledge allow your management system to be truly unique and effective for your personal processes. It is also arguably easier to be held accountable to your EMS when it is internally developed and familiar.
Utilizing an internal quality team to develop your implementation plan, execute your new system, and monitor its effectiveness is encouraged within the requirements of ISO 14001 and most management systems for the purposes of demonstrating leadership and promoting the adoption of the standard and its best practices effectively. However, not all organizations have the capacity to dedicate personnel to this role or no personnel have the training or knowledge immediately to prepare a system well enough. Many Certification Bodies offer training for internal systems management, internal auditing, and informational sessions on each standard, so be sure to investigate what is available in your area.
Many organizations benefit from external implementation or consultants. An ISO Consultant works as an extension of your organization to become your “internal auditor”, without being a full-time employee. Consultants are typically ISO Auditors who have been working within the standard for several years and are hired by organizations like yourself to evaluate, critique and help you implement a management system that is completely tailored to your organization. An effective consultant should understand your industry, have valid industry codes, and experience you trust. It is important to utilize your typical hiring methods when looking to hire an ISO Consultant, considering your corporate culture, its needs and how your new consultant will work within your organization. This auditor should be an extension of your company, just like any other employee, and should be a person you trust and respect.
Consultants have the bonus of personal experience with External Auditors, the auditors that will come into your organization once per calendar year to evaluate your systems for certification. Consultants often have years of experience working with or for Certification Bodies and understand how to navigate you and your system through an effective audit and prepare your organization for success.
Consider: Your organization can have it all. Consider adopting both implementation approaches for the most benefit to your organization. Having internal personnel or a team dedicated to your management system with insider knowledge and experience of your company and the added experience in ISO and Auditing of a consultant to aid them periodically is immensely beneficial to your system and your company. Consider contacting a few CB’s and Consultants in your area to determine their recommendations based on your current capabilities, resources, your current management systems, and size of your company.
To the novice quality manager, ISO jargon can be extremely overwhelming. What is an NCR? What do you mean by OFI? Are we certified or accredited? But before you go and pull out your hair, let’s take a moment to go over some of the most frequently used terms and their definitions with regards to ISO and Management System Certification.