ISO 14001 environmental standard re-launched

In its first update for a decade, the ISO 14001 standard has been revised to ensure that it continues to help organisations improve business processes, save money and deal with future environmental challenges.

First published as BS 7750 in 1992, ISO 14001 is a guide on how to run an effective environmental management system (EMS). The standard has been adopted by more than 300,000 businesses worldwide – including nearly 17,000 organisations in the UK – to improve their environmental performance by reducing waste, cutting energy use and streamlining logistics.

New requirements

The British Standards Institute (BSI) the revision, launched yesterday (15 September), involved ‘environmental experts from 70 countries’, and ‘has incorporated a number of updates to help organisations tackle changing business conditions, from climate change to supply chain management’.

According to BSI, changes to the standard include:

  • a high level structure (HLS) – featuring terms, definitions, headings and text common to all management system standards – which it says will allow ‘easier integration when implementing multiple management systems’;
  • ‘new opportunities’ for top management to ‘firmly place environmental management into core business processes and objectives’;
  • a refocus on the risks the organisation faces, such as the price volatility of raw materials, as well as the opportunities risks present, such as greater resource efficiency;
  • ‘new thinking’ on the context of the organisation, with an emphasis on  understanding ‘their setting and environmental impacts and also the impact that the environment has on them’,

Update brings ‘four-fold’ benefits

The BIS, adds that the benefits of the ISO 14001:2015 update are four-fold:

1. Bringing the environment and continuous improvement ‘into the heart’ of businesses

The revised standard aims to ensure that environmental management is completely integrated and aligned with organisations’ business strategies. The strategic focus, according to BSI, will optimise the performance of an EMS.

2. Leadership

BSI says that greater involvement in the management system by the leadership team will ensure the whole organisation ‘will be motivated towards the organisation’s goals and objectives’.

3. Improved environmental performance

Organisations will need to take steps to protect the environment and improve environmental performance to achieve the new standard. Good environmental management will reduce the risk of regulatory fines and can often identify opportunities to save money, according to theBSI.

4. An integrated approach

With the new structure applicable to all new ISO management systems standards, BSI alleges it will be ‘easier to implement multiple, integrated management systems’.

BSI chair for environmental management systems Nigel Leehane explained that he hopes the new standard will bring more consistency between management system standards. He added: “It’s long been recognised that IS4001 has… focused too much on preventing pollution, managing hazardous substances, dealing with waste… rather than taking a broader view of looking at sustainability in terms of how they operate in ways like reducing their energy consumption which may not have a direct impact on environment from their own operations but obviously consumes energy generated elsewhere. So, by taking that broader approach, they are, in effect, reducing their own operating costs and becoming more competitive and becoming, hopefully, more sustainable in the long term.”

Guidance not expected until late 2015 or early 2016

ISO 14004 is the guidance standard to help implement ISO 14001, but it is not expected to be published until late 2015 or early 2016. Ramboll Environ’s Greg Roberts, who is on the ISO Technical Committee  responsible for developing this guidance, commented: “For organisations already signed up to the ISO 14001 standard, starting transitioning to this new standard as soon as possible will make the process more efficient and bring more value to their business sooner, for example cutting costs further, increasing resilience and gaining greater competitive advantage. Conversely without a timely transition plan, loss of the certificate is a real risk; it’s not the sort of task that can be left to the last minute.

“Too many environmental management systems are failing to add benefit to their organisations. The revised standard is a great opportunity to revitalise a failing EMS so that it is able to deliver real business value. This new version will also provide a stepping stone to developing a wider sustainability strategy by helping organisations to be more strategic and outward-looking in their approach to environmental management.  

“The first priority of any ISO 14001:2015 transition project is to gain cross functional top management commitment – without it some of the new strategic and business focused requirements will be difficult to achieve. A gap assessment should be performed but specific focus should be given to understanding business processes and how the EMS can be integrated with them.”    

Learn more about the BIS and the new standard.