This Q&A Session covers the most frequently asked questions about ISO 14001, a standard that sets out the criteria for an Environmental Management Systems (EMS). It is applicable to any type of organization, regardless of its size, type or nature, and it ensures that the environmental aspects for companies that are in conformity with the requirements of the standard are being measured and improved.
1. What is an Environmental Management System?
An Environmental Management System as defined in ISO 14001, is part of the management system used to manage environmental aspects, fulfil compliance obligations, and address risks and opportunities.
2. Why is ISO 14001 so important for organizations?
ISO 14001 is important for organisations as it provides a framework for enhancing environmental performance, serves as a means to ensure compliance with legal and other requirements, and allows to demonstrate practical commitment to the environmental pillar of sustainable development.
3. What are compliance obligations and how should they be defined by an organization?
ISO 14001 describes compliance obligations as the “legal requirements that an organization has to comply with and other requirements that an organization has to or chooses to comply with”. These are requirements an organisation has determined as being necessary, and thus sets out to fulfil the same.
Compliance obligations are defined by the organisation while determining its interested parties as well as their needs and expectations.
4. What is the current applicable version of ISO 14001 and will there be any update?
The current applicable version of ISO 14001 is the third edition published in 2015. On the other hand, a decision on a revision for ISO 14001 and ISO 14004 is expected in the plenary in January 2022 (ISO/TC 207/SC 1, Communiqué, September 2021).
5. What are the challenges in implementing ISO 14001?
The main challenge an organization can face when implementing ISO 14001 is determining the intention behind the implementation. This one challenge acts as a catalyst and gives rise to a number of other challenges such as incompetent human resource and non-commitment/lack of support from top management.
6. What is the difference between ISO 14001 and ISO 45001?
ISO 14001 and ISO 45001 are synonymous with the environment and occupational and health safety respectively.
ISO 14001 defines a structured methodology for implementing an Environmental Management System, while ISO 45001 defines a structured methodology for implementing an Occupational and Health Safety (OH&S) Management System.
The frameworks specified by ISO 14001 and ISO 45001 allows for improvement of an organizations EMS and OH&S performances through the analysing data gathered from monitoring and measurement done respectively.
7. How is “Leadership” defined in ISO 14001?
Leadership has not been explicitly defined in ISO 14001. Leadership in ISO 14001 is synonymous to expectation required by top management in clause 5.1. Leadership and commitment, which provides more details on the “Talking the Walk and Walking the Talk” role (leadership) vested in top management.
ISO 14001 details specific responsibilities that top management should be personally involved with and a couple of others that can be delegated but for which top management is accountable for.
8. How does ISO 14001 support environmental compliance?
ISO 14001 provides an organisation with a framework to ensure that its responsibility towards the protection of the environment and prevention of pollution is fulfilled, having into consideration that the two items have a regulatory bearing.
ISO 14001 supports environmental compliance since it provides a structured approach to meeting compliance obligations which is a key feature of ISO 14001. A process required by ISO 14001 is the establishment of a process for compliance and this is realised through a number of its clauses such as 5.2 Environmental policy, 6.1.3 Compliance obligations, and 9.1.2 Evaluation of compliance.
9. Which are the most important clauses of ISO 14001?
ISO 14001 is divided in 10 clauses, 7 of which are of very high importance for an effective EMS:
- Clause 4 – Context of the organization;
- Clause 5 – Leadership;
- Clause 6 – Planning;
- Clause 7 – Support;
- Clause 8 – Operation;
- Clause 9 – Performance evaluation;
- Clause 10 – Improvement.
10. Which industries can benefit the most from ISO 14001 and how?
The industries that can benefit the most from ISO 14001 are those whose processes utilise resources (such as raw materials, water, energy) and generate waste.
The above statement aligns with that from ISO 14001: “This International Standard is applicable to any organization, regardless of size, type and nature, and applies to the environmental aspects of its activities, products and services that the organization determines it can either control or influence considering a life cycle perspective”.
Industries can benefit the most from ISO 14001 by measuring environmental performance and using the results of those measurements to continually improve on their management system that is established in line with the requirements of ISO 14001.
11. Can existing environmental management activities be integrated into the EMS under ISO 14001?
Yes, existing environmental management activities can be integrated into the EMS under ISO 14001.
12. How does ISO 14001 contribute to sustainable development?
ISO 14001 contributes to sustainable development through the focus on the “environment pillar” considering that sustainable development is achieved by balancing the three pillars of sustainability – social, economic and environment (ISO 14001).
In addition to the above, there is a link between ISO 14001 and several of the UN Sustainable Development Goals hence ISO 14001 can be used as a guiding framework when considering UN SDG Goals (ISO/TC 207/SC 1).
13. What other management systems standards can ISO 14001 be aligned with?
Other management systems standards that can be aligned with ISO 14001 are:
- ISO 9001 – Quality Management Systems;
- ISO 45001 – Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems;
- ISO 50001 – Energy Management Systems;
- ISO 22301 – Business Continuity Management Systems.
14. How does the certification audit against ISO 14001 help companies?
Having a third party confer certification to a company speaks volumes. It provides evidence of an assessment conducted by an independent body in addition to demonstrating transparency.
15. What are some tips to get ready for a certification audit against ISO 14001?
The following are tips in readiness for a certification audit against ISO 14001:
Phase 1: Implementation
- Understand the requirements of ISO 14001.
- Establish a management system that aligns with the structure prescribed by ISO 14001.
- Implement the established Environmental Management System (EMS).
- Check that the EMS is achieving its intended outcomes as well as remains suitable and adequate.
- Continually improve the EMS based on the output from monitoring and measurement of the EMS.
- Maintain records as evidence of implementing the EMS to show the intended outcomes have been achieved and where not, processes are continually improved upon.
Phase 2: Certification
- Conduct a Readiness Audit to ascertain that the requirements of Stage 1 and Stage 2 audits, as specified by ISO 17021, have been met.
- Dot the “i’s” and cross the “t’s”.
- Demonstrate your level of conformance and compliance (with respect to compliance obligations) during the certification audit.
About the Responder
Amina Deji-Logunleko is an ISO Management Systems Expert for the past seventeen (17) years who was first exposed to ISO Management System Standards about eighteen (18) years ago at the Standards Organisation of Nigeria. Ever since, she has participated in standardization activities at national, regional, and international levels.
She has audited over 200 organisations as a Third-Party Auditor, in a number of ISO ‘Management Systems Standards, spanning over seventeen (17) years.
Additionally, she has been an independent consultant, trainer, and auditor for the past five (5) years assisting organizations and individuals to earn management systems and personnel certifications respectively. Amina is a PECB MS Auditor for ISO 9001, ISO 14001, and ISO 45001 since 2016.
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