ISO 14001: Meaning, Standard and Requirements

An ISO 14001 is an international standard that lists the requirements for an effective and successful Environmental Management System.

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❓ What is ISO 14001?

ISO 14001 is a global standard that explains the requirements for an effective Environmental Management System, otherwise known as an EMS. 

ISO 14001 consists of five key elements: 

  1. Environmental Policy
  2. Planning
  3. Implementing
  4. Corrective Action
  5. Monitoring Under Management Review. 

In order to obtain an ISO 14001 certification, it is necessary to provide documentation that proves that your company’s Environmental Management System (EMS) meets the standard requirements. 

Even if all of your plans to operate sustainably have yet to be fully implemented, it is important that your documentation delineates future plans to employ these practices. 

It is crucial that the company as a whole is cognizant of the environmental strategies in place so that the supply chain can work towards their company’s environmental goals and obtain them more efficiently.

What is an Environmental Management System? 🎡

An Environmental Management System is a guideline for an organization to meet their environmental goals through the use of habitual progress reporting with the intent to improve their environmental performance and corporate sustainability. 

However, it is important to note that the Environmental Management System, otherwise known as EMS – doesn’t require a certain goal environmental objective to be met.  Each EMS system should be adjusted according to the company and their individual goals. 🙌

An EMS is an affordable, methodical way to allow an organization to recognize the requirements necessary in order to obtain an ISO 14001 certification. It can also help address issues that benefit the environment that are often not compulsory, and that would otherwise go unnoticed.

An Environmental Management System allows a company to recognize, analyze, and assess their carbon footprint – and how to move forward and employ actions to accomplish new environmental objectives. 

Establishing an EMS serves as the ultimate pathway for an organization to receive an ISO 14001 certification.

As explained before, an ISO 14001 serves as a model to help a business or project establish effective environmental practices, as well as to assist companies to cultivate a greater sense of trust for their consumers, investors, and employees – ultimately aspiring for the most successful business or project possible.

What is the ISO 14001 Standard? 📚

Does it matter which version – ISO 14001 (2004) or ISO 14001 (2015) that your company decides to use?

The newer version of ISO 14001 (2015) sets a higher level of standard for a company seeking to acquire an ISO certification – such as using required, concrete environmental definitions and complying with new clauses not found in ISO 14001 (2004). 

As a part of the effort to structure all ISO standards in the same way, the ISO 14001:2015 revisions include incorporating a required high-level structure, using mandatory definitions, and incorporating common standard requirements and clauses. 

The biggest changes to ISO 14001:2015 are the new requirements for leadership engagement, interactions with third parties, the necessity for risk-management, added essential documentation, and an increased expectancy in competence in accordance to the company’s environmental impact. 🌍

ISO 14001:2015 demands the business or project to display a higher level of commitment and leadership to their Environmental Management System. Rather than simply vowing to not cause further harm to the environment, the company must strive to actively reduce their carbon footprint👣.

The new ISO 14001 asks companies to consider the needs of other stakeholders involved in the business or project, and how any third party could be negatively impacted if the objectives of their EMS system are not met. 

In comparison to ISO 14001:2004, ISO 14001:2015 must include the consideration of how the environmental goals of the company impact both the organization and the society. This allots for a more thorough risk-management assessment, and the opportunity to improve upon environmental targets 🎯previously set in place. 

Lastly, the new ISO 14001:2015 requests the organization to respect the new, stricter environmental regulations in place. For example, the life cycle of a product or service and its impact on the environment is imperative in the new ISO 14001. Products and services must be designed and utilized in alignment with the environmental targets set by the organization. This ultimately allows the company to increase their sustainability, while also positively impacting the environment and building a more successful business. 

As stated before, ISO 14001:2015 requires more numerical data, evidence, and strong terminology in order to run an efficient Environmental Management System and acquire an ISO 14001. 

Given the updates, higher expectations, and stricter requirements of ISO 14001:2015 in comparison to ISO 14001:2004 – it is highly recommended that companies obtain the new ISO 14001.

😎 Why should your company seek to be certified by ISO 14001?

The easiest way to compare the benefit of acquiring an ISO 14001 is similar to why so many people are seeking degrees ✏️in higher education. 

Pretend you are on a job interview to be a hotel 🏨receptionist. 

You’ve never had any formal training or education, but many previous work experiences and references. 

You or a reference can speak about your past work experiences and internships, but how does the hiring manager truly know you are qualified for the position?

What is easier to trust? 

Does the company take your word for it – or do they take solace in the fact you have invested the time and money to obtain a certificate that further proves you are qualified? 

The most obvious answer is apparent, and this is why so many people in today’s society make high education a priority. The likelihood of being taken seriously on a job interview is greater if you have enrolled in degree-seeking education, or any other experience post-education when you have received a proper certification. 

It is unfortunate, but word of mouth or previous experience aren’t indispensable the same way an official diploma or certification is. The same is true for companies who hold an ISO 14001 certification – the proof of an ISO 14001 accreditation cultivates greater security for all of those involved in the project. 

An ISO 14001 will allow investors, employees, and society to trust your company’s mission and actions towards positively impacting the environment more easily – allowing for time, money, and resources to be allocated elsewhere to strive for greater corporate success 📈and sustainability.

✨ What benefits will the ISO 14001 standard bring to your organization? 

There are many benefits to getting an ISO certification for your organization. 🎉

Similar to the ideal of corporate sustainability, receiving an ISO approval for your company can ensure your business runs more efficiently and successfully.

Getting an ISO certification can help ensure maximum waste reduction, lower overall expenditures, and commitment to monitoring the environmental impact and carbon footprint made by the company.

The new ISO 14001:2015 requires companies to significantly decrease the amount of waste 🗑️being produced – such as cutting back on the use of superfluous machinery, and the demand for higher recognition to avoid unnecessary consumption by using renewable energy sources when possible. 

Not only does reducing waste benefit the environment and help for a company to run more efficiently, but it is also cost effective. Obtaining an ISO 14001:2015 certification properly motivates companies to reduce their waste and carbon footprint, and as a result – will cost less money, too.

Also, keep in mind – if less production and materials are required, simpler insurance plans can be purchased to protect the company. This also decreases the company’s expenditures, while simultaneously benefiting the environment. 

Besides the clear, positive environmental effect obtaining an ISO 14001:2015 has, it also has a wide array of fiscal benefits. For instance, obtaining an ISO 14001 guarantees that your company is in accordance with all current, legal obligations. This provides investors, employees, and consumers with the assurance that the company can be trusted and is worth doing business with – ultimately giving the company a competitive advantage, as well. 

👉 So, where can your company get its ISO 14001 certification?

An ISO 14001 can be granted by the American Standards Institute (ANSI), the International Accreditation Forum (IAF), and the BSI Group.

The ISO 14001 accreditation is renewable for up to a period of three years, after which another ISO 14001 can be requested. 

✅ What are the requirements necessary to obtain an ISO 14001?

In order to acquire an ISO 14001, it is necessary to provide documentation that your EMS is up to standard. While not all corporations will have the exact same Environmental Management System, it’s important that the company is dedicated to working all of the targets 🎯they have established.

The company must have a clear, concise mission statement on how they plan to prevent pollution and protect the environment – and how their project will continue to employ their environmental goals. The company must also demonstrate the potential benefits and risks of their efforts to positively impact the environment. 

A clear assessment of environmental usage must be included in the documentation in order to obtain an ISO 14001. This testament should include numerical data on the use of water, electricity, and gas, how much waste is produced, air emissions, sewage disposal, and plans for future maintenance on activities that could produce a large carbon footprint.

This data 📊evaluation will allow the company to create and instill a sustainable plan with environmental goals that align with their company’s mission, and begin their journey towards being more environmentally friendly.

All production and environmental practices must be assessed and approved in order to comply with all legal requirements. A good place to start is to make a list of all the machinery or environmental plans currently put in place, and assess each piece of equipment one at a time. 

It is imperative to show that your company is prepared to respond in the event of an emergency, with as little damage done to the environment as possible : such as electricity loss, fire, or a flood. 

Any third party associated with the company seeking to obtain an IOS 14001 must also comply with the EMS measures your company has put in place. Also, any new training regarding new EMS practices should be well documented amongst employees to ensure an efficient supply chain. This will reassure third parties and consumers that employees are competent and aware of the EMS practices in place.

Consistent communication, both within the company and to third party suppliers, ensuring that these new regulations are in progress – is also necessary to obtain an IOS 14001. 

It is important to track and document your company’s progress towards achieving their environmental goals, as well as any obligations your company has to any third parties.

The manager of the company seeking to acquire an IOS 14001 should consistently monitor the state of their current EMS, and document the progress. Any mishap should be reported, and a plan for corrective action should be illustrated in the event any non-complaint action occurs again.

All in all, there are many documents required in order to successfully obtain an ISO 14001:2015 – but an organized business will likely already have many of these documents in order. 

📑 How can you and your company get started with the process to obtain an ISO 14001:2015?

First, it is important to clearly define your company’s goals and objectives –  and how your company will achieve those goals while also remaining aware to proceed with caution given the potential environmental impact.

Make sure that your team is committed and supports the accreditation process. This includes their dedication to receive proper training to ensure that the company’s Environmental Management System can operate at maximum efficiency, as well as documenting this training and progress. 

Lastly, it’s important to summarize the environmental impact your company or project has on the environment, and to establish attainable goals to promote environmental sustainability.

If your company is willing to monitor, adjust, and continuously implement new environmental regulations and record documentation of these actions – your company will be well on their way to obtaining an ISO 14001:2015.

If reading this article about the meaning, standard, and requirements of ISO 14001 has made you interested in reducing your carbon emission to further fight against climate change – Greenly can help you!

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