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ISO 14001 (Environment)

ISO 14001 (Environment) is a family of standards related to environmental management that exists to help organizations

  1. minimize how their operations (processes, etc.) negatively affect the environment (i.e. cause adverse changes to air, water, or land);
  2. comply with applicable laws, regulations, and other environmentally oriented requirements; and
  3. continually improve in the above.

ISO 14001 is similar to ISO 9001 quality management in that both pertain to the process of how a product is produced, rather than to the product itself. As with ISO 9001, certification is performed by third-party organizations rather than being awarded by ISO directly.

ISO 14001 defines criteria for an Environmental Management System. It does not state requirements for environmental performance but rather maps out a framework that a company or organization can follow to set up an effective Environmental Management System. It can be used by any organization that wants to improve resource efficiency, reduce waste, and reduce costs. Using ISO 14001 can provide assurance to company management and employees as well as external stakeholders that environmental impact is being measured and improved. ISO 14001 can also be integrated with other management functions and assists companies in meeting their environmental and economic goals.

ISO 14001 , like other ISO standards, is voluntary, with its main aim to assist companies in continually improving their environmental performance and complying with any applicable legislation. The organisation sets its own targets and performance measures, and the standard highlights what an organisation needs to do to meet those goals, and to monitor and measure the situation. The standard does not focus on measures and goals of environmental performance, but of the organisation. The standard can be applied to a variety of levels in the business, from the organizational level down to the product and service level.

ISO 14001 (Environment) is known as a generic management system standard, meaning that it is relevant to any organization seeking to improve and manage resources more effectively. This includes:

  • single-site to large multi-national companies
  • high-risk companies to low-risk service organizations
  • the manufacturing, process, and service industries, including local governments
  • all industry sectors, including public and private sectors
  • original equipment manufacturers and their suppliers

PLAN DO CHECK ACT –

Plan: Establish objectives and processes required

Prior to implementing ISO 14001 (Environment) , an initial review or gap analysis of the organization’s processes and products is recommended, to assist in identifying all elements of the current operation and, if possible, future operations, that may interact with the environment, termed “environmental aspects.” Environmental aspects can include both direct, such as those used during manufacturing, and indirect, such as raw materials. This review assists the organization in establishing their environmental objectives, goals, and targets (which should ideally be measurable); helps with the development of control and management procedures and processes; and serves to highlight any relevant legal requirement, which can then be built into the policy.

Do: Implement the processes

During this stage, the organization identifies the resources required and works out those members of the organization responsible for the EMS’ implementation and control. This includes establishing procedures and processes, although only one documented procedure is specifically related to operational control. Other procedures are required to foster better management control over elements such as documentation control, emergency preparedness and response, and the education of employees, to ensure that they can competently implement the necessary processes and record results. Communication and participation across all levels of the organization, especially top management, is a vital part of the implementation phase, with the effectiveness of the EMS being dependent on active involvement from all employees.

Check: Measure and monitor the processes and report results

During the “check” stage, performance is monitored and periodically measured to ensure that the organization’s environmental targets and objectives are being met. In addition, internal audits are conducted at planned intervals to ascertain whether the EMS meets the user’s expectations and whether the processes and procedures are being adequately maintained and monitored.

Act: Take action to improve performance of EMS based on results

After the checking stage, a management review is conducted to ensure that the objectives of the EMS are being met, the extent to which they are being met, and that communications are being appropriately managed. Additionally, the review evaluates changing circumstances, such as legal requirements, in order to make recommendations for further improvement of the system. These recommendations are incorporated through continual improvement: plans are renewed or new plans are made, and the EMS moves forward.

Continual Improvement Process (CI)

ISO 14001 encourages a company to continually improve its environmental performance. Apart from the obvious – the reduction in actual and possible negative environmental impacts – this is achieved in three ways:

  • Expansion: Business areas increasingly get covered by the implemented EMS.
  • Enrichment: Activities, products, processes, emissions, resources, etc. increasingly get managed by the implemented EMS.
  • Upgrading: The structural and organizational framework of the EMS, as well as an accumulation of knowledge in dealing with business-environmental issues, is improved.
  • Overall, the CI concept expects the organization to gradually move away from merely operational environmental measures towards a more strategic approach on how to deal with environmental challenges.