ISO 14001:2015 – are you ready for it?

ISO 14001:2015 – are you ready for it?

ISO 14001 is one of the world’s most popular international standards for environmental management. The revised 2015 version, ISO 14001:2015 (replacing ISO 14001:2004), sets out the updated requirements for establishing an environmental management system (EMS) that more specifically responds to internal and external elements that influence companies, their business and operating strategies – and the opportunities and risks that derive from this context.

“With over 300 000 certificates already issued globally, organisations with an existing certified ISO 14001 EMS have until September 2018 to transition to the revised standard,” explains Jonathan Sevitz, principal consultant at ERM.

ERM participated in the negotiation process associated with revision of the standard. “We understand the new requirements and the practical aspects of implementing the changes at the corporate and operational levels,” Sevitz says.

Still based on Plan-Do-Check-Act, the standard’s structure has changed, with the importance of “leadership” emphasised as a requirement to drive environmental performance. Beyond structural changes that have aligned the standard to the streamlined ISO Annex SL structure for standards (which allows better integration with other management systems such as Occupational Health and Safety management systems), several important content changes now part of ISO 14001:2015 can benefit a company, chiefly:

  • Highlighting the importance of evaluating and addressing both risks and opportunities within a company’s environmental management approach;
  • Ensuring better alignment between environmental objectives and business strategy;
  • A greater commitment from leadership to drive and be accountable for continuous environmental performance improvements;
  • Enhanced focus on communications, both internal and external, to deliver more effective information and ensure that stakeholder needs and expectations are addressed where relevant;
  • Adopting a lifecycle perspective to environmental management, to address the environmental impact of a product or service from development to end-of-life, and managing these impacts where possible and to define procurement requirements;
  • Focusing on enhancing environmental performance and achieving defined outcomes of the management system.

“Some organisations will find these changes insignificant; others may find them challenging. ERM recommends an organisation starts by comparing existing practices and programmes to the new requirements by performing a gap analysis. Then develop a transition plan with the involvement of affected and responsible internal staff,” says Sevitz.

He adds that organisations not seeking third-party certification should determine which gaps are worth closing, based on a cost/benefit analysis.

“It is important to take a practical and non-bureaucratic approach in the planning stage – companies often focus on the development of documentation and less so on the planning and implementation.

“If implemented successfully, the new standard guides a company on how to drive real performance improvement and achieve the intended outcomes to drive value and alignment between corporate or board-level goals and operational activities,” he concludes.

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SHEQ Management

SHEQ MANAGEMENT is the definitive source for reliable, accurate and pertinent information to guarantee environmental health and safety in the workplace.
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