ISO 14001 includes requirements that an organization has to fulfil in order to develop and implement an environmental management system.
Below we explain the requirements of ISO 14001:2015 but it is important to mention that, although the requirements are generic, they need to be understood and implemented according to the specifics of every organization and the environmental aspects associated to its activities, products and services.
The requirements are grouped into 7 chapters (from chapter 4 to chapter 10 of ISO 14001:2015) and they are: context of the organization, leadership, planning, support, operation, performance evaluation and improvement.
Context of the organization
– the organization is required to determine the internal and external issues that are relevant to its purpose and that affect its ability to achieve the intended outcomes of the environmental management system. Examples of internal issues can be: structure and governance of the organization, infrastructure held, contractual relations/ partnerships, requirements of interested parties, etc; while external issues can include among others: the political system, environmental legislation, competition, the availability of technology that supports sustainable development, eco-design, eco-labelling, availability of key resources (fuel, water, etc.). Environmental conditions being affected by or capable to affect the organization should be taken into consideration also as part of the context (e.g. climate change, extreme weather, natural disasters, etc.).
– ISO 14001 asks for the identification of interested parties as well as their relevant needs and expectations. Some examples of interested parties applicable to most organizations are: authorities, customers, employees, suppliers, local community, partners, NGOs, etc.
– ISO 14001:2015 requires that the organization defines the scope of its environmental management system – meaning activities and locations covered by the system.
– Top management is required to support the environmental management system and demonstrate commitment for its continual improvement.
– Also, top management has to establish and communicate inside the company an environmental policy as well as environmental objective. Using the environmental policy the organization demonstrates the commitment to protect the environment and prevent pollution, to fulfill compliance obligations, to improve continually and enhance environmental performance.
– Top management is required to define roles, responsibilities and authorities for personnel, including here responsibilities with regards the administration and improvement of the environmental management system.
In order to have a functional environmental management system the involvement and support from top management are key.
– The organization is required to identify and treat risks and opportunities related to its environmental aspects, its compliance obligations and its context. The aim of this process is to give assurance that the environmental management system achieves intended results, undesired effects are prevented or reduced and continual improvement is achieved.
– The standard requires that the organization determines environmental aspects of its activities, products and services (that it can control or influence), as well as the impacts associated, considering the life cycle perspective.
An environmental aspect represents the interaction of activities/ products/ services of the organization with the environment. The environmental impact is the result of this interaction (it can be negative or positive).
Examples of environmental aspects can be: emissions to air, releases to water or land, use of raw materials or natural resources, use of energy, energy emitted (noise, vibration, heat, etc.), generation of waste or by-products, use of space, etc.
Examples of environmental impacts: pollution/ reducing pollution, affecting/ protecting biodiversity, climate change, global warming, etc.
The company needs to quantify environmental aspects in order to establish those considered significant and implement controls to reduce or eliminate the environmental impacts associated.
There is no specific requirement of ISO 14001:2015 on using a certain methodology for the assessment/ quantification of environmental aspects. It is the choice of the organization to use the methodology that suits its needs best.
-ISO 14001:2015 requires the organization to identify compliance obligations related to its environmental aspects. Compliance obligations include legal requirements and other requirements to which the organization subscribes (e.g. requirements of the local community, environmental requirements agreed with associations/ organizations, etc.).
– The standard asks to define environmental objectives and to plan actions to achieve them. Of course the fulfilment of environmental objectives has to be monitored.
– Needed resources for the implementation of the environmental management system as well as for the operation and control of processes have to be provided by the organization.
– The company is required to determine the necessary competence for personnel doing work under its control that can affect its environmental performance. ISO 14001 asks the organization to ensure that personnel is competent and, whenever needed, competence is acquired through different methods (e.g. training).
– The organization shall ensure the awareness of persons doing work under its control with regards to its environmental policy, significant environmental aspects and associated impacts, their contribution to the environmental management system as well as the implications of not conforming to environmental requirements.
– ISO 14001:2015 requires effective communication (internal and external) processes on environmental related issues.
– The environmental management system shall include documented information. The extent of the documentation differs depending on the structure and size of the organization, on its activities, its environmental aspects, its products and services. The standard requires rules for creating and updating the management system documented information (defining a format for the documents, the media – paper and/ or electronic, controls for the review and approval of documents). Also controls of documented information are needed, with regards to access, distribution, retrieval, use, storage, preservation, control of changes, retention and disposition. Those controls refer to both documents elaborated inside the organization and documents of external origin (e.g. documents from clients, external suppliers, etc.).
– ISO 14001:2015 requires the organization to plan, implement, control and maintain the processes needed to meet environmental management system requirements.
– Planned changes have to be controlled while the consequences of unintended changes need to be reviewed in order to mitigate adverse effects of change, is any.
– The organization is required to ensure that outsourced processes are controlled or influenced, in line with their impact on the environmental performance.
– ISO 14001:2015 asks the organization to ensure that environmental requirements are taken into consideration for all stages in the lifecycle of its products and services, starting from design and development to recycling or final disposal.
– The organization has to determine environmental requirements for purchased products and services and communicate those requirements to its suppliers.
– Also ISO 14001 requires that the organization provides information about potential significant environmental impacts associated with the transportation or delivery, use, end-of-life treatment and final disposal of its products and services (when this information is relevant, of course).
– The company needs to implement needed processes to prepare for and respond to emergency situations. ISO 14001 requires organizations to ensure they have the capacity to respond in time to an emergency. Procedures for emergency situations have to be tested periodically and improved as needed.
– ISO 14001:2015 requires organizations to evaluate their environmental performance and the effectiveness of the environmental management system. If environmental monitoring requires specific equipment then it should be maintained, calibrated and/ or verified as per requirements.
-The organization has to evaluate its compliance with applicable environmental legislation and other environmental requirements that it decided to comply with.
– At planned intervals the organization is required to perform internal audits of its environmental management system, to ensure that it conforms to ISO 14001:2015, it is effectively implemented and maintained.
– Top management is required to review periodically the environmental management system to ensure its continuing suitability, adequacy and effectiveness.
– The organization is required to determine opportunities for improvement and implement necessary actions to achieve the intended outcomes of its environmental management system.
– When nonconformities are identified (including here nonconformities following complaints that refer to environmental issues), the organization has to react and implement corrections (aimed at controlling the nonconformity and its consequences) and corrective actions (meant to eliminate the root cause of the nonconformity).
Those are at a glance the requirements of ISO 14001:2015. They need to be understood and adapted in relation to the specifics of the activities, products, services and environmental aspects of each organization.