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Growing Green with ISO 14001

Posted by Victoria Ontiveros in Blog, Home Page 22 May 2020

Introduction

Organizations in virtually every industry face a variety of environmental risks. How can an organization manage environmental risks, and improve their environmental performance? The ISO 14001 environmental management system (EMS), is one of the world’s most popular environmental management systems. In fact, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed and maintained an EMS in each of their offices and labs. This article provides an overview of ISO 14001, the benefits of the environmental management system standard and how to become ISO 14001 certified.

 

What is ISO 14001:2015 – Environmental Management System?

ISO 14001:2015 is the environmental management system (EMS) standard developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). An environmental management system helps organizations identify, monitor, control and improve their environmental issues in a systematic manner. The standard has been designed for any type of organization, in any industry beyond manufacturing. It assists organizations with providing assurance to management, employees, stakeholder and even consumers that its environmental impact is being monitored and continually improved.

 

In 2015, ISO 14001:2015 officially replaced ISO 14001:2004. The revised standard takes into account new environmental challenges businesses face, including climate change and meeting the expectations of policy makers related to water and energy usage. It also includes Annex SL – the high-level structure (HLS) that common to management systems such as ISO 9001 and ISO 45001. This means that with the right expertise, ISO 14001 can be integrated into existing management systems.

 

Experience the Benefits of ISO 14001

While there are clear environmental benefits of an EMS, there are several business benefits ISO 14001 introduces. Organizations who successfully implementing and achieving ISO 14001 EMS certification experience several benefits, including:

• Meet legal and regulatory requirements, including those related to environmental performance,

• Meet customer requirements for certification,

• Enhance company reputation as a leader in environmental protection,

• Reduce energy consumption, waste and material costs,

• Increase new business opportunities, and

• Increase stakeholder and customer trust.

 

ISO 14001 EMS Overview

Organizations that are considering implementing an ISO 14001 environmental management system should be aware of the key elements of the standard:

  • Context of the Organization –Organizations will need to clearly define the internal and external parties, including the environmental conditions that are affected by their work and their expectations.
  • Leadership and commitment – ISO 14001 requires Top Management to take accountability for the effectiveness of the environmental management system and demonstrating leadership for the EMS.
  • Environmental Policy and Objectives – Organizations will need to establish a documented environmental policy that communicates their commitment to protect the environment, fulfill compliance obligations and continually improve the EMS to enhance their environmental performance. The environmental objectives will need to be consistent with the environmental policy, measurable, monitored, communicated and updated as needed.
  • Personnel Competency and Awareness – Organizations will need to ensure that employees are properly trained. Employees should then be able to demonstrate competency. Organizations also have the responsibility for ensuring employees are aware of the environmental policy, environmental aspects associated with their activities and any implications of not complying with the management system.
  • Internal and External Communications – Clear, concise, and transparent communication with internal and external parties is a fundamental aspect of 14001. Management will need to be involved with determining the frequency and the content of the communication. Effective communication is critical to responding to environmental impacts in a timely manner.
  • Control of Documents and Records – Documented information required for the environmental management system, including procedures and records, are required to be controlled and maintained by the organization.
  • Operational Controls – Regardless of their industry, organizations must ensure that processes and documentation are established for the planning and controls of operational activities in line with their environmental requirements and the ISO 14001 life cycle perspective.
  • Emergency Preparedness and Response Organizations will need to control the environmental risks associated with their activities. Emergency preparedness provides the assuredness that they are able to respond if the risk occurs, in order to reduce the environmental impact. This includes testing the planned responses, providing training and communicating the emergency preparedness and response.
  • Internal Audit Planning and Program – An internal audit will need to be conducted at planned time frames. An ISO 14001 internal audit will determine if the environmental management system meets the requirements of the standard and whether it has been effectively implemented and maintained.
  • Management Reviews – Top management is required to review the environmental management system, at planned intervals, to determine its continuing suitability, adequacy, and effectiveness. Collected EMS data should be reviewed to determine the need for any changes or improvements. Click here to watch our management system tip to learn how often your organizations should conduct management review meetings.
  • Nonconformity and Corrective Actions – ISO 14001 specifies the requirements for how to deal with nonconformities and corrective actions, and for documenting associated changes to the EMS.
  • Continual Improvement – Continual improvement is used to plan, monitor, and identify areas of improvement in the EMS.

How to Achieve an ISO 14001 Certification

For organizations interested in becoming an ISO 14001 company, the following are 8 steps to take to start the journey towards ISO 14001 certification:

1. Become familiar with ISO 14001:2015 requirements by reading the standard.

2. Involve leadership in securing adequate resources for implementing an ISO 14001 management system, including time and staff.

3. Perform a gap analysis of your organization’s operations to ISO 14001:2015 requirements.

4. Design and develop required ISO 14001:2015 management system documentation, including an environmental policy, environmental objectives and procedures. Our ISO 14001 documentation package is a cost-effective solution to jumpstart the documentation writing process.

5. Focus on implementing the requirements of the ISO 14001 EMS.

6. Perform an ISO 14001 internal audit. This may require employees undergoing additional internal auditor training.

7. Conduct a management review to assess the suitability, adequacy and effectiveness of the EMS. Store records of your meeting minutes.

8. Successfully undergo a certification body audit. Watch our webinar for key strategies on how to pass your certification body audit, stress-free.

Conclusion

An ISO 14001 environmental management system provides a systematic and standardized way for organizations around the world to take steps towards making our world more sustainable. If your organization’s products or services have an impact on the environment, consider ISO 14001 as a strategic tool to reduce your environmental footprint. Together, organizations around the world can focus on growing green with ISO 14001. Interested in becoming ISO 14001 certified? Contact us to speak with an ISO 14001 management system expert today.

 

Author

3 tips for preparing your team to undergo a certification body audit.

Victoria Ontiveros | Marketing Coordinator 

Victoria focuses on creating quality educational content that provides value to current and potential clients. By collaborating with members of leadership and sales, she is able to develop informative articles that answer common questions and connect with current trends.

Victoria earned her Bachelor of Science in Sociology with an emphasis in communications from Texas A&M University.

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