Brian Lyons

Professional Services Manager

ISO 14001 – Your Organization, Your Environment

December 31, 2015

Brian, a leading expert in EMS & other disciplines, provides an interesting overview of what is ISO 14001 and Environmental Management Systems (EMSs).

ISO 14001 is the world most popular environmental management system standard. As of 2013 it is currently implemented by 301,647 [1]organisations worldwide, so it must obviously work and its voluntary!

Environmental management is all about how a company interacts with the environment and how it manages that interaction. It’s where the company figures out how it interacts with the environment and decides how best to control and manage its products, services and activities that affect the environment.


In simple terms, ISO 14001:2004 is about putting a structured management approach in place that lets you identify your interactions (aspects and impacts), figure out which ones need to be managed closely (significant aspects), where you lie in relation to environmental legislation, and having some way of measuring your overall environmental performance. Controlling any potential emergencies that could affect the environment also needs to be identified and managed by the company. Other requirements, of course, exist, but these are the ones that your see in nearly all other standards, such as document and record control, internal auditing and management review.

Companies that implement an environmental management system based on ISO 14001 find that, over time, they achieve high levels of compliance with environmental legislation, so there are no surprises from local or national regulators, and it will also achieve continual improvement with their environmental performance. Of course, senior and top management, along with all employees, need to be fully invested and actively involved in protecting their business’s environment. Not part of just wanting a ‘certificate on the wall’ faction.

ISO 14001:2004 is the ‘requirements’ standard, and this means that it is the only standard in the ISO 14000 family that a company can be certified to. It outlines the requirements that a company must comply with in order to manage and control their interaction with the environment and is audited by 3rd party organisations, typically certification bodies, who award certification. Other members of the 14001 family include ISO 14004, guidelines for the implementation of ISO 14001, ISO 14031 covering evaluation of environmental performance, ISO 14020 to 14025 on environmental labelling and finally ISO 14040 to 14043 on life cycle assessment. These guideline standards give a wide spectrum of advice to the company that chooses to listen.

ISO 14001 is comprehensive, it requires all members of the company to play their part, it is proactive, and asking companies to look forward in protecting the environment and it adopts the system approach, as it is based on the well-known Plan, Do, Check, Act method.

Many benefits can arise from a well implemented and well maintained environmental management system, including but not limited to, increased profits through such areas as waste elimination or minimisation, operational efficiencies along the lines of energy management, positive ‘green’ marketing, regulatory compliance and corporate social responsibility for example.

All in all, ISO 14001 provides a tool kit for a company to demonstrate its ‘green credentials’ and as more and more organizations focus on ‘greening’ their images ‘not just skin deep’ but at a root and branch level, ISO 14001 environmental management systems provides the base line from which ‘the green shoots’ of improved environmental performance growth and prosperity.

[1] ISO Survey 2013


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