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ISO 14001

By Graphic Products Editorial Staff

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The world's largest publisher of private business standards and requirements now offers a written program to help you improve your environment and management system (EMS). The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) developed ISO 14001 in 2004 to provide organizations with the right tools to create a quality EMS.

The intention of ISO 14001 is not to identify specific standards for each EMS. Great variation amongst systems makes specific standards ineffective. Instead, ISO 14001 requires organizations to provide objective evidence to comply. Third-party auditors evaluate the evidence and decide if it demonstrates the EMS is operating effectively and conforms to minimum requirements.

ISO 14004 offers similar aid, but provides more generic requirements for organizations to follow when developing their EMS. Organizations often use ISO 14004 to address legal requirements and set environmental goals in advance of implementation.

The goal of ISO 14001 is to create an EMS capable of:

  • Identifying and controlling the environmental impact of its activities, products and services
  • Continually improving its environmental performance
  • Implementing a systematic approach to setting environmental objectives and targets; to achieving these objectives; and to demonstrating that they have been achieved

The ISO 14001 standard requires an organization to implement a series of practices and procedures that result in an effective environmental management system. ISO 14001 is not a technical standard and it does not replace the requirements specified by laws or regulations.

Within ISO 14001, there are 17 major requirements for compliance:

ISO 14001 Requirement: 4.1 General requirements

An organization must establish, document, implement, and continually improve their environmental management system and show how they meet all the requirements of this standard. The organization defines the scope of the EMS, i.e. the boundaries of the organization to which the EMS applies.

ISO 14001 Section 4.2 - Environmental Policy

Requires the creation of an environmental policy, in the form of a short written statement that is supported by upper management. The policy must:

  • Commit the organization to compliance with government regulations and legal requirements
  • Commit the organization to elimination of pollution
  • Commit the organization to on-going improvement
  • Communicated to all employees
  • Be available to the public
  • Documented, implemented, and maintained

ISO 14001 Section 4.3.1 - Environmental Aspects

Requires an organization to establish and maintain written procedures for identifying and controlling the significant environmental impacts resulting from the organization's activities or products.

ISO 14001 Section 4.3.2 - Legal and Other Requirements

An organization must defines how it will acquire information about legal and other requirements they must meet, and describe how this information will be disseminated to those who need the information.

ISO 14001 Section 4.3.3 - Objectives, Targets and Programs

Environmental objectives and goals, based on the policy statement created in compliance with section 4.2, must be developed. The objectives and goals, whenever practical, must:

  • Be measurable
  • Have milestone dates
  • Have someone who is responsible, and has the authority, for meeting the objective or goal
  • Have a definition of success

ISO 14001 Section 4.4.1 - Structure and Responsibility

This section requires that a management structure and an accountability structure be established. This includes top management's responsibility to provide the human, financial and material resources need to achieve the environmental goals and objectives.

ISO 14001 Section 4.4.2 - Competence, Training and Awareness

The requirements in this section ensure that the persons performing tasks that have an impact on the environment, are competent to do them. It requires training, as needed, to ensure that competence.

ISO 14001 Section 4.4.3 - Communications

Procedures must be established describing how internal and external communications will be done. A specific policy must be developed addressing external communication about significant environmental events, and the decision about this policy must be documented.

ISO 14001 Section 4.4.4 – Environmental Management System (EMS) Documentation

The EMS must be documented such that it can be verified as conforming with ISO 14001.

ISO 14001 Section 4.4.5 - Control of Documents

A document control system must be established such that current versions are distributed and obsolete versions are removed from the system.

ISO 14001 Section 4.4.6 - Operational Control

This section requires the identification of critical functions, significant aspects, legal requirements, and other requirements, such that any need to provide instruction, or address significant impacts to environmental goals and objectives, may be addressed.

ISO 14001 Section 4.4.7 - Emergency Preparedness and Response

The organization must establish a process for identifying potential emergencies and planning a response.

ISO 14001 Section 4.5.1 - Monitoring and Measurement

Procedures and methods for collecting data and measuring performance must be established such that conformity with goals, objectives and legal requirements can be established.

ISO 14001 Section 4.5.2 - Evaluation of Compliance

The organization must periodically evaluate its compliance with applicable legal requirements, as well as the established goals and objectives, and document the periodic evaluations and their results.

ISO 14001 Section 4.5.3 - Non-conformances, Corrective & Preventive Action

Should a non-conformance situation occur, procedures for correcting the non-conformance, including preventative and containment actions, and including investigating to determine the cause, must have been established and documented.

ISO 14001 Section - 4.5.4 Control of Records

Records (including records of audits) must exist and be available to allow verification that the EMS is functioning properly and the organization is conforming to ISO 14001 requirements, legal requirements and their established EMS requirements.

ISO 14001 Section 4.5.5 - Internal Audit

Internal audits of the EMS must be conducted and documented to ensure conformance to ISO 14001 requirements and the organizations requirements for their EMS.

ISO 14001 Section 4.6 - Management Review

Upper management must periodically review the EMS to ensure it is functioning in accordance with the established policy and plan.

Benefits of ISO 14001

Many large and progressive corporations have already adopted ISO 14001. Upon adopting ISO 14001, companies typically retool their health and safety policies so they're following the requirements of ISO 14001. Having a consistent format for environmental and safety and health policies makes sense.

The ISO 14000 standards provide practical tools organizations can use to reduce their environmental impact. ISO reports that benefits resulting from ISO 14001 include:

  • Reduced cost of waste management
  • Savings in consumption of energy and materials
  • Lower distribution costs
  • Improved corporate image among regulators, customers and the public
  • A framework for continual improvement of environmental performance