ISO 14001:2015 Environmental Management System Requirements

Environment compliance requirements. Edara System
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The ISO 14001:2015 standard is not quite as self-explanatory as one would want it to be. If we compare to something everyone can relate to, a good example that comes to mind would be a health insurance policy. But for you to comply with the ISO 14001:2015 standard, you need to understand it properly.

This article will dissect the main requirements at a high level and provide you with a simplified explanation in layman terms.

Familiarising yourself with the ISO 14001:2015 standard requirements

The latest ISO 14001 revision was released in 2015. The standard maps out environmental management system (EMS) requirements with a fresh outlook on sustainability, for more information see What is ISO 14001 article.

ISO 14001 is segmented into ten sections that are referred to as clauses. The clauses that outline the frame organisation work for an EMS are clauses 4 through 10.

ISO 14001 requirements

As you progress in your reading, you will learn that the ISO 14001:2015 standard does not prescribe any particular requirements about environmental performance. It provides you with a framework for you to determine your targets and areas of improvement.

ISO 14001:2015 standard requirements, Context of the organisation

As previously stated, ISO 14001:2015 is not a one-size-fits-all standard. The environmental issues and concerns that apply to, for example, a construction company will be quite different from those of a transportation business.

This is why the standard requires every organisation to assess who they are, what they do, who cares about the work they do, and how they will respond. Each organisation should consider:

  • The issues and conditions are relevant.
  • The compliance obligations it is subject to.
  • The external issues were affecting its business operations.
  • The internal matters affecting its business and management system
The primary operational components of an ISO 14001 EMS

One of the most notable amendments in the ISO 14001:2015 standard is that organisations need to assess stakeholders’ needs and expectations. Organisations must take into consideration the expectations their customers have of them in terms of environmental performance in the same way that they consider what their customers want when developing a new product.

See Article ISO 14001 audit for more comprehensive information. All these factors contribute to defining the scope of your EMS as well as the structure of the actual management system.

The requirements for Leadership regarding customer focus in EMS

Just like its predecessors, the ISO 14001:2015 standard mandates that you create an environmental policy outlining the roles and responsibilities, as well as authorities within your organisation. However, unlike its precursors, the ISO 14001:2015 standard emphasises the significance of leadership involvement.

Instead of having one dedicated environmental management representative, upper management bears the responsibility of the EMS’ effectiveness. The ISO 14001:2015 standard’s leadership requirement dictates that upper management should be fully aware of organisational environmental objectives and must demonstrate that they are working diligently towards the creation of a continual environmental improvement culture within the organisation to ensure compliance with this clause.

Importance of environmental management system

Risk-based thinking and management to planning in ISO 14001

Under this clause, organisations must proceed with identifying and planning for any activities that have the potential to impact the environment. To fulfil this requirement, substantial environmental aspects and impacts must be identified. These include:

  • Water pollution
  • Energy use
  • Air pollutants emissions
  • Greenhouse gas emissions
  • Waste management

Also, local, state and national compliance obligations need to be identified. Once potential risks and opportunities have been identified, environmental objectives must be defined, and specific actions should be taken to meet those goals. For information on the cost of obtaining EMS ISO, complete information is available on the ISO 14001 cost page.

Meaning of Support in EMS, Providing necessary monetary and physical assets

Support is the seventh clause and most voluminous section of the ISO 14001:2015 standard requirements. It considers your resources, communication, and documentation for your EMS.

The 2015 version of the standard states that the determination of the necessary documentation for measuring training effectiveness, demonstrating competence, and for an overall effective EMS is at the discretion of individual companies.

However, it does stress the importance of being equipped with the right technologies such as digital documentation tools to ensure effective management of this information. Last but not least, organisations must determine how they will be communicating with stakeholders.

ISO 14001 Operation requirements

The requirement in this clause is to identify the activities that might impact the environment and putting in place the operational controls necessary to minimise that impact.

To fulfil this requirement, the creation of documented procedures such as work instructions and preventive maintenance programs is required. Furthermore, organisations must have a documented emergency preparedness and response plan for them to be prepared for any potential accidents that may be harmful to the environment.

Performance evaluation, reviewing customer satisfaction in EMS

The requirement in this clause is for organisations to ascertain how they will be monitoring, analysing, and evaluating their EMS.

To fulfil this requirement, the organisation must evaluate both their environmental performance and how they improve their management system. This involves the creation of an internal audit and management review systems to ensure the proper functioning of the EMS.

ISO 14001 requirements Checklist

Continual improvement in ISO 14001

The most important and recurring theme in the ISO 14001:2015 standard is ‘commitment to continual improvement.’ To that effect, the 10th and final clause require that organisations determine how they will deal with nonconformity; this includes corrective actions and actions for continual improvement.

Understanding the ISO 14001:2015 requirements comes with a steep learning curve.

Implementing an ISO 14001:2015 compliant Environmental Management System is no mean feat. Sufficient time and resources need to be allocated for learning what is involved in the implementation of the system and its maintenance. Your organisation will have to go through annual surveillance audits and follow a 3-year certification cycle where your management systems will be reviewed to verify continual improvement. So, it is not just a matter of implementing an EMS and forgetting about it.

Although complex, this process should not intimidate you because you always have the option of opting for hiring the services of an independent consultant to assist with building, implementing, and maintaining your system. Whichever option you decide to go with, you must take ownership of and demonstrate commitment to this process. For you to do so, you must entirely understand the requirements of ISO 14001:2015. We hope that this article has shed some light on and removed any ambiguity surrounding this process.