ISO 14001 Environmental Management System audit

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An ISO 14001 audit is a critical element in the implementation of the ISO 14001:2015 Environmental Management System (EMS) standard. It is the process of systematically, objectively, and independently documenting processes to gather facts that will be utilized towards the identification of improvement opportunities to ensure best practice processes are always in place.

An ISO 14001 audit is a critical element in implementing the ISO 14001:2015 Environmental Management System (EMS) standard. It is the process of systematically, objectively, and independently documenting processes to gather facts that will be utilized towards the identification of improvement opportunities to ensure best practice processes are always in place.

What is an EMS audit?

Auditing your ISO 14001:2015 EMS and its processes regularly is highly beneficial to your organization because it helps you:

  • Ensure your EMS complies with the ISO 14001:2015 standard
  • Make sure your organization is taking the necessary steps to meet the ISO standard
  • Tackle any issues you may have with the ISO 14001 framework
  • Pinpoint new ways of improving your implementation of the standard
An ISO 14001 audit is an essential part of implementing the ISO 14001 Environmental Management System (EMS)

The ISO 14001:2015 EMS standard recommends that regular internal and external audits must be carried out for more information see What is ISO 14001 article. This is a further indication of the importance of auditing in the EMS ISO 14001 certification process. Internal audits are how you keep your finger on the pulse of an organization’s activities to ensure they are in alignment with the documented methods of their EMS. Internal audits must be official, fair, objective, and planned in harmony with your established internal audit procedures.

When an organization constantly evaluates its procedures against how they are implemented on the ground, it sets the course for a continual cycle of improvement.

By looking at how things are done and comparing them with how they should be done, you can identify areas for improvement. Records of the observations must be kept and disseminated to all relevant parties throughout the organization during pre-planned management review meetings.

How do I audit a ISO 14001 checklist?

Various types of Environmental Management System audit

There are various types of audits when it comes to the maintenance of your ISO 14001 Certification and making sure your EMS meets the requirements of the standards, all of which can be generally classified as:

First-party audits for iso 45001 (internal audit) 

Organizations on their systems conduct internal audits as part of their routine maintenance of their EMS. They are in perpetual assessment and revaluation of their processes to ensure they are still fit for purpose. Organizations that do not dispose of the human resources necessary to conduct internal audits may hire a third-party company to work on their behalf.

Second-party audits (supplier audits for EMS ISO) 

Second-party audits are performed directly on the systems and processes of suppliers, contractors, and anyone in your supply chain. They shine the spotlight on the inner workings of suppliers to determine if their actions measure up to their claims. Supplier audits may be carried out in-house. Alternatively, you may also hire a third-party company to carry out the inspections and audits on your behalf.

What is audit in ISO?

What is the concept of the third-party audit in ISO 45001? (external audits)

External audits, such as the ISO 14001:2015 EMS certification audit, are exclusively performed by third-party companies, also known as certification bodies. They examine your EMS, partly through random sampling or in its entirety, to verify that it meets the requirements of the ISO 14001:2015 standard.

ISO 14001:2015 certification audit, six steps to audit ISO 14001

Stage 1 audit: The goal of a Stage 1 audit is to assess whether your organization is ready for the Stage 2 audit. Stage 1 is where the auditor reviews your EMS and documentation, evaluates the conditions of your site, and has discussions with your employees to determine your employees’ level of understanding of your organizational objectives and key performance indicators.

Stage 2 audit, also called a certification audit, is more comprehensive and takes a deep dive into your EMS to determine if the procedures and processes your organization has put in place meet the requirement of the ISO 14001:2015 standard. This is the decisive audit that, if all goes well, results in your certification award after your initial certification begins the certification cycle, which spans three years until you are up for recertification again.

What are the requirements of ISO 14001?

Surveillance audit: This type of audit is performed onsite to review a few sections of your organization’s EMS every year to cover it in its entirety by the end of the third year. Surveillance audits constitute an essential component of the certification cycle, ensuring that your organization remains compliant with the ISO 14001:2015 standard every step of the way, leading up to your recertification audit at the start of the next cycle.

Remote audit: Remote audits are off-site surveillance audits conducted through electronic communication to review portions of your EMS every year with a plan to cover them entirely by the end of the certification cycle.

Off-site surveillance audits are a far more convenient option for organizations who qualify for them. Unfortunately, off-site audits are not always appropriate for certain types of businesses that have no choice but to go with onsite audits due to the nature of their operation.

Gap analysis: A gap analysis is a compliance audit performed on the EMS of clients seeking to achieve ISO 14001:2015 certification to review and assess it against the ISO 14001:2015 standard. It is an in-depth evaluation of your EMS’ compliance with the bar to ensure it meets all of its requirements. This audit can either be outsourced to a consultancy or performed in-house.

Recertification audit: The recertification audit is onsite and occurs at the beginning of the certification cycle to verify that your organization has maintained its EMS correctly and that all your documented procedures conform to the ISO 14001:2015 standard. This audit is in-depth and closely examines all documented processes.