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ISO 14001Many environmental professionals are unaware that a revised version of the ISO 14001 environmental management system (EMS) standard is scheduled to be published in 2015, most likely by the end of the 3rd quarter. Revision work began in early 2012 and a draft final version was voted upon several months ago. The objectives of this ISO 14001 revision effort included making structural changes to the standard, addressing recommendations from an ISO technical committee on future challenges to EMS, and ensuring adherence to the basic principles of ISO 14001 (which include continual improvement).

What’s New?

The revised ISO 14001 standard encompasses two types of changes. The first involves a significant overhaul of the clauses to follow a new organizational structure that will ultimately impact all ISO standards. To clarify, the revised version of the ISO 9001 standard (currently nearing final stages) and new ISO 45001 standard (currently underway and intended to replace OHSAS 18001) are organized in accordance with the new structure. The Plan-Do-Check-Act model remains foundational in the new structure for all management system standards, but the clauses are organized differently and are set up to facilitate implementation of integrated systems.

The second type of change involves new themes that are embedded throughout the standard. Broadly, there is more emphasis on environmental protection, performance improvement, and incorporation of sustainability themes within the EMS.

What are the Structural Changes?

The new high level structure for these related standards has seven main areas each with sub-elements that are intended to define how practices and procedures under a specific discipline (e.g., environmental, quality, occupational health and safety) are implemented. For ISO 14001, the structure and content are expected to look as follows: 

  • Context of the Organization – includes organizational context, EMS scope, and needs/expectations of interested parties 
  • Leadership – includes management commitment, policy, and roles/responsibilities/authorities 
  • Planning – includes significant aspects evaluation, compliance obligations, risk/opportunity analysis, and environmental objectives/planning actions 
  • Support – includes resources, competence, awareness, communications, and documentation 
  • Operation – includes operational planning and control 
  • Performance Evaluation – includes monitoring/measurement/analysis/evaluation, internal audits, and management review 
  • Improvement – includes nonconformance/corrective action and continual improvement
What are the New Themes?

It may seem that the new themes are not truly new at all but instead represent a restatement of underlying objectives in previous versions of the standard. That view is reasonably accurate, especially for organizations with a robust management system already in place. The new themes are intended to foster more emphasis on certain key topics relative to the existing ISO 14001 standard. The table below highlights where more focus is intended.  

ISO Focus AreaGreater Emphasis (compared to current version of ISO 14001)
Strategic environmental managementEnsuring that environmental issues are addressed in strategic planning
LeadershipIncreasing accountability
Protecting the environment Implementing proactive initiatives – pollution prevention, sustainable resource use, climate change mitigation, biodiversity
Environmental performanceImproving environmental metrics, not just system improvements
Lifecycle thinkingExamining environmental impacts along the full enterprise chain
CommunicationsImproving outreach to address stakeholder concerns
DocumentationRecognizing need for and use of environmental management information systems
How Should a Company Prepare?

Companies should expect some effort in reconfiguring their existing EMS to align with the new standards. Important tasks include the following: 

  • Conduct a gap analysis and establish a development plan for aligning your current EMS procedures with the new organizational structure 
  • Enhance aspects/impacts evaluation process to ensure that a life cycle perspective is reflected 
  • Establish a risk evaluation process to prioritize how environmental issues are addressed (should be done in conjunction with the revised aspects/impacts procedure) 
  • Establish management of change process to ensure that the organization maintains an acceptable level of risk even when changes occur to equipment, processes, and products 
  • Increase engagement with supply chain partners to enhance environmental management actions
  • Ensure that metrics for environmental protection and performance improvement are included in the organization’s environmental objectives  

Trinity is available to guide companies on how to prepare for the revised ISO 14001 standard. Learn more at our upcoming webinar, ISO 14001:2015 – Effective Alignment with the Revised Standard on August 13, 2015. For immediate assistance, contact Rich Pandullo at or 919-462-9693.