ISO-14001: Updating Your Environmental Management System

The first International Standard Organization (ISO) 14001, Environmental Management System (EMS) document was published in 1996 to provide a standard basis for all voluntary EMS’s to be certified as compliant systems by third party auditors. ISO14001 has since been revised twice, in 2004 and 2015, to make it more comprehensive and useful. In the newest revision, organizations and facilities can be certified under the 2004 standard for three years from the publication of the 2015 document. Therefore, organizations that wish to receive certification with ISO14001 have until September 2018 to update their EMS’s to be compliant with the 2015 revision.

The 2015 revision of ISO 14001 will alter the structure of every organization’s EMS to conform to the framework across all of the ISO standards and management systems. This will allow for easier integration of multiple management systems. The new format at a basic level will require all users to update their EMS to reflect the new and updated clause numbers and create new documentation to meet some requirements. As part of the revision and new clauses there is an emphasis on the involvement of top management, understanding the needs and impacts of interested parties on the facility, and the plan-do-check-act continuum of process improvement. In the information below, I will discuss some of these changes.

The previous Clause 4 defined all of the items that were required in an EMS. These requirements have been broken into seven separate clauses with additions. The new Clause 4 lays out the foundation to create an effective EMS that conforms to your organizations values, process and regulatory requirements, and the relevant needs and expectations of interested parties. These interested parties can be community groups or non-governmental organizations, customers/suppliers, and industry groups among others. By defining the context of your organization you gain an understanding of how to define the scope of your EMS.

 Clause 5 of the new standard creates a more defined and specific requirement that top management have a leadership role in the EMS and are dedicated to the success and continual improvement of the system. In general, this means that top management takes accountability for the effectiveness of the program, promotes the program, and ensures the system has the necessary resources. This is an effort to ensure that your organization’s EMS can function properly and meet the values of the company and achieve your organization’s goals.

The update of your system may warrant a reevaluation of your organizations environmental aspects and impacts, as Clause 6.1.2 has some new requirements. One of these is to use a life-cycle perspective in determining the aspects of the organizations activities, products, and services. This can lead to determining the aspects and impacts of the production of raw materials, such as the production of paint your facility uses, or the end of life disposal of your product. Additionally, there is an increased focus on documenting the criteria for determining significant environmental aspects and ensuring action is taken to address those aspects deemed significant.

In summary, there have been significant changes to the structure of the EMS, which will require an update of your organizations EMS. This will require most if not all of your documents to be updated to reflect the new clause numbers; however, many of the documents may need little to no substantive changes to meet the new requirements. Additionally, every organization should reevaluate the scope of the EMS to ensure that the needs and expectations of interested parties are at least understood. Among other changes organizations need to ensure that there is significant enthusiasm for the EMS from top managers and that they are involved to ensure the success of the system. Finally, the requirement to use a life-cycle perspective when determining aspects, can create a much more extensive list of aspects to consider, which will require a review of all of the facility’s aspects and impacts. While these are not all of the changes that will need to be implemented when updating your organization’s system to the new standard they should not be overlooked.

CTI is available to assist your organization make these changes in preparation of the 2018 deadline.

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