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ISO 14001:2004
ISO 14001:2004

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What is ISO 14001?

ISO 14001 is the international standard that specifies an Environmental Management System framework against which an organization can be certified by a third party. With ISO 14001:2004, clauses have been clarified and updated to be in harmony with ISO 9001:2008. ISO 14001 is considered the foundation document of the entire ISO 14000 series. This highly effective, globally accepted framework establishes and continually improves applicable management system processes. ISO 14001 can also be used as a guide to upgrade your company's present environmental management system in accordance with an internationally recognized set of requirements.

The procedures and elements of the ISO 14001 certification are based on sound environmental management principles. It contains only those requirements that can be objectively audited, and addresses the fundamental aspects of a company's operations. It can be used to integrate the environmental system with the overall organizational management structure to enhance performance and continual improvement.

Environmental Management System (EMS)

Of all the standards within the ISO 14000 series, ISO 14001 is the standard that specifies the requirements for an organization's EMS. The Environmental Management System (EMS) document is the central document controlling the interaction of the core elements in the organization, and provides a third-party auditor with the key information necessary to understand the environmental management systems in place. It is a "tool" that enables an organization of any size or type to control the impact of its activities, products or services on the environment. As in the case of ISO 9001, the key to a successful ISO 14001 EMS is having documented procedures that are implemented and maintained so that they describe environmental goals and their place in all other company-wide activities. ISO 14001 standards require sites to document and make an Environmental Policy available to the public. In addition, procedures should be established for a continuous review of the environmental aspects and the impacts of products, activities, and services. Based on these environmental aspects and impacts, then goals and objectives are established that are consistent with the environmental policy,. As with a QMS, Internal Audits of the EMS should be conducted routinely to ensure that non-conformances in the system are identified and addressed. In addition, the management review process must be in place to ensure top management's involvement in the assessment of EMS.

According to ISO 14001, there are six key elements of an EMS:

  1. Environmental policy - the organization states its intentions and commitment to environmental performance.
  2. Planning - the organization analyzes the environmental impact of its operations.
  3. Implementation and operation - the development and execution of processes to realize environmental goals and objectives.
  4. Checking and corrective action - monitoring and measurement of environmental indicators to ensure that goals and objectives are met.
  5. Management review - review of the EMS by the organization's top management to ensure its continuing suitability, adequacy and effectiveness.
  6. Continual improvement - An EMS enables an organization to control the environmental impact of its activities, products and services by establishing targets and objectives related to identified environmental management goals.

ISO 14001 Registration

Once a company has implemented an ISO 14001 EMS, it can either self-certify that it meets the requirements of the standard, or have an external party, an ISO 14000 registrar, document that the company has met the standard's requirements. This is referred to as ISO 14001 registration. There are certain advantages associated with third-party registration. External registration is more credible to customers and regulatory agencies. Also, bringing in a third-party expert allows a company to obtain practical guidance on system design and implementation.

There are five steps leading to ISO 14001 registration:

  1. Gap Analysis

    This is the review of the company's existing program to determine the changes the company needs to initiate in order to conform its environmental management system to ISO 14001 requirements.

  2. Initial Implementation

  3. Implementation of an ISO 14001 EMS requires a company to:

    • Develop an implementation strategy (including selecting a registrar if the company is going to seek third-party registration).
    • Update or redesign documentation (written policies, programs, procedures, forms) so that they align with ISO specifications.
    • Train personnel and communicate with other parties as needed to implement the revised EMS, and
    • Develop measuring, corrective action, internal audit and management review procedures (if not already in place).
  4. Pre-Registration Internal Audits

  5. Many registrars prefer a company to do at least one full cycle of internal audits and management review prior to seeking registration.

  6. Registration

  7. The selected registrar performs an EMS registration audit to test for conformance of the company's EMS to the requirements specified in ISO 14001.

  8. Ongoing Implementation

  9. Becoming registered is not the end of the process. A major component of ISO 14001 is continuous improvement -- your EMS needs to change as your company's products, processes, or personnel change. It also needs to change according to the fluctuations in overall business or regulatory conditions.

Possible EMS implementation Benefits

A properly designed EMS allows efficient identification of opportunities for cost savings. It can trigger procedural and/or technological changes that reduce the total cost of a product or improve its value. Some of the benefits of implementing an Environmental Management System (EMS) in accordance with the ISO 14000 standards include:

Operational Benefits

  • Efficiency, discipline and operational integration with ISO 9000.
  • Greater employee involvement in business operations with a more motivated workforce.
  • Easier to obtain operational permits and authorizations.
  • Assists in developing and transferring technology within the company.
  • Helps reduce pollution.
  • Fewer operating costs.
  • Savings from safer workplace conditions.
  • Reduction of costs associated with emissions, discharges, waste handling, transport & disposal.
  • Improvements in the product as a result of process changes.
  • Safer products.

Environmental Benefits

  • Minimizes hazardous and non-hazardous waste.
  • Conserves natural resources--electricity, gas, space and water with resultant cost savings.
  • Prevents pollution and reduces wastage.

Marketing Benefits

  • Demonstrates to customers that the firm has met environmental expectations.
  • Meets potential national and international government purchasing requirements.
  • Delivers profits from marketing "green" products.
  • Provides a competitive marketing tool.
  • Improves international competitiveness

Financial Benefits

  • Improves the organization's relationship with insurance companies.
  • Elimination of costs associated with conformance to conflicting national standards.
  • Process cost savings by reduction of material and energy input.
  • Satisfying investor / shareholder criteria.
  • Helps reduce liability and risk.
  • Improved access to capital.

Third party ISO 14001 Certification Benefits

  • ISO certification will enhance the ability to provide the written documentation necessary to demonstrate compliance with regulations.
  • Demonstrates a commitment to governmental authorities that the firm is moving beyond compliance and pursuing continual improvement.
  • Preferred government supplier status.
  • Reduces monitoring and reporting requirements.
  • Communicates evaluation and acceptance by an accredited, third party professional organization.
  • Negates "conflict of interest" claims associated with organizations that "self-declare" the status of their programs.
  • Validates the integrity of an organization's claims.
  • Provides organizations with an un-biased review of their programs, policies, etc
  • Addresses the requirement to compete in international markets.
  • Demonstrates the company's environmental responsibility to shareholder groups.
  • Possible reduction in need for multiple on-site audits by regulatory agencies.


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