Environmental management systems - Requirements with guidance for use
The ISO 14001, as with other ISO 14000 standards, is voluntary, with its main aim to assist companies in continually improving their environmental performance, whilst complying with any applicable legislation. Organizations are responsible for setting their own targets and performance measures, with the standard serving to assist them in meeting objectives and goals and the subsequent monitoring and measurement of these. This means that two organizations that have completely different measures and standards of environmental performance, can both comply with ISO 14001 requirements.
The standard can be applied to a variety of levels in the business, from organizational level, right down to the product and service level. Rather than focusing on exact measures and goals of environmental performance, the standard highlights what an organization needs to do to meet these goals. Success of the system is very dependant on commitment from all levels of the organization, especially top management, who need to be actively involved in the development, implementation and maintenance of the environmental management system. In 2008 there were an estimated 188 000 companies from 155 countries, certified as ISO 14001 compliant.
ISO 14001 is known as a generic management system standard, meaning that it is applicable to any size and type of organisation, product or service, in any sector of activity and can accommodate diverse socio-cultural and geographic conditions. All standards are periodically reviewed by ISO and new ones issued.
Basic principles and methodology
The fundamental principle and overall goal of the ISO 14001 standard, is the concept of continual improvement. ISO 14001 is based on the Plan-Do-Check-Act methodology which has been expanded to include 17 elements, grouped into five phases that relate to Plan-Do-Check-Act; Environmental Policy, Planning, Implementation & Operation, Checking & Corrective Action and lastly Management Review.
Plan – establish objectives and processes required
Prior to implementing ISO 14001, an initial review or gap analysis of the organisation's processes and products is recommended, to assist in identifying all elements of the current operation and if possible future operations, that may interact with the environment, termed environmental aspects. Environmental aspects can include both direct, such as those used during manufacturing and indirect, such as raw materials. This review assists the organisation in establishing their environmental objectives, goals and targets, which should ideally be measurable; helps with the development of control and management procedures and processes and serves to highlight any relevant legal requirements, which can then be built into the policy.
Do – implement the processes
During this stage the organization identifies the resources required and works out those members of the organisation responsible for the EMS' implementation and control. This includes documentation of all procedures and processes; including operational and documentation control, the establishment of emergency procedures and responses, and the education of employees, to ensure they can competently implement the necessary processes and record results. Communication and participation across all levels of the organisation, especially top management is a vital part of the implementation phase, with the effectiveness of the EMS being dependant on active involvement from all employees .
Check – measure and monitor the processes and report results
During the check stage, performance is monitored and periodically measured to ensure that the organisation's environmental targets and objectives are being met. In addition, internal audits are regularly conducted to ascertain whether the EMS itself is being implemented properly and whether the processes and procedures are being adequately maintained and monitored.
Act – take action to improve performance of EMS based on results
After the checking stage, a regular planned management review is conducted to ensure that the objectives of the EMS are being met, the extent to which they are being met, that communications are being appropriately managed and to evaluate changing circumstances, such as legal requirements, in order to make recommendations for further improvement of the system. These recommendations are then fed back into the planning stage to be implemented into the EMS moving forward.
Continual Improvement Process
The core requirement of a continual improvement process (CIP) is different from the one known from quality management systems. CIP in ISO 14001 has three dimensions:
* Expansion: More and more business areas get covered by the implemented EMS.
* Enrichment: More and more activities, products, processes, emissions, resources etc. get managed by the implemented EMS.
* Upgrading: An improvement of the structural and organizational framework of the EMS, as well as an accumulation of know-how in dealing with business related environmental issues.
Overall, the CIP-concept expects the organization to gradually move away from merely operational environmental measures towards a strategic approach on how to deal with environmental challenges.
ISO 14001 was developed primarily to assist companies in reducing their environmental impact, but in addition to an improvement in environmental standards and performance, organizations can reap a number of economic benefits including higher conformance with legislative and regulatory requirements by utilizing the ISO standard. Firstly by minimizing the risk of regulatory and environmental liability fines and improving an organization's efficiency, leading to a reduction in waste and consumption of resources, operating costs can be reduced. Secondly, as an internationally recognized standard, businesses operating in multiple locations across the globe can register as ISO 14001 compliant, eliminating the need for multiple registrations or certifications. Thirdly there has been a push in the last decade by consumers, for companies to adopt stricter environmental regulations, making the incorporation of ISO 14001 a greater necessity for the long term viability of businesses and providing them with a competitive advantage against companies that do not adopt the standard. This in turn can have a positive impact on a company's asset value and can lead to improved public perceptions of the business, placing them in a better position to operate in the international marketplace. Finally it can serve to reduce trade barriers between registered businesses.
Organizations can significantly benefit from EMS implementation through the identification of large cleaner production projects (e.g. which can drastically cut electricity costs in manufacturing industries). ISO 14001 can be a very effective tool to identify these cost savings opportunities for some organizations. Some other organizations can falter in its planning, lack of senior management commitment and poor understanding of how it should be implemented and find themselves managing an ineffective EMS. Improvements that organizations can make include adequately planning their structure and allocating adequate resources, providing training, creating forums for discussion, setting measurable targets and working according to the philosophy of continuous improvement.
ISO 14001 can be used in whole or in part to help an organization, for profit or not-for-profit, better manage its relationship with the environment. If all the elements of ISO 14001 are incorporated into the management process, the organization may opt to prove that it has achieved full alignment or conformity with the international standard, ISO 14001, by using one of four recognized options. These are:
1. make a self-determination and self-declaration, or
2. seek confirmation of its conformance by parties having an interest in the organization, such as customers, or
3. seek confirmation of its self-declaration by a party external to the organization, or
4. seek certification/registration of its environmental management system by an external organization.