ISO 14001: Setting the Standard for Environmental Safety

Organizations using ISO 14001 have found success across a range of areas, including reduced energy and water consumption, a more systematic approach to legal compliance and an improved overall performance.

ISO 14001:2015, the international standard for environmental management systems, provides a framework for organizations to address issues ranging from recycling and air pollution to general sustainability. According to the International Organization for Standardization, “It helps organizations improve their environmental performance through more efficient use of resources and reduction of waste, gaining a competitive advantage and the trust of stakeholders.”

ISO 14001 is not so much about environmental expertise as it is about processes and management system expertise. Adoption of this standard generally starts with an organization’s policy statement on environmental management and includes the following components:

  • Identification of the organization’s activities, products, and services that could impact the environment
  • Setting performance objectives and targets that relate to the policy statement
  • Implementation of the objectives and targets
  • Measurement of the efficacy of the implementation
  • Establishment of a program to periodically audit the environmental management system
  • Corrective and preventive action when deviations from the system occur
  • Periodic review of the system by the organization’s top management

Flexible and scalable, ISO 14001 follows the plan-do-check-act model that allows for ongoing monitoring and improvement of processes. It shares the same high-level structure and text, terms, and definitions as other ISO standards, including ISO 9001 and ISO 45001. With this structure, ISO 14001 can readily be integrated alongside other standards, resulting in high consistency amon the standards in the management system.

ISO 14001 calls for repeatable processes to ensure environmental issues are addressed continually, but it does not spell out requirements, which organizations set for themselves. Periodic evaluation of compliance with applicable regulations is advised, but, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the standard “does not in any way replace technical requirements embodied in statutes or regulations. It also does not set prescribed standards of performance for organizations.”

Benefits of implementing ISO 14001 may include leadership involvement, employee engagement, confidence of stakeholders, and competitive and financial advantages. It also sets an example for suppliers that may inspire them to improve their environmental performance.

The website of the International Organization for Standardization website highlights two organizations that identified significant benefits from implementing ISO 14001.

Premier Foods in the United Kingdom began using ISO 14001 in 2001 and, since 2013, the company has been at “zero landfill.” All site waste goes into recycling and reuse. In addition, Richard Giles of Premier Foods reports better relationships with stakeholders and stall.

“We have continued to improve our relationship with neighbors because we have the processes in place to respond quickly to any concerns,” Giles reports. “Among other benefits, our processes and the appointment of Green Matters Champions ensure that staff are environmentally engaged and aware of the site’s potential impact on the environment.”

A very different sort of company in Japan reports similarly satisfactory results with ISO 14001. UPCON lifts sunken concrete floors through a proprietary process that results in 90 percent lower carbon dioxide emissions compared to concrete replacement. By using ISO 14001, the company was able to document its methods and standardize the quality of work at all sites.

Nobukazu Matsudo of UPCON reports, “What’s more, since our certification, staff engagement and motivation have increased, safe in the knowledge that they are contributing positively to the environment through our products and services.”

With more than 30 years of experience, Cavendish Scott offers consulting, training and auditing to help organizations become compliant with ISO14001:2015. Additional information is available at