Five Most Common ISO 14001 Questions

ISO 14001 is a globally recognised certification for companies and organisations of any type that require practical tools to manage their environmental responsibilities.

It sets out the criteria for an environmental management system and can be certified to. It maps out a framework that a company or organisation can follow to set up an effective environmental management system.

ISO 14001 certification can provide assurance to company management and employees, as well as external stakeholders, that environmental impact is being measured and improved.

It is almost like owning a valid driving licence: saying you can drive is one thing but demonstrating that fact to a professional standard is something else entirely.

Here are the five most common questions about ISO 14001:

Why is ISO 14001 so important?

Put simply, we have only one planet, and we should be doing our collective best to look after it. With global emissions rocketing to a level that may soon become irreversible, a joint effort on the part of businesses (of which just 100 account for a staggering 71% of global emissions) is paramount to our very survival.

ISO 14001 provides an extremely tight and rigorous framework within which to operate. That is to say it is not limitless (and by extension, complicated). Many people try to do too much to combat global warming and often end up doing more harm than good, or waste their energy on correcting issues that never really existed in the first place. But a few, simple changes are usually all that’s needed.

By following this methodology, you can rest assured that you are managing environmental management in your organisation to a globally renowned standard – and in turn protect our environment for future generations.

How do I become ISO 14001 certified?

The first step towards certification is analysing your company and learning the standard. This, as I allude to in question 4, can help speed up the certification process and it helps to give you a more comprehensive overview of the standard.

The second step is to approach an external company – such as Synergos Consultancy who will then review your existing management systems and policies and offer advice about the changes you can make going forward. These can be anything from waste disposal to a complete overhaul of certain aspects of your business’ modus operandi.

Once we are happy that you have taken on board what we have advised and have demonstrated that the necessary changes have been made to conform to the standard, you will be granted ISO 14001 certification by a UKAS accredited certification body – and this can bring with it a great many benefits.

What are the benefits of ISO 14001?

When your business holds the ISO 14001 certification, you are able to demonstrate to your stakeholders that you are taking the necessary steps towards improving the environment.

ISO 14001 is a third-party certification – where an impartial and objective company, such as Synergos Consultancy, audits your practices against the requirements of the standard – and is a way of signalling to your buyers, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders that you have implemented the standard properly. What’s more: for some organizations, it helps to show how they meet regulatory or contractual requirements.

Having received the certification, company image and brand reputation is bolstered too.

Further benefits include:

  • Helps you to qualify in the tender application process
  • Achieve preferred supplier status
  • Attracts new customers
  • Provides you with a competitive advantage
  • Facilitating opportunities to improve the environment
  • Reduce waste generated by your business

How long does it take to become ISO 14001 certified?

There is no exact answer to this. Projects can be completed within 2 weeks or 2 years, depending on the size of your business, the sector it operates in, and whether or not you are taking our advice on board and making changes in conjunction with them. 

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Firstly, you must familiarise yourself with the standard. This, as with any educational process, can at first be tricky. It is not, we’ll admit, the most enthralling thing to read, but it is extremely important. The next step is to think about what changes you need to implement. Once these are implemented and the external auditor is happy with your understanding of the standard and the changes you have made in line with it, you’ll receive accreditation.

Advice: the more resources you use, and the more your upper management engages in the process, the swifter accreditation will be.  

Who needs ISO 14001 certification?

ISO 14001 should be used by any organisation that wishes to set up, improve, or maintain an environmental management system to conform with its established environmental policy and requirements. The requirements of the standard can be incorporated into any environmental management system, the extent to which is determined by several factors including the organisation’s industry, environmental policy, products and service offerings, and location.

In short, every business can improve its sustainability practice and every business has an obligation to look after the planet that makes its very existence possible, and ISO 14001 is a useful barometer for achieving this. Looking at why and how recent years have seen a shift in businesses can be found in our article Why are more companies going green?

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Steve Kilburn
Steve Kilburn
I initially trained as an industrial chemist working in a variety of manufacturing environments eventually moving into quality management which grew to encompass environmental and occupational health and safety management systems. I hold a Masters Degree in Health and Safety law and Environmental Law and a Post Graduate Certificate in Sustainable Waste Management and I am a Graduate Level Member of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH). In my spare time I enjoy reading, my favourite author is Stephen King, and listening to music, generally from the late 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.
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