Reducing environmental impact and contributing to the fight against climate change is high on the agenda of any reputable business. You may already have systems in place to help you reduce waste, be more efficient, and limit your carbon footprint — the ISO 14001 framework allows you to certify this against a standard.
ISO 14001 is a globally recognised standard environmental management system (EMS). Designed by the International Organisation of Standards (ISO), it supports organisations looking to reduce their environmental impact and promote more sustainable practices.
Revised in 2015, it sets out the criteria and maps out a framework that allows companies to set up an effective EMS, of which the intended outcomes provide value for the environment, the organisation, and other third-party stakeholders.
The ISO 14000 family of standards exist to help companies manage their operations so that they have minimal effect on the environment, alongside ensuring compliance with relevant laws and regulations, and maintaining continuous improvement.
ISO 14001 is the principal management system standard that provides guidance on developing and maintaining an environmental management system (EMS) that an organisation can implement to assist in enhancing its environmental performance in a systematic manner.
When developed and implemented, an EMS has three intended outcomes:
· Understand the environmental aspects of operations
· Ensure legal compliance
· Reduce environmental impact
The standard does not state specific environmental performance criteria, but it does apply to the environmental aspects of operations that the organisation has the ability to control and influence during a normal product or service life cycle.
The guidance included in ISO 14001 considers multiple aspects of a business, including procurement, storage, distribution, product development, manufacturing, and more with the aim of reducing environmental impact at each stage. It also prompts organisations to evaluate how they manage crisis situations, customer expectations, stakeholders, and relationships with local communities.
Depending on how your business already operates, there may not be many changes that need to be made beyond creating documentation to evidence current processes, but it also may be that the development and implementation of the EMS results in changes across the board, and a more sustainable and efficient business.
The framework is broad enough that it can be implemented by any business, of any industry and size, and has become increasingly popular — according to recent ISO surveys, the year 2020 saw a 5.5% increase in certifications, with over 360,000 businesses globally now accredited.
The benefits of achieving ISO 14001 certification are myriad. In the first instance, in a world plagued by the effects of climate change and pollution, it’s vital that businesses take responsibility for their own actions and implement systems to reduce their environmental impact.
By implementing an environmental management system (EMS) you can help your business to not only improve on its environmental management, but to also greatly reduce operating costs, improve stakeholder relationships, effectively manage legal compliance, enhance its sales pipeline and win new customers, as well as improve your brand reputation.
The requirements comprise of 10 clauses, with clauses 1, 2 and 3 describing the standard and containing no requirements — including the scope, normative references, and terms and definitions — and clauses 4 through 10 containing the elements of the EMS. These include the context of the organisation (4), leadership (5), planning (6), support (7), operation (8), performance evaluation (9) and improvement (10). This may seem daunting, but with the help of Synergos you can soon have your EMS developed and implemented effectively.
This section consists of the general requirements for an environmental management system, understood through the lens of the context of your business or organisation. This includes the needs and expectations of all stakeholders, and the documentation of the scope of the EMS.
You must take into consideration all of the direct and indirect consequences — including legal ones — and the effects on all the interested parties that the EMS will have, both internally, externally, and environmentally. This takes an overview of your business’s environmental performance, who it affects, and what can be done to mitigate any impact.
This understanding of the context of the organisation is vital to meeting environmental objectives, and for future proofing the business against any further changes in legislation or requirements.
It’s imperative that senior leadership evidence commitment to the EMS, and is integral to its success. This includes identifying the organisational roles, responsibilities, and authorities that will be included in the environmental management system (EMS).
This requirement also includes the definition of the environmental policy, which must include references to objectives to prevent pollution and to comply with all legal requirements that are relevant or applicable to the business. This will serve as the overall goal for the EMS.
The environmental policy states the intentions of the organisation in relation to its effect on the environment, and outlines how it will control and reduce environmental impact. This must come from top management as it’s a primary directive that describes how every person in the organisation will carry out their role with a view to reducing the company’s environmental impact
Planning for and identifying risks and opportunities is part of the environmental management system (EMS) and is one of the most crucial stages in the development of the system.
Evaluation of environmental aspects — how the processes of the company interact with the environment — and addressing their impact is central to the framework. The outcomes of these evaluations will have consequences for the objectives, operational controls, and other parts of the EMS.
This is necessary to determine where controls or improvements are needed, and involves an ongoing process that betters the relationship of the company with the environment, and facilitates continual improvements in performance.
This is the largest section, and addresses requirements on resources, i.e. the information relating to the management of all resources for the EMS, as well as the requirements around:
Competence — which includes providing training regarding the EMS to staff and stakeholders
Awareness — measuring the effectiveness of the training
Communication — both internally and externally
Controlling documented information — how all records should be kept and managed
It’s the responsibility of the organisation to ensure that proper training is both given and taken on board by employees, especially by those whose role has a direct impact on environmental performance. This includes all aspects of their duties, the EMS, that compliance obligations are met, and the requirements of ISO 14001.
Section 8, operational planning and control, is one of the most critical clauses of ISO 14001. The standard is built around the mitigation and control of a company’s environmental impact, and therefore operational planning is central to the environmental management system (EMS).
Operational control methods will be dependent on the business’ activities and legal obligations. As such, you must decide how to build and combine processes to ensure that you are meeting environmental objectives in line with the EMS.
This section requires that an organisation develops a plan that ensures it takes full operational responsibility for its environmental impact, and takes every step to manage and control it.
It’s important to continuously evaluate the effectiveness of your EMS processes to ensure that they’re working correctly and in line with your environmental objectives. This section deals with how you will monitor, measure and analyse the outcomes of these processes — including evaluating legal compliance.
Internal audits are mandatory, and it’s vital that the audit system enables problems to be identified so that any corrective action can be taken as quickly as possible.
The requirements of this section lay out how senior leadership will review the EMS to ensure it is operating effectively, such as ensuring that there are enough resources allocated to the EMS to ensure the effectiveness of its implementation and maintenance.
Continuous improvement is a mainstay of any ISO standard, and it is also a foundational idea in the growth and expansion of any business plan. Therefore, it’s important that there is a culture of continuous improvement across the organisation when it comes to the EMS — and those managing it should always be asking how it can be made better and more effective.
The requirements in this section deal with how you will address nonconformity in the environmental management system (EMS) processes, and what corrective actions will be taken. The EMS should be developed so that it allows the identification of a non-conformity before it occurs, and make improvements where necessary.
Overall, this section deals with methods to continue to reduce your environmental impact by continuously refining your processes.
Gaining ISO 14001 is not as difficult as you might think. You may already have systems in place to mitigate environmental impact and just need to formally document them, or you may need to start from the beginning. At Synergos, we support all our clients from start to finish, guaranteeing a positive outcome.
We’ll be with you every step of the way, guiding and supporting you in the development and implementation of your EMS, to the two-stage auditing process and on to certification. And, we’ll be there to help you in the maintenance of your EMS through annual audits going forward.
Developing and implementing all the documentation required for the environmental management system is the first step on the road to gaining ISO 14001 certification.
During this step, an internal audit is completed to ensure that the processes are aligned with the environmental objectives, and to discover if there are any problems within the processes themselves that need to be resolved. A management review will then take place to ensure resources are allocated correctly, and then any corrective actions required will take place.
This step can seem daunting, but the expert team at Synergos can help you every step of the way with the development and implementation of the EMS.
UKAS is the national accreditation body for the United Kingdom and is appointed by the government to assess and accredit businesses against internationally recognised standards. It’s vital that the certifying body a business chooses to carry out its ISO audits is UKAS accredited, to evidence that the business is seriously committed to its management system.
A UKAS accredited body has proven it complied with best practice, and will deliver a competent and impartial service based on internationally recognised standards. Any customer or client looking for ISO 14001 certification from a supplier will typically want to see that the certification is UKAS accredited to ensure it’s credibility.
Before the stage 1 audit, businesses must complete a final review of their EMS to ensure that no vital information has been missed, cross-referencing against the requirements laid out in ISO 14001. Ensuring that the processes put in place will help to meet the environmental objectives laid out in the EMS is key.
It’s important during both the development of the EMS and the preparation for the stage one audit that all staff are brought up to date and trained properly. It’s the responsibility of the teams managing day-to-day operations to keep documents up-to-date to ensure that an audit will be passed, which is why it is vital that they are competent in the maintenance of the system.
An auditor from a UKAS accredited certification body will attend the site that is undergoing ISO 14001 implementation to carry out each of these audits.
During the stage 1 audit, the auditor will check that your documentation meets the requirements of ISO 14001, and gauge the organisation’s readiness for the stage 2 certification audit.
The stage 1 audit is not as daunting as it may seem, as the auditor will review the EMS and how it is working within the business, and identify any areas where you are currently not meeting the standard — i.e where improvements can be made — so that you can rectify these before the stage 2 certification audit. This feedback is vital to not only achieving certification but to also ensuring that your EMS is highly effective.
The auditor will then return for the stage 2 audit, meticulously going through all the documentation and looking to see that feedback from the stage 1 audit has been acted upon. If this audit is a success, your business will receive ISO 14001 certification — congratulations!
An auditor from the UKAS accredited certified body will return every year to re-assess certification —ensuring that the environmental management system (EMS) continues to meet the requirements of the ISO 14001 standard, ensuring that your business continues to take responsibility for the environmental aspects of its operations.
Developing and implementing an EMS should not just be for the certificate itself, but for managing your organisation’s impact on the environment, taking into view the full lifecycle of your product or service. This is key to becoming a more sustainable business, and for taking a duty of care to the world that we live in.
Our experienced, expert team can guide you through every step of the ISO 14001 process, ensuring a positive outcome. Talk to us today to discover more.
You can put your trust in us, as we’ve worked hard to build a solid reputation helping clients like you achieve their business goals. Working across a wide range of business sectors, we collaborate with you to ensure a great outcome for everyone.
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