ISO 14001:2015 – Putting the changes in perspective

We are all trying to digest the new ISO 14001:2015 standard and the changes needed to our environmental management systems (EMS). ISO is definitely “nudging” companies to take a more comprehensive look at their operations including supply chain management. Here is a brief overview of the main changes.

The Five Main Changes

The standard will look and feel quite different and there are numerous changes throughout the document. However, we have used our practical knowledge of the revised standard to condense the changes into five main areas which are presented in Figure 1 and explained below:

Strategic Leadership

Your cross functional senior managers will need to promote and be accountable for the EMS and ensure it achieves its intended outcomes. Your EMS should be integrated with your other business processes and compatible with your strategy so that decisions are made with consideration for the environment at all levels. Your environmental policy requires a commitment to environmental protection not just prevention of pollution. Specific commitments to sustainability principles are also encouraged.

Strategic Context

You will be expected to demonstrate a broader understanding of the context in which you operate and ensure your EMS responds in order to meet its intended outcome. This requires an understanding of your organizations direction, culture and resources and external influences. The new standard flips the question “what’s your impact on the environment?” to also consider the impact of the environment on you (your organization), for example climate change and resource scarcity.

Interested Party Analysis and Communication

Your EMS will need to become more outward looking by understanding the needs and expectations of your interested parties or stakeholders (customers, local communities, regulators, NGOs etc). This process will identify your stakeholders’ requirements and which of these will become compliance obligations. Compliance obligations are the new legal and other requirements and include stakeholder requirements with which you are either legally bound to comply or can choose to adopt, such as a customer requirement or industry agreement. In addition to a compliance obligation register, you will also need to plan communication relevant to your obligations. Robust monitoring and measurement and internal auditing processes are required to provide reliable communication.

Risks and Opportunities

There are three principle sources of risk and opportunity: environmental aspects, compliance obligations and other issues and requirements. You are required to assess these sources for risks and opportunities that need to be addressed to ensure the success of your EMS and benefit the organization as a whole.

Life Cycle

You should determine environmental aspects at each stage of the life cycle of your product or service (acquisition of raw materials, design, production, transportation/delivery, use, end of life treatment and final disposal) and not just those relating to onsite activities. Where appropriate,environmental requirements can be included at the design stage and during procurement and information about potential significant environmental impacts can be provided during the delivery, use and end- of -life treatment of the product or service.

If you need help understanding how these changes impact your EMS you may benefit from our Making the Transition to ISO 14001:2015 training program.

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