The latest review of the ISO 14001 Standard came in 2021, with no changes made during that review. Therefore, ISO 14001:2015 remains the current version of the Standard.
But, ISO 14001 has evolved over the years, with several revisions to bring the Standard to where it is today. So, we’ve provided an in-depth overview of the latest version of ISO 14001, so you can understand all the benefits certification can bring to your business.
The latest version of ISO 14001
The latest version of the ISO 14001 Standard offers many benefits that the previous version ISO 14001:2004 didn’t cover in much detail, if at all. As it stands, the latest version offers the following:
- Increased prominence of environmental management
- More leadership responsibilities
- Greater emphasis on protecting the environment
- Stronger focus on improving environmental performance
- Addresses environmental impact at all stages within product life cycle
- Better communication strategy
- More modern approach to documentation management
Why does ISO 14001:2015 need to be reviewed?
ISO management system Standards are reviewed and, when necessary, revised every 5 years to ensure they remain relevant to the marketplace. The latest ISO 14001 revisions resulted from a number of recent trends, including an increase in organisations recognising the need to factor in both external and internal elements that influence their environmental impact, including climate volatility.
How ISO 14001 clauses changes – what do they mean?
ISO 14001:2015 follows the Annex SL framework that is now used for all new ISO management system Standards. This means new Standards will be easier to understand and far more compatible, and the benefits of this mean you’ll save lots of time during internal and external audits of your management systems.
Clauses 4-10 are the main focuses of the latest version, so let’s take a look at the changes in more detail for each of those clauses and what they mean.
Clause 4 – Context of the Organisation
This was a new clause introduced which requires top management to understand how internal and external issues affect your organisation’s ability to meet the expectations of interested parties. The organisation needs to determine who are the relevant interested parties, i.e. stakeholders, and their expectations. These could include particular requirements for how the organisation manages its responsibilities towards the climate, availability of resources and applicable legislation.
Reflecting upon the internal and external issues enables a more accurate definition of the Scope of the Management System. The guiding principle of Clause 4 is therefore to unite the environmental management system with the organisation’s strategy. It encourages the development of processes that fit the organisation’s purpose and objectives. The Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) methodology is now intrinsic in all processes, so each one should be monitored to ensure that it fits with the organisation’s purpose and objectives.
Clause 5 – Leadership
This clause describes how top management now needs to be able to demonstrate a greater involvement in the Management System. Your management team must take leadership and not simply manage its implementation.
They need to ensure the management system is at the core of the business, not at the periphery. As part of this process, top management has to encourage participation throughout your business to ensure the management system is operated effectively and fully integrated into your organisation’s processes.
Clause 6 – Planning
Clause six offers details on enhanced requirements for planning, considering the potential for change, emergency situations and the response to abnormal conditions. There are enhanced requirements for determining the environmental aspects over which the organisation can exercise control, including a requirement to define the criteria used to identify environmental aspects.
A new requirement to consider the life cycle of products and services was introduced in clause six. The importance of considering legal obligations is also highlighted in the clause, specifying the requirements for addressing risks and opportunities, and replacing the need for preventive action. Your organisation needs to understand the environmental threats and benefits presented by its environmental aspects; to identify the risks faced and decide how they will be addressed. On the other hand, the organisation needs to consider possible environmental benefits and how to maximise such opportunities.
Clause 7 – Support
As part of the changes, Clause 7 includes a communications strategy with equal emphasis on external and internal communication. This includes a requirement for communicating consistent and reliable information so that employees can make suggestions about improving the EMS. Clause 7 also considers how your organisation should report upon external communications in respect of the requirements of regulatory bodies and external interested parties.
Clause 8 – operations
Clause 8 specifies requirements for consideration of the product life cycle. The organisation needs to ensure environmental requirements are addressed during any design and development activities. The idea that a product may eventually be disposed of should be considered and opportunities for recycling should therefore be designed into the product from the outset to reduce or avoid waste to landfill.
The organisation also needs to consider whether and how customers should be provided with guidance about environmental best practices when using its products and services. Clause 8 also features enhanced controls over the ‘value chain’, which includes outsourcing to manufacturers and sub-contractors.
Change control is being applied to changes in engineering controls and procedures. This is because change needs to be managed both during environmental design and development, as well as the documented information required by the Environmental Management System.
Clause 9 – Performance evaluation
One of the new clauses added as part of the ISO 14001 revisions is an entirely new clause made up of existing clauses. These include ‘Monitoring and measurement’ and ‘Management Review’. This new clause will guide organisations in the effective collection and assessment of evidence to prove their environmental management system is meeting business objectives.
Clause 10 – Performance evaluation
A structured approach for Clause 10 that was introduced that retained the principle behind the ‘Non-conformity and corrective action’ clause, but offers more detail in consideration of nonconformity.
With so many different ISO 14001 considerations to think about when developing your EMS, enlisting the help of a certification body can help you along.
Partnering with us gives you the chance to demonstrate your commitment to environmental management. And, we’ll be with you every step of the way to make sure you all the criteria of the Standard you need.