ISO 14001 versus ISO 50001 – What are the Differences?


Businesses looking to become more environmentally responsible are increasingly turning to ISO 14001 – Environmental Management to help them. But there is a separate Standard, ISO 50001 Energy Management, which can be confusing for businesses who are unsure which Standard to use.

To determine which Standard is most appropriate – and indeed if both are needed – let’s examine what each Standard was designed to do and how ISO 14001 differs from ISO 50001.

What is ISO 14001?

ISO 14001 is the Environmental Management Standard. It sets out the criteria for implementing an Environmental Management System (EMS) which is aimed at helping businesses to manage their environmental responsibilities.

This Standard was designed to help businesses measure and improve their environmental impact to ensure that their business practices have minimal impact on the environment around them. This can include implementing efforts to limit landfill waste, source more sustainable materials, and reduce the potential for the pollution of local water sources.

An ISO 14001 EMS can help businesses save money by reducing their energy and water consumption and by limiting waste sent to landfills.

Find out more about ISO 14001.

What is ISO 50001?

ISO 50001 is the Energy Management Standard. It sets out the criteria for implementing an Energy Management System (EnMS) which is aimed at improving energy performance and reducing its use.

This Standard was designed to help tackle climate change by reducing greenhouse gas (CO2) emissions, improving efficiency and reducing consumption. This can include implementing efforts to monitor emissions and energy usage, as well as sourcing energy from renewable sources.

ISO 50001 EnMS can help businesses reduce their energy costs by minimising energy usage and evaluating their energy sources.

Find out more about ISO 50001

How do ISO 14001 and ISO 50001 overlap?

ISO 14001 and ISO 50001 share a few similarities in their respective approaches. These include:

Sustainability focus

The biggest overlap, and the one that can cause confusion between the two Standards, is that from the perspective of sustainability, energy use and the environment are interconnected. Energy use affects the sustainability of natural resources (oil, gas, fossil fuels etc.), can cause increases in the emission of greenhouse gases and can encourage global warming. By-products of energy generation can also impact heavily on the environment. Given this, it could be argued that a business need only look to ISO 14001 rather than ISO 50001, especially if their goal is to reduce their environmental impact.

Management system methodology

Generally, the Standards both take a similar approach to implementing a Management System. Both Standards focus on the Plan Do Check Act methodology and encourage participation from top management. They also encourage the monitoring, measurement and analysis of issues to alleviate the root cause and prevent similar problems in the future. Training is a large focus in both Standards, with both impressing how important it is that staff are aware of the Management System and their responsibilities in it.

Standard structures

Another similarity is the structure of the Standards. As with all recently updated ISO Standards, both ISO 14001 : 2015 and ISO 50001 : 2018 use the Annex-SL High Level Structure. This means that it is far easier to implement these two Standards with one another, and with other similarly structured Standards.

What are the differences between ISO 14001 and ISO 50001?

There are several notable differences between ISO 14001 and ISO 50001 to consider:


The main difference between ISO 14001 and ISO 50001 is the scope of the Standards. ISO 50001 specifically targets energy usage, focusing on energy performance indicators and a business’ energy baseline. On the other hand, ISO 14001 addresses environmental protection in general, encompassing resource use, waste management and pollution.

Under ISO 14001, energy use is considered only concerning its impact on environmental performance. ISO 50001 scrutinises energy use by assessing the design of the equipment, systems and processes, aiming to minimise their impact on poor energy performance.

Documented information

Another difference is that there is a larger list of mandatory documented information under ISO 50001 when compared to ISO 14001. This includes documents and records on such topics as the energy planning process, energy reviews, the energy baseline, the energy performance indicators (EnPIs) and any energy purchasing specifications.

ESOS compliance

ISO 50001 can also help larger organisations with the Government’s Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS). A UKAS-certified ISO 50001 implementation automatically fulfils their obligations under the scheme – all businesses need to do is inform the Environment Agency of their compliance.

ISO 14001 versus ISO 50001 – How to decide?

To decide which ISO Standard is best for your business, you need to consider which is more important to you as a business: reducing your environmental impact, becoming more energy efficient, or both?

For small or medium businesses, ISO 14001 will probably address all three of these goals. It provides the tools needed to reduce environmental impact and encourages businesses to think about energy efficiency regarding that goal.

For larger businesses, particularly those that use a lot of energy, ISO 50001 is probably going to be the best bet, especially if reducing that energy usage is the main goal. Reducing the environmental impact of the business will come as an additional benefit, in terms of energy use at least.

If reducing environmental impact is also a goal for larger businesses, then implementing ISO 14001, in addition to or integrated with ISO 50001, is also an option. Both ISO Standards can be implemented together quite easily due to their shared structure.

What are the benefits of implementing ISO 14001 and 50001?

Implementing both ISO 14001 and 50001 provides a dual-focused strategy, optimising environmental sustainability, while specifically targeting energy efficiency, thereby fostering a well-rounded and efficient organisation.

ISO 14001 benefits:

  • Environmental compliance: Helps compliance with environmental regulations, reducing the risk of legal issues.
  • Resource efficiency: Promotes efficient resource use, waste reduction, and pollution prevention.
  • Enhanced reputation: Demonstrates commitment to environmental responsibility, improving the organisation’s public image.
  • Cost savings: Identifies opportunities for cost-effective environmental management and resource conservation.

ISO 50001 benefits:

  • Energy efficiency: Systematically manages energy use, leading to improved energy performance and reduced consumption.
  • Financial savings: Identifies energy-saving opportunities, resulting in cost savings through optimised energy management.
  • ESOS compliance: Streamlines compliance with energy regulations, such as the UK’s Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS).
  • Competitive Advantage: enhances competitiveness by demonstrating commitment to sustainable and energy-efficient practices.

Be sustainable with Citation ISO Certification!

Empower your business to thrive sustainably by obtaining an ISO 14001 and/or ISO 50001 certification with our expert ISO services. With our integrated management systems, you can manage multiple ISOs from one accessible place.

To find out how we can assist you with preparations for a UKAS certification, speak to one of our ISO Certification Advisors by calling 0370 218 6618 or emailing [email protected].

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About the author

  • Name:

    Michelle-Louise Janion

  • Company:

    Marketing Executive

  • Bio:

    Michelle worked for Citation ISO Certification from 2017 to 2019, producing engaging content around ISO Standards and other compliance related topics.


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