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 is causing confusion for businesses who are unsure which Standard to use.

In order 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) that 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 are having 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 landfill.

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) that 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.

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

Find out more about ISO 50001

How do ISO 14001 and ISO 50001 overlap?

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.

In general, 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 in order 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.

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?

When it comes to the differences between ISO 14001 and ISO 50001, the main difference is the scope of the Standards. Whilst both Standards provide businesses with ways to protect the environment through policies, objectives and processes, ISO 50001 narrows its focus to energy usage whereas ISO 14001 looks at environmental protection in general.

Think of it in terms of the key considerations of each Standard. ISO 14001 looks at resource use, waste management and pollution, whereas ISO 50001 is interested in energy performance indicators and a business’s energy baseline. So, while energy use would fall under ISO 14001, it would only be covered insofar as it affects environmental performance. With ISO 50001 however, energy use would be examined by looking at the design of the equipment, systems and processes used so that their impact on poor energy performance is reduced.

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.

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 do is inform the Environment Agency of their compliance.

ISO 14001 versus ISO 50001 – How to decide?

In order to decide which 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 in relation to that goal.

For larger businesses, particularly those who 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 Standards can be implemented together quite easily due to their shared structure.

To find out more about managing energy consumption within your business either through ISO 14001 or ISO 50001,  or how we can assist you with preparations for a UKAS certification, please speak to one of our ISO Certification Advisors by calling 0333 344 3646 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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