Transition to New Standard ISO 14001:2015

           Carbon and Climate

ISO 14001, the most widely known standard for an Environmental Management System (EMS), was updated last year to the newly-named ISO 14001:2015. Those companies that already hold the voluntary accreditation have three years to upgrade, so now is the time to think about transitioning to the new standard.

An EMS is a planned and documented approach to embedding environmental management at the heart of your business processes and strategy. Crucially, it involves a high level of staff engagement and often utilises tools and practices that are already in place within the business, which can be built upon to meet the requirements of the EMS framework. By involving all employees at an early stage, this helps to shape the approach to the EMS, making it relevant to that particular business. The ISO 14001 management system follows the conventional cycle of Plan-Do-Check-Act and so is open to continuous adjustments, in line with business requirements.

More than 300,000 certificates have been issued across the world, and companies that are accredited have experienced a range of benefits such as the management of resource consumption and improvements to waste and recycling processes, leading to efficiencies and cost-savings. Possession of the standard indicates to customers that the company has a high level of both commitment and proficiency. It also improves supply chain credentials because accredited businesses can use the knowledge gained to demand excellence from their suppliers.

Accredited companies making the transition to the new standard will need to incorporate five major changes into their EMS. These are:

  •  Consider the context of the organisation. Identify internal and external issues and how they could affect your intended outcomes.
  • Leadership commitment. Management review outputs should include any implications for the organisations business strategy as a whole.
  • Know your risks and opportunities. Once these are identified, take action to address them.
  • Take a lifecycle perspective when identifying aspects and impacts, i.e. from raw material acquisition, or generation from natural resources to end-of-life treatment.
  • Identify and communicate with stakeholders.

A useful first step to making the transition to the new standard is to carry out a gap analysis, and when implementing the resulting action plan, top management should be involved so that the EMS is in line with the strategic direction of the company.

Companies that have already implemented the new version have found that it raises the bar by requiring the commitment of senior staff members working closely with other decision makers within the business. The inclusion of the lifecycle element was the biggest concern for many, as it was more difficult to define the scope of the EMS and to obtain information. However, companies can decide to focus on the areas that have a major impact and put an action plan in place for these.

A lesser known fact about these standards is that ISO is not actually an acronym but derives from the Greek word isos, which means equal. A short, meaningful name was chosen because the organisation’s name, the International Organisation for Standardisation, would vary in different languages. More information on the organisation can be found here.

Nikki Wilson

Nikki joined Alfa Energy in September 2015 as a Carbon Management Consultant where she advises clients on legislation, compliance, and the implementation of carbon management schemes. She is a Practitioner member of IEMA, has a postgraduate diploma in Environmental Decision Making, and has over 15 years’ experience in energy consultancy.