Organizations are increasingly conscious of the environmental consequences of their operations, with many turning to ISO 14001 as a solution.
The international standard establishes a framework to help you tackle various issues, from waste management and water treatment to pollution. It contains the specifications for creating an EMS (Environmental Management System), which you can use to reduce the damage your operations cause to the world around you while remaining productive.
Find out what ISO 14001 means for your organization.
What Is an Environmental Management System?
An EMS is a framework that organizations use to manage, monitor, and continually improve their ability to protect the environment by enhancing their environmental performance and fulfillment of compliance obligations. It’s the central feature of ISO 14001, providing a systematic way to:
- Identify environmental aspects.
- Set objectives.
- Implement corrective actions.
- Support regulatory compliance.
The framework was developed by the ISO (International Organization for Standardization), a non-governmental body comprised of independent experts. Its guidance is highly customizable and is built around risk management. You should use ISO 14001 to identify environmental challenges specific to your operations and then develop appropriate solutions.
Discover other ways to demonstrate green initiatives with our guide to energy management.
Benefits of an ISO 14001-Certified Environmental Management System
By implementing an EMS in line with ISO 14001’s specifications, your organization will have the tools to manage its environmental concerns. But to receive the system’s full benefits, you should seek certification through an accredited third party. This provides independent verification that your EMS meets the standard’s requirements and enables you to promote it to clients, suppliers, and customers.
Certifying to ISO 14001 will provide your organization with a framework to help achieve objectives such as:
- Reduce your carbon footprint – you can use resources more efficiently, reducing unnecessary consumption.
- Gain a competitive advantage – by demonstrating a commitment to environmental responsibility, you can stand out against the competition and potentially win new clients.
- Strengthen your reputation – sustainable business practices are highly valued by suppliers, third parties, and customers.
- Improve risk management – the EMS contains processes to help you identify and address ways your operations can harm the environment.
- Meet regulatory compliance – prioritizing sustainable business practices helps you meet legal requirements and industry-specific regulations.
- Continually improve – regular reviews and updates of the EMS help you improve the performance of your EMS.
Read our guide to learn more about the benefits of ISO certification.
Who Should Use ISO 14001?
ISO 14001 is the global benchmark for environmental management. By adhering to its specifications, organizations showcase their commitment to the improvement of their environmental performance, protection of the environment, and compliance to environmental regulations and other requirements.
It’s highly versatile and industry-neutral, meaning organizations of all sizes and sectors can use ISO 14001. That includes public- and private-sector firms, but the standard is especially useful for those in highly regulated sectors.
It also helps organizations promote environmental responsibility to their clients. The majority of consumers may be willing to pay more for products that are produced sustainably, and ISO 14001 certification is the perfect way to verify your commitment to green initiatives.
Want more tips on environmental management? Take a look at our ten tips for sustainable business practices.
How To Implement ISO 14001
The ISO 14001 implementation project contains five stages:
1. Environmental Policy
When creating the EMS, your first task is to document its objectives and commitment to continuous improvement. The environmental policy provides direction for the implementation process and should be communicated to all stakeholders.
Next, you must identify business activities that could have a negative environmental impact on the world around you.
You should also confirm the resources available for creating your management system and set clear objectives for managing those risks. Additionally, you should determine roles and responsibilities for the EMS. You should also consider your legal requirements and any essential operations that could be affected by implementing an EMS.
At this stage, you can put the controls that manage your environmental aspects in place. Depending on the risks you’re addressing, this could include new procedures and technologies, staff awareness training, or emergency response plans.
4. Internal Audit, and Corrective Action
After implementing the EMS, you should ensure that it works as intended. It’s common to experience problems with your controls, and you might find that further work is required to fully address certain environmental risks.
That’s why the internal audit and corrective actions stage are crucial. You should carefully evaluate and monitor the EMS, identify discrepancies and non-conformities, and understand what’s gone wrong. From there, you can take steps to rectify the issues and test it again to make sure the problem is solved.
5. Monitoring and Management Review
Management reviews are another way to continually improve your EMS and align it with your objectives. Whereas the previous stage focuses on practical issues related to your conformance with the standard’s specifications, this section takes a broader look at the system’s applicability and effectiveness.
Senior management is responsible for monitoring the performance of the EMS and ensuring that it remains in line with your objectives. They can then suggest changes and improvements to your policies or controls.
What’s the Meaning of ISO 14001 Certification?
ISO 14001 certification is a formal recognition from an external body that your EMS meets the standard’s specifications. Certifying to ISO 14001 means that your systems meet internationally acknowledged best practices, and it’s a testament to your organization’s commitment to environmental responsibility.
The initial certification process is a two-stage audit performed by an independent auditor. They will evaluate your documentation and then perform an on-site assessment to ensure the EMS has been implemented correctly.
Download our free guide to learn more about the ISO certification process.
For more information on the meaning of accredited ISO certification go to: https://iaf.nu/general_information/expected-outcomes-for-accredited-certication-to-iso-management-system-standards-such-as-iso-9001-and-iso-14001/
How We Can Help
Our team of expert auditors can help your company achieve ISO 14001 certification with our complete certification services. Orion Registrar is ANAB-accredited and authorized to perform certification audits against various management system standards.