14001 is 'raising its game'

10th April 2013

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  • EMS ,
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Revisions to ISO 14001 will ensure that environment management systems (EMSs) offer greater value to organisations and that the environment is considered at the strategic level, according to IEMA's Martin Baxter, after ISO's publication of the draft standard

The committee draft, which is out for consultation, includes changes recommended in a 2010 report on the future challenges for EMS. These include: requiring that EMSs are integrated into business processes and that organisations consider environmental impacts across value chains.

“The new standard pushes the links into organisational strategy and top management much more, and it requires environment management to be integrated into the core organisational process, rather than sit on the side,” confirmed Baxter, IEMA’s policy director and the UK representative on the ISO working group revising 14001.

“Another positive change is the focus on risks and opportunities, particularly the enabling side of an EMS and how it can add value to the business, not just manage negative impacts. These are all areas which are aimed at raising the game of 14001 in organisations,” he said.

Greg Roberts, a member of the ISO group revising ISO 14004, which provides guidance on the implementing, maintaining and improving an EMS, and a consultant at EEF, agreed: “The draft standard is definitely a step forward. The changes are going to make 14001 more outward-looking, more strategic and more important for businesses. Practitioners will be able to use it to really add value to their organisation and demonstrate the business case behind 14001.”

Additional requirements in the draft standard include: ensuring that environmental performance is considered in the organisation’s strategic plans; identifying stakeholders and their needs; determining the external environmental risks that can have an impact on the organisation; and controlling or influencing the significant environmental impacts of products and services across their life cycle.

14001 is also the first core management systems standard to be revised in line with ISO’s new high-level structure. Roberts warned that the new standard might come as a shock to some organisations. “It looks and feels quite different from the current 14001. Those organisations that use one person to manage their EMS will struggle to meet the new requirements on senior leadership and implementing the EMS throughout their organisation.”

However, Baxter said that firms employing environment professionals should be prepared. “IEMA members contributed what they wanted to see in the revision and, for the most part, those are the changes that are in the new version.

“There will be issues for those companies that only use 14001 as a tick box – where they have it because it is a customer requirement, but don’t actually use it to drive environmental performance. These are the firms that will find it difficult to transition to the new standard.”

Initial reaction from practitioners has been positive, confirmed Baxter. “The feedback we’ve been getting from our members is that this is going in absolutely the right direction. We’ve run a number of workshops and people like most of the features in the proposed revision and can see their benefits. Whether it’s engaging with stakeholders; pushing environment into strategic planning or taking a life-cycle perspective, these are seen as really useful and have a lot of support.”

IEMA members can download the committee draft from iema.net and have until 22 April to email their comments to technical@iema.net.

Feedback from all of ISO’s members will be discussed at the next 14001 technical committee meeting in Botswana in June. The revised standard is expected to be published at the beginning of 2015.

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