ISO 14001 - a global standard bearer

29th September 2017


A quarter of a century after the British Standards Institution launched the world’s first environmental management standard, the now global ISO 14001 remains a bedrock of common-sense guidance. David Fatscher reports

Twenty-five years ago, the momentous 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development – popularly known as the Rio Earth Summit – took place. The conference was a watershed moment for global acceptance that an international, strategic approach to environmental governance was needed. Also in 1992, the British Standards Institution (BSI) launched the world’s first environmental management standard.

Known as BS 7750 Specification for Environmental Management Systems, the original standard had a simple but novel aim: to provide a template for organisations of all shapes and sizes to improve their environmental performance. The success of this pioneering British Standard led to the creation of the global standard ISO 14001 in 1996, exporting the principles outlined in the original standard to a global audience.

The journey of standards development is always one of continual adaptation. In 2015, ISO 14001 was thoroughly revised to bring it up to date with current thinking that an environmental management system standard must be incorporated into an organisation’s wider management structure: in other words, environmental leadership and objectives should be at the heart of its overall strategy and objectives.

ISO 14001 continues to help organisations to better identify – and reduce or remove – their environmental impacts and improve their overall environmental performance by looking at processes across the whole operation. A root-and-branch approach enables decision-makers to identify gaps in effectiveness, improving efficiency in day-to-day operations – a win-win for both the environment and the bottom line.

Helping organisations meet regulatory requirements, and assisting with the development and implementation of routine improvements to productivity, continues to form the basis of ISO 14001. When a company benefits from improved environmental policies and efficiencies, improvements are passed onto the customer and the wider public. The international standard acknowledges that no two organisations are identical. An environmental management standard should be relevant and accessible for all.

ISO 14001 also helps register the needs of interested parties and the ‘context’ in which the organisation operates.

Reputational management remains an ever-growing concern, and ISO 14001 provides a template for maximising environmental management – as well as mitigating any risks. The economic and environmental benefits of widespread adoption of an environmental management standard are unequivocal: reduced costs, improved productivity and resilience.

More than 17,000 organisations in the UK and 340,000 worldwide are now certified to ISO 14001 . The key to its enduring success is its suitability for operations of all shapes and sizes, irrespective of sector, and its relevance to both products and services. From small stationery suppliers to international vehicle manufacturers, universities to recycling centres, ISO 14001 is a bedrock of common-sense guidance.

Twenty-five years ago, the UK led the world in developing an environmental management standard and a proven and powerful tool for business improvement. Here’s to the next 25 years of enabling organisations to grow more sustainably.

David Fatscher is head of market development for sustainability at BSI

Subscribe

Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.


Transform articles

IEMA reviews political party manifestos

Ahead of the UK general election next month, IEMA has analysed the Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat, and Green Party manifestos in relation to the sustainability agenda.

19th June 2024

Read more

Nine in 10 UK adults do not fully trust brands to accurately portray their climate commitments or follow the science all the time, a new survey has uncovered.

19th June 2024

Read more

Just one in 20 workers aged 27 and under have the skills needed to help drive the net-zero transition, compared with one in eight of the workforce as a whole, new LinkedIn data suggests.

18th June 2024

Read more

Consumers are flexing their purchasing power in support of more sustainable products and services. Dr Andrew Coburn, CEO of sustainability intelligence and analytics firm, Risilience, considers the risk of greenwashing and sets out three key steps businesses can take to avoid the pitfalls and meet the opportunities of changing consumer demand.

18th June 2024

Read more

With a Taskforce on Inequality and Social-related Financial Disclosures in the pipeline, Beth Knight talks to Chris Seekings about increased recognition of social sustainability

6th June 2024

Read more

Disinformation about the impossibility of averting the climate crisis is part of an alarming turn in denialist tactics, writes David Burrows

6th June 2024

Read more

While biodiversity net gain is now making inroads, marine net gain is still in its infancy. Ed Walker explores the balance between enabling development and safeguarding our marine environment

6th June 2024

Read more

David Symons, FIEMA, director of sustainability at WSP, and IEMA’s Lesley Wilson, tell Chris Seekings why a growing number of organisations are turning to nature-based solutions to meet their climate goals

6th June 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close