ISO 14001 helps organisations to meet their legal obligations and improve environmental performance, but the revised standard should include tougher requirements on pollution prevention, a global poll of users finds
ISO has published the results of a survey on improving the environment management systems (EMS) standard. The “continual improvement” survey, which was conducted in early 2013, prompted nearly 5,000 responses from 110 countries, with more than half the feedback coming from organisations using the standard.
The results reveal that users believe 14001 brings significant value to their business by ensuring legal compliance (77%), boosting environmental performance (74%), and engaging managers (68%) and employees (62%). The respondents also report that the standard helps them to meet the requirements of their stakeholders (58%), improve their public image (58%) and ensure strategic objectives are met (55%).
The survey asked users the extent to which 14001 and its accompanying guidance should be strengthened in relation to the 19 areas identified by ISO in 2010 as “future challenges”. Pollution prevention is the area respondents feel is most in need of fortifying, followed by lifecycle thinking and resource efficiency.
In the latest draft of the standard, which ISO members in January, a second requirement to “protect the environment” has been introduced to strengthened the commitment to prevent pollution. The text suggests that organisations could do this by ensuring sustainable resource use.
The survey also asked users how often they use annex A of 14001 and ISO 14004 and how useful they find the guidance. Although most users say they find both documents useful, around three-quarters also reveal that they rarely, if ever, refer to them. When asked how the guidance could be improved, the most frequently cited response is to improve their clarity and to further expand the content.
The survey report recommends that the ISO working groups tasked with revising 14001 and 14004 should ensure the language and phrasing used in both is “clear and simple”. It also suggests the addition of more practical examples of how to implement an EMS in 14004, and that more should be done to improve awareness of the guidance documents.