Greg Roberts, from the EEF, reports on recent developments to revise ISO 14004 and his first meeting as the UK's appointed technical expert
Earlier this month, I traveled to Rochester in the US and joined experts from all over the world, to launch the revision of ISO 14004, the environment management system (EMS) guidance standard.
It was the first full meeting of the technical committee (TC) responsible for revising the standard, and my first as the expert representing the UK. The TC is attended by representative from countries across the world, on this occasion, including Columbia, Canada, Spain, Japan and Australia.
There are likely to be another four TC meetings before the final revised standard is published in January 2015, and we are aiming to have a draft document published in December 2013 or January 2014.
Where ISO 14001 outlines the requirements to establishing an EMS, 14004 provides guidance to organisations that are implementing or are trying to improve their EMS. 14004 is not explicitly tied to 14001 as it is a guidance document to EMS in general. This allows the 14004 TC to provide guidance on areas not specifically covered in 14001.
One such area could be highlighting the role an EMS plays in corporate sustainability or how it can help with life-cycle thinking, areas which maybe referenced in 14001 but can be more fully explained in 14004.
The guidance provided has to be universal in that it can be used in all sectors in all countries of the world, so specific templates and approaches have to be avoided.
One area of considerable debate at the meeting in Rochester was the current section on the initial review. If proposed changes to 14001 go ahead then the scope of the initial review will have to be wider and include: the business context in which the EMS operates; impacts throughout the value chain; and the risks and opportunities the environment holds for the business, as well as the impact the business has on the environment.
As we begin this revision process, I am really interested to hear environment practitioners thoughts on the current version of 14004 and how it could be improved. Email your opinions and suggestions to: [email protected].
Greg Roberts is an environmental consultant at EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, and the UK expert on ISO’s technical committee for ISO 14004