New generic structure for ISO 14001 likely

18th July 2011


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IEMA

The next version of ISO 14001 is likely to be written in line with a new high-level structure under consideration for all ISO management system standards.

The proposed format outlines identical text for use across management system standards covering common core-management activities and requirements, such as defining the scope of the management system and ensuring top management commitment, and then provides a structure for the inclusion of topic-specific needs.

“If a company wants to manage its environmental impact, its quality and security, it only needs one system for document control and one process of competency evaluation,” explains Martin Baxter, director of policy at IEMA.

“The proposed new structure recognises that businesses only need one management system, one that has the flexibility to allow them to manage different issues.”

ISO’s national member bodies, including the British Standards Institute, are currently scrutinising the structure and have until 5 September to vote on its adoption.

The intention has been to provide simplification for companies that are using several different standards, but the structure could also lead to the greater integration of environmental measures in organisations, believes Baxter.

“Rewriting the standard using this structure will force businesses to look at this standard in a different way and will really test how effective the systems they have in place are in managing their environment impact,” he says.

The proposal to adopt the new structure was considered at a meeting of the ISO technical committee on environmental management (ISO/TC 207/SC1) in Oslo last month, where the scope of the current revision of 14001 was also debated.

The development of ISO 14046, a water footprinting standard, was also discussed and the debate over the communication elements of the carbon footprinting standard ISO 14067 continued.

The Oslo meeting followed the publication of ISO 50001, the international energy management system standard based on BS EN 16001.

There has been a mixed reaction to the new standard, with supporters claiming it offers organisations a more comprehensive approach to managing energy consumption, while critics have questioned whether there is a need for such a system with very few 16001 certifications, and with 14001 providing a framework to manage all environmental impacts of an organisation, including energy. The German Federal Environment Agency found that only 150 sites worldwide had 16001 at the start of May.

“There is a fundamental question of why create a single-issue management system at all. In any organisation where energy consumption is significant, it should be managed through an environmental management system, and if a business is managing its energy consumption, it should be managing waste and water too,” argues IEMA’s Baxter. “Focusing only on one issue stops an organisation from realising the benefits that can be derived from taking a holistic approach to environmental management.”

According to Paul Reeve, head of environment at the Electrical Contractors’ Association, the emphasis on cost savings in 50001 may be its saving grace. “If the rationale for this standard was solely to manage carbon impacts, then 14001 has shown time and again that, when backed up with top management support, it is well suited to tackling such selected environmental impacts,” he said.

A copy of the proposed new ISO structure is accessible by IEMA members from www.iema.net.

The revision process is unlikely to be completed – including drafting new text, balloting, and translation into different languages – until 2014/15.


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