Revising ISO 14001

21st June 2012

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IEMA sets out its position on the revision of the environment management systems (EMS) standard

The International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) is currently revising ISO 14001 – the leading independent standard for EMS. The most recent figures show that there are more than 250,000 accredited certifications across 155 countries.

The revised standard is expected to be adopted in 2015 and is likely to operate into the mid-2020s. As such, the updated version must provide organisations with the basis for managing existing and future environmental challenges and opportunities.

However, the revision also needs to ensure the standard remains accessible to a broad range of organisations, including small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), if its current success, growing at more than 25,000 certified organisations a year (see table, below), is to be maintained.

IEMA and its members have been providing expert knowledge and thought leadership on EMS for more than 20 years.

The Institute’s leadership in this area will continue with the revision of 14001, with Martin Baxter, IEMA executive director of policy, appointed by the British Standards Institution (BSI) as the UK’s national representative for the change.

He attended the first working group meeting on the revision of 14001 in Berlin in February 2012, with IEMA members receiving feedback on progress from the event via a webinar delivered on 16 March.

The next meeting, where issues relevant to IEMA’s position will be considered, will take place in Thailand at the end of June.

Commenting ahead of the meeting, Baxter said: “This revision provides an opportunity to ensure the standard establishes a firm basis for organisations to integrate the environment into their strategic goals and allow it to meet future environmental challenges. The contribution from IEMA members in providing user feedback gives a strong steer on key issues that need to be addressed in the revision.”

Gathering the evidence base

At the end of 2011 and beginning of this year, IEMA ran a series of workshops across the UK and Ireland bringing together more than 400 EMS practitioners, including operational environment managers, auditors, certification body representatives and senior environment professionals.

IEMA gathered their views on prioritising the 24 recommendations set out in the ISO report Future challenges of EMS, which form an integral part of the revision’s scope.

Based on the priorities identified through the workshops, the Institute conducted an online survey among its membership in April 2012 to gauge support for a series of key statements relating to the revision of 14001.

More than 1,650 environment professionals responded to the poll. They gave strong backing to all of the statements, with many endorsed by more than 90% of those participating in the survey.

Throughout the development of its position statement, IEMA has sought views from others with an interest in 14001. This includes those with environmental responsibilities in global businesses with multiple sites using an EMS. It has also consulted with regulators and policymakers who use EMSs to support compliance assurance and improve environmental outcomes.

While the focus of IEMA’s engagement activity was to inform professionals and organisations about the revision process, participants have also provided their views on the effectiveness of EMS implementation and the value of certification. These areas will feature in IEMA’s ongoing EMS activity.

IEMA’s position and key messages

IEMA has identified the following five areas the revision to 14001 needs to address if it is to make certain that existing and future users of the standard have an EMS capable of meeting the environmental challenges and opportunities of the next decade:

  • Build stronger links between the EMS and overall strategic direction – To remain at the fore of driving integration of the environment into organisational decision making, the revised standard must make stronger links between the EMS and an organisation’s overall strategy.

  • Consider impacts from a changing environment – 14001 needs to provide a framework for organisations to manage the risks and opportunities in a changing environment, in addition to managing their impacts on the environment.

  • Place greater emphasis on managing impacts across the value chain – 14001 needs to place more importance on managing environmental impacts across the whole life cycle of products and services, including across supply chains and in the development and use of products and services.

  • Integrate EMS requirements within core organisational procedures – ISO’s new high-level structure for management systems provides an opportunity for 14001 to ensure that the environment is integrated into the core management of businesses and other organisations.

  • Strengthen requirements on demonstration of legal compliance and performance improvement – 14001 needs to strengthen requirements around organisations demonstrating compliance with regulations and environmental performance improvement.

The revisions must also ensure that there is continuing clarity about the principal aim of the standard. It is IEMA’s view that this main aim should be to provide a framework through which organisations can deliver improvements in their environmental performance.

IEMA’s position on revising 14001, and the evidence it is based upon, can be found at on the Institute's website.

The position statement also covers IEMA’s views on:

  • linking an EMS to strategy;

  • legal compliance;

  • an accessible standard; and

  • strengthening requirements.

What might the future 14001 standard look like?

IEMA’s vision for the future of 14001 is a management standard that better prepares organisations to effectively manage both existing and future environmental challenges.

Organisations would integrate the environment into their strategic direction in order to recognise, and proactively respond to, risks and opportunities arising from increasing customer and stakeholder expectations; their own environmental impacts and those related to their supply chain; and the environment’s potential impacts on their business.

An increased number of SMEs would find the future standard more accessible through the use of the new ISO structure, its improved clarity and the simpler language around its requirements.

Actions to ensure 14001 meets the strategic needs of organisations in a clear and understandable manner will help to guarantee that the standard plays a key role as the world economy accelerates its efforts to decarbonise.

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