UK votes to take 14001 to DIS

17th January 2014

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Daniela Eigner

The UK's national group working on the revision of ISO 14001 has voted in favour of taking the latest draft text to the next stage, and proposed a new definition of risk

Following feedback from businesses, certification auditors and practitioners on the second committee draft (CD2) of the revised environment management standard, the UK national mirror group has agreed the text should be put forward to become a draft international standard (DIS).

Martin Baxter, IEMA’s executive director of policy and a member of the group, confirmed that consensus had been reached following meetings on 16 December and 9 January. “The UK is supportive of the direction of the revision and, broadly, the content of the proposed text,” he said. “While we are submitting comments on text, the UK is voting yes to go the next stage.”

In its comments on the revised text, the UK working group has responded to ISO’s request for suggestions to help users better understand risks and opportunities as they apply in the standard.

CD2 included the definition of risk used in ISO’s high-level structure for management standards: “the effect of uncertainty”. However, with the revision to 14001 consistently referencing risks alongside opportunities, the UK has proposed an alternative definition: “The threat of uncertainty on organisational objectives and performance.”

The suggested change clarifies that “risks” – within the context of 14001 – have a negative consequence, said Baxter. “The way the word ‘risk’ is used in this standard implies that it is an adverse effect on the organisation. The definition we are proposing makes that explicit and ensures that users are aware that threats and opportunities working together,” he said.

The UK’s definition of risk also provides more clarity for users and auditors of the types of threats they need to consider. “With the current definition, ‘the effect of uncertainty’, it can leave users asking ‘uncertainty on what?’. Our comments suggest tying this down specifically to organisational objectives and performance, and we believe this works well with the new section on risk and opportunities in the standard,” explained Baxter.

ISO member countries have until 23 January to feedback their comments on CD2 and vote on whether they support the text being moved to the DIS stage. According to Baxter, there are no indications yet of whether other ISO countries are also going to back the CD2 text. However, following a meeting with practitioners from leading UK businesses, he confirmed that industry back the revisions.

“Companies are supportive of the changes to make 14001 a more strategic tool and of using the standard to manage the impacts of the environment on the organisation, as well as their impacts on the environment,” said Baxter.

“The main challenge firms see is in ensuring that external auditors will have the competence and capability to audit at the level that’s going to be required.”

The outcome of the consultation on CD2 and whether it will be progressed to a DIS will be discussed at next meeting of the ISO working group, which takes place between 25 February and 1 March.

For more information on ISO 14001 CD2 read Martin Baxter’s article in this month’s issue

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