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What Is ISO 14001:2015 – Environmental Management Systems?

Quality Glossary Definition: ISO 14001

ISO 14001 is the international standard that specifies requirements for an effective environmental management system (EMS). It provides a framework that an organization can follow, rather than establishing environmental performance requirements.

Part of the ISO 14000 family of standards on environmental management, ISO 14001 is a voluntary standard that organizations can certify to. Integrating it with other management systems standards, most commonly ISO 9001, can further assist in accomplishing organizational goals.

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) defines an environmental management system as “part of the management system used to manage environmental aspects, fulfill compliance obligations, and address risks and opportunities.” The framework in the ISO 14001 standard can be used within a plan-do-check-act (PDCA) approach to continuous improvement.

WHO SHOULD USE The ISO 14001:2015 revision?

ISO 14001:2015 should be used by any organization that wishes to set up, improve, or maintain an environmental management system to conform with its established environmental policy and requirements. The requirements of the standard can be incorporated into any environmental management system, the extent to which is determined by several factors including the organization’s industry, environmental policy, products and service offerings, and location.

ISO 14001:2015 is relevant to all organizations, regardless of size, location, sector, or industry.

What topics does ISO 14001:2015 cover?

At the highest level, ISO 14001:2015 covers the following topics with regard to environmental management systems:

  • Context of the organization
  • Leadership
  • Planning
  • Support
  • Operation
  • Performance evaluation
  • Improvement

ISO 14001 Environmental Management Systems (EMS) Framework
ISO 14001 Environmental Management Systems (EMS) Framework

14001:2004 vs. 14001:2015

The 2015 revision of ISO 14001 introduces a number of changes from previous versions. A review of 20 years of research on this standard is available for ASQ member.   

As part of the effort to structure all ISO standards in the same way, the ISO 14001:2015 revisions include incorporating a required high-level structure, using mandatory definitions, and incorporating common standards requirements and clauses.

10 major areas of impact of the 2015 revision:

  1. Expansion in EMS coverage and scope
  2. Required interactions with external parties
  3. New requirements for leadership engagement
  4. Expanded legal compliance requirements
  5. Need for risk-based planning and controls
  6. New documentation requirements
  7. Expanded operational control requirements
  8. Changes in competence and awareness requirements
  9. Impacts on the internal audit program
  10. Increased certification costs

Integrating ISO 9001 and ISO 14001

Integrating management systems standards can increase focus while reducing the potential for confusion. Elements of ISO 9001 can be enhanced with corresponding components of ISO 14001.

Responsibilities for the combined standards might include:

  • Drafting a policy statement and quantifiable objectives
  • Setting up organizational charts and job descriptions
  • Providing adequate resources
  • Managing documentation for both standards in a single document control system
  • Appointing a management representative as well as coordinators for the quality and environmental managements systems

When adding ISO 14001 components to those of ISO 9001, planning must be expanded to deal with environmental impacts, and the inspection and test systems modified to cover environmental conformance. The organization must meet the environmental expectations of customers and the government, and it must incorporate environmental management elements into internal audit programs and training sessions.

ISO 14001 can be integrated with standards besides ISO 9001 in order to provide synergy with other systems, such as OHSAS 18001 and ISO 13485.

What are the Benefits of ISO 14001:2015?

Using ISO 14001:2015 has many benefits for organizations with environmental management systems. Organizations and companies find that using the standard helps them:

  • Improve resource efficiency
  • Reduce waste
  • Drive down costs
  • Provide assurance that environmental impact is being measured
  • Gain competitive advantage in supply chain design
  • Increase new business opportunities
  • Meet legal obligations
  • Increase stakeholder and customer trust
  • Improve overall environmental impact
  • Manage environmental obligations with consistency 

ISO 14001 Certification

Organizations that have already achieved ISO 14001 certification are encouraged to transition to the 2015 version. Organizations will have a three-year transition period to update their environmental management systems to the new standard.

To get started with ISO 14001:2015:

ISO 14000 Family of Standards

ISO 14001 is the most popular standard of the ISO 14000 family, which also includes standards such as the following:

ISO 14001 Resources

You can also search articles, case studies, and publications for ISO 14001 resources.


The ISO 14001:2015 Implementation Handbook

A Practical Field Guide For ISO 14001:2015

Articles and Case Studies

ISO 14001 Standard: Literature Review And Theory-Based Research Agenda (Quality Management Journal) Environmental sustainability has gained momentum in the business world and academia. After about 20 years of research in this field, this paper presents a holistic literature review specifically focused on ISO 14001, which is widely considered the most important environmental certification.

Stewardship And Sustainability: Serigraph's Journey To ISO 14001 (Journal for Quality and Participation) Leaders of Serigraph understand that sustainability and social responsibility require the simultaneous promotion of equitable economic growth, environmental protection, and social well-being. Serigraph uses ISO 14001, Six Sigma, and lean as its templates for environmental and sustainability improvement.

A Framework For The Development Of An Environmental Management System: A Case Study In A Thermal Power Plant (Quality Engineering) Questions regarding implementation of ISO 14001 prompted NP Power, the electric power company of New Brunswick, Canada, to develop a framework to assess its compliance to the standards.

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