You are on page 1of 5

ISO 14001 Environmental Management Systems 1


WHAT IS AN ENVIRONMENTAL • Two-way communication of

MANAGEMENT SYSTEM? essential information on
environmental performance and
Informal Description issues, both vertically and
horizontally within the organization,
An environmental management
and between the organization and
system (EMS) is like a tool box equipped
external ‘stakeholders’.
with a complete set of all the various
types of tools and implements needed
by organizations to build and maintain
policies and procedures for effective, Official ISO 14001 Standard
efficient management of environmental Definition
issues. Examples of the kinds of ‘tools’
The part of the overall
needed to construct and support an management system that includes
environmental management system organizational structure, planning
include: activities, responsibilities,
practices, procedures, processes,
• Knowledge and awareness of and resources for developing,
environmental concerns, and plans implementing, achieving,
for dealing with them. reviewing, and maintaining the
environmental policy.
• Trained, competent personnel at all
levels in the organization with clear
roles, responsibilities, and ABOUT ISO – INTERNATIONAL
accountabilities for handling ORGANIZATION FOR
environmental matters.
• Consistent operating,
ISO was founded in 1947, and has
communication, reporting, and
its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.
recording procedures for all
There are currently 136 member
activities that have a potential for
countries in ISO, each represented by
affecting the environment. These
their National Standards body; 91 are
procedures must be designed to
full member countries; 34 are
eliminate or at least minimize
‘correspondent’ countries; and there are
impacts by the organization on the
11 subscriber members. Thailand (Thai
Industrial Standards Institute – TISI) and
• Frequent monitoring and recording Vietnam (Directorate for Standards and
of the performance of individuals, Quality – TCVN) are full members of
departments, and operations. ISO. Cambodia (Industrial Standards
Bureau - ISC) is a subscriber member,
• Timely and appropriate response to
which entitles representatives in the
environmental problems focusing on
country to receive information on draft
immediate corrective actions, and
standards but not to vote on them. Lao
follow-up measures to prevent
PDR is not yet represented in ISO.

Last Revised 10/18/2001

2 ISO 14001 Environmental Management Systems

The objective of ISO is to promote ISO Standards

consistency and standardization of ISO had issued more than 13,000
design and performance criteria standards by the end of the year 2000.
worldwide, with the purpose of Almost all apply to industrial
improving the safety of product manufacturing, services, or
applications, and assisting the exchange measurements. Some of the better
of goods and services across national known standards relate to:
boundaries. Because ISO is
multinational in composition, the • Photographic film speed (e.g., ISO
organization also strives to foster 100, 200, 400)
cooperation in intellectual, scientific, • Uniform thickness and dimensions
technological, and economic areas. of phone cards and credit cards
ISO functions through almost 3,000 • Dimensions and design of
technical committees and working containers for freight shipments by
groups, which develop standards in sea, rail, and road
areas such as health; safety;
environment; quality; engineering and • Standardized pitch of threads on
materials technologies; screws and bolts so they can be
telecommunications; construction; used worldwide
transportation by road, rail, air, and sea. • Standard paper sizes for use in
Electronics and electrical engineering offices (e.g., A4, letter, legal)
standards are developed separately by
IEC (International Electrotechnical • Inside the front cover of every book
Commission). there is an ISBN number which
characterises the book according to
Each Standard is developed by a
its topic and key words; this is an
committee of experts from ISO member
ISO designation
countries, and is circulated to all ISO
members in a series of drafts for • Many environmental sampling and
comments. When consensus has been analytical procedures.
achieved, the Standard is issued. The
process can take several years.
ISO Definition of a Standard
ISO is not an abbreviation for the
International Organization for Documented agreement containing
technical specifications or other
Standardization, but is derived from the
precise criteria to be used
Greek word, ‘isos’, meaning equal (i.e., consistently as rules, guidelines, or
as in isobar, isotherm, isosceles, definitions of characteristics to
isotope, isometric, isomer). ISO is ensure that materials, products,
intended to indicate the Organization’s processes and services are fit for
their purpose.
purpose, namely standardization or
consistent and equal application of
procedures. Using the word ‘ISO’
avoids the possibility of many
abbreviations for the organization when
translated into different languages.

Last Revised 10/18/2001

ISO 14001 Environmental Management Systems 3

Two fairly recent series of ISO ISO 14001 Environmental

Standards represent a break from the Management Systems Standard
traditional format and focus. The ISO ISO 14001 is the only Standard in
9000 series on Quality Systems was the series to which a company can be
launched in 1987, and revised in 1994 ‘Registered’ (i.e., Certified) following
and 2000. The ISO 14000 series of audit by an independent, accredited
Environmental Management System body. Certification agencies must be
standards was first issued in 1996 and is accredited by a country’s National
being reviewed in 2001. Both sets of Standards body. Continual efforts are
standards are applicable to all types of being made by the International
organizations, and specify requirements Accreditation Forum (IAF) to maintain
for a management system framework. and improve the vigilance with which
In contrast to other ISO Standards, certifications are awarded so as to
neither the ISO 9000 nor the ISO 14000 preserve their value and reputation. At
series prescribe specific, quantified the start of the year 2001, almost
data. 23,000 registrations to ISO 14001 had
been completed worldwide.
There are approximately 20 Misunderstandings About ISO
Standards published or in draft form in 14001
the ISO 14000 series. The following A common misconception is that an
table summarizes the principle titles. ‘ISO 14001 certificate’ is issued to an
organization. In fact, ISO does not offer

ISO 14001 Environmental Management Systems – Specification with

Guidance for Use
ISO 14004 Environmental Management Systems – General Guidelines on
Principles, Systems, and Supporting Techniques
ISO 14010 Guidelines for Environmental Auditing – General Principles on
Environmental Auditing
ISO 14011 Guidelines for Environmental Auditing – Audit Procedures –
Auditing of Environmental Management Systems
ISO 14012 Guidelines for Environmental Auditing – Qualification Criteria for
Environmental Auditors
ISO 14020 – 14025 Environmental Labels and Declarations
ISO 14031 Evaluation of Environmental Performance
ISO 14040 – 14048 Life Cycle Assessment
ISO 14050 Environmental Management Vocabulary
ISO 14061 Information to Assist Forestry Organizations in the Use of
Environmental Management Systems Standards ISO 14001 and
ISO 14004
ISO Guide 64 Guide for the Inclusion of Environmental Aspects in Product

Last Revised 10/18/2001

4 ISO 14001 Environmental Management Systems

certification. Instead, an organization’s executives and managers as a cost of

environmental management system is doing business, and not as an
assessed in comparison with the opportunity for improving ‘bottom-line’
requirements of the ISO 14001 performance. However, companies
Standard and, if it is adequate, may be with vision will do more than merely try
‘certified/registered to the Standard’. It to stay out of trouble with government
is incorrect for a company to claim they inspectors, since this mentality is
are ‘ISO-Certified’. Registration to ISO reactive, non-productive, and tiring.
14001 is not a certificate of approval by Forward-looking companies have found
or from ISO, and does not imply that a that implementing an EMS that meets
product or service is environmentally ISO 14001 specifications helps them to
friendly, though clearly that should be ‘get ahead of the game’, and in doing
one of the aims of implementing ISO so, saves them money and effort.
14001 EMS. The consistent operating practices
ISO 14001 is not a legal Standard; it required under ISO 14001 assist a
is voluntary, although some company to maintain high standards of
governments are moving to incorporate performance, decrease accidents and
compliance with the Standard into their incidents, and demonstrate ‘due
legal framework. The various elements diligence’ or reasonable care.
of the Standard do not prescribe Government regulators and courts of
performance requirements or specify law recognize such efforts and are more
maximum permissible emission levels. likely to be understanding if an
Implementation of the Standard is occasional deviation from exemplary
intended to complement and augment performance occurs.
the traditional regulatory ‘command An ISO 14001 EMS is a risk
and control’ approach to environmental management tool, which helps to
compliance by offering a structured pinpoint vulnerable areas, activities,
means for self-imposed performance and equipment in a facility, and guides
goals and self-monitoring of progress appropriate corrective and preventive
towards those goals. All improvement measures. ‘Crisis management’ of
goals must at least meet, and preferably recurring environmental emergencies
exceed existing legislated standards in becomes a thing of the past.
the country of operation. Again,
however, an ISO 14001 certificate does
not guarantee that the organization Marketing and Public Relations
continually complies with all Benefits
environmental laws and regulations, A well-implemented and operated
since upsets and emergencies inevitably ISO 14001 EMS helps to improve the
occur from time to time. reputation and public image of a
company. Government regulators,
BENEFITS AND COSTS OF customers, local communities, non
government organizations (NGO),
insurers, lenders, shareholders, and
Operational Benefits employees all appreciate an
organization’s demonstrated
Environmental compliance has been responsible attitude towards the local,
seen traditionally by company regional, and national environment.

Last Revised 10/18/2001

ISO 14001 Environmental Management Systems 5

ISO 14001 certification is also SUMMARY OF KEY POINTS

becoming a passport to international
trade, opening doors by providing • ISO – the International Organization
evidence of an organization’s concern for Standardization issues technical
for environmental management. Such and management systems standards
recognition helps a company’s to assist international trade.
marketing initiatives and expands • ISO is made up of the National
investment prospects. Standards bodies from 136
In a survey of companies with countries.
registration to ISO 14001, ISO found • The ISO 14000 series consists of
that competitive advantage and Standards for environmental
pressure from customers were management systems,
significant motivators in the decision to environmental auditing, eco-
embark on ISO 14001 implementation. labelling, environmental
When several competitors in an performance evaluation, and life
industrial sector have achieved cycle assessment.
registration to ISO 14001, those
without such recognition are clearly at a • ISO 14001 is a voluntary Standard,
disadvantage. Obvious benefits also which provides a framework for an
were realized in terms of better EMS that can be assessed by an
organization of environmental independent third party accredited
management activities. certification body.
• Benefits from registration to ISO
Challenges in Implementing ISO 14001 include:
14001 EMS − improved environmental
The road to ISO 14001 certification performance
can be strenuous and daunting.
− Savings in operating costs
Business must continue as normal while
additional efforts to plan and − Improved relations with
implement ISO 14001 are demanded governments, customers,
from managers and staff whose time is lenders, insurers, NGO, local
already fully committed to everyday communities, and other
operating needs. Internal resources stakeholders
(e.g., personnel, expertise, equipment, − New business, investment, and
time, and money) can be limiting factors marketing opportunities
in an organization’s decision to pursue
ISO 14001 registration. Active support − Clarity in decision making
by top management can relieve some of concerning environmental issues
the stresses accompanying the planning − Greater motivation and
and implementation effort. In fact, involvement of all personnel in
unless senior managers demonstrate environmental management.
commitment with more than fine words
and exhortations, the journey to ISO
14001 is almost sure to be a test of
endurance, and may even become

Last Revised 10/18/2001