DEVELOPMENT OF ISO 14000 STANDARDS
What is ISO 14000?
ISO 14000 is a series of voluntary standards on environmental management tools and systems developed and maintained by ISO, the International Organization for Standardization. The ISO 14000 series includes standards on environmental auditing, life cycle analysis, environmental performance evaluation, and more. Often, when people talk about ISO 14000, they are actually referring to one standard in the series: ISO 14001 - Environmental Management Systems - Specification with Guidance for Use (see below).
What is an Environmental Management System?
An environmental management system (EMS) is a structure of connected elements that define how an organization manages its environmental impacts. These elements include policies, organizational structure, procedures, goals and objectives, and defined processes. In order to be effective, all of these various elements must work together cohesively and be a part of the overall business management system. Most organizations already have some of these elements in place, but often they're not joined in a cohesive system.
Who developed the ISO 14000 standards?
ISO standards are developed by Technical Committees (TCs). The ISO 14000 series was developed by TC 207, which includes representatives from over 50 countries around the world. Each country sends its experts to the TC meetings to write, edit, and agree on the language to be included in each standard. The United States has a Technical Advisory Group (TAG) for each TC which provides input to the experts who represent the U.S. at international TC meetings. The U.S. TAG for TC 207 has over 500 members, including participants from many various industries, federal and state government agencies, and non-governmental organizations. These people have direct input to the development of the standards.
What is ISO 14001?
ISO 14001 is a standard in the ISO 14000 series that provides a specification for a complete and effective Environmental Management System (EMS). As a specification standard, it can be used as an audit tool, to evaluate whether an organization has a complete EMS in place. ISO 14001 specifies the elements that must be in place for an EMS to be complete and effective.
What EMS elements are required by ISO 14001?
ISO 14001 states that a comprehensive EMS must include the following elements or activities:
- Establishing an environmental policy
- Establishing environmental objectives and targets and implementing plans for meeting these
- Evaluating environmental aspects and impacts
- Identifying regulatory requirements and evaluating compliance with requirements
- Defining roles and responsibilities
- Identifying and providing necessary training
- Communicating effectively
- Documenting processes that affect environmental impacts
- Controlling parameters that affect environmental impacts
- Evaluating which suppliers' goods and services affect environmental impacts
- Preparing for emergency situations
- Monitoring and measuring critical environmental parameters
- Initiating corrective actions when problems occur
- Maintaining environmental records
- Auditing the EMS
- Evaluating and reviewing the EMS to ensure it is effective, suitable, and adequate for your
Does ISO 14001 set emissions or discharge limits?
Absolutely not. ISO 14001 helps organizations to develop and implement their own, unique environmental management system. You set your own policies, determine your own objectives and targets, and define your own procedures. Then your systems help you to meet your policy and objectives. ISO 14001 tells you what elements need to be in place; you decide exactly how to define and implement those elements.
What kind of organization can use ISO 14001?
ISO 14001 is intended for any kind of organization - business, school, hospital, non-profit, etc. - that wants to implement or improve its environmental management system. It applies equally well to both service and manufacturing organizations and to both non-profit organizations and for-profit businesses. ISO 14001 provides plenty of flexibility to do what's right for your own unique organization.
How do I get started?
The best approach for most companies is to begin by simply using the ISO 14001 standard to evaluate and improve current systems. Later, if third-party registration seems either necessary or desirable, you'll have your systems in good shape and will simply need to have them audited. So, begin with these steps:
Get More Information. Obtain copies of ISO 14001 and ISO 14004 (the EMS guidance standard) from ISO,
ANSI in the U.S. or your own national standards body. Seek out ISO 14001 information and expertise within your own company, from books and articles, and from well-regarded experts.
Conduct a Gap Assessment. Compare your current systems against the requirements of the ISO 14001 standard. Use internal or external resources who fully understand the flexibility and interpretation of the standard and are familiar with the types of systems you already have in place.
Plan to Improve. Based on your gap assessment, determine what elements of your current systems will need improvement in order to meet the requirements of ISO 14001. At the same time, consider how existing systems can be streamlined or integrated for improved productivity.
Does ISO 14001 require a lot of unnecessary documentation?
The ISO 14001 standard requires very little specific documentation. It is a common misconception that an ISO-compliant management system is all about documentation. While having consistent, well-defined processes is critical for an effective management system, ISO 14001 leaves the amount and type of documentation up to the organization itself. You define your critical processes and decide what needs to be documented.
Will we have to rewrite our procedures for ISO 14001?
ISO 14001 does not require any particular format, style, or approach for procedures or any other documents. These decisions are left entirely to the organization implementing the system. In reviewing existing procedures, you may find that some are outdated, inaccurate, or less effective than they could be. In these cases, you'll want to improve your procedures to help improve your business.
What is ISO 14001 registration/certification?
You can have your EMS registered (referred to as certified outside the US) by hiring an accredited third-party, called a registrar (certifying body outside the US), to audit your systems against the requirements of the ISO 14001 standard. The auditors review your policies and procedures, observe your operations, interview employees, and check your records to verify that your system includes all the components required by ISO 14001 and that it is effectively implemented. If your system meets the requirements of ISO 14001, the registrar will issue you a certificate stating that your organization complies with the standard.
What is accreditation?
Accreditation is a system to verify that the third-party registrars are properly trained and qualified to conduct ISO 14001 audits. In the U.S., the Registrar Accreditation Board (RAB) handles accreditation of both ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 registrars. The RAB certifies individual auditors, accredits training courses used to train auditors, and accredits registrar organizations to ensure they meet all qualification criteria.
Do we have to get registered to ISO 14001?
ISO 14001 is a voluntary standard; it is meant to be used as a tool for environmental and business improvement. EMS registration is a completely separate process, unconnected to ISO, which uses the ISO 14001 standard. An organization is free to use the standard in any way they like to help implement or improve their EMS. Registration is not required by ISO; however, it is a supplier requirement for certain companies whose customers demand it.
How do I choose a registrar?
There are many, many registrars available to audit an EMS against ISO 14001. Consider these criteria when making your choice:
Word of Mouth: Ask your customers, parent company, sister sites, and suppliers what registrar they use and what their experience has been.
Accreditation: Ensure that your chosen registrar is accredited by the RAB and/or other national accrediting bodies in countries where you operate.
Evaluate Registrars: Often, companies are intimidated by the process of registration. Remember that you are the customer, choosing a registrar to be a long-term service supplier to you. Conduct a thorough evaluation of the registrar's internal processes and procedures, policies, and approaches to EMS audits.
Flexible Approach: The ISO 14001 standard is meant to be flexible to allow you to implement an EMS that will benefit both the environment and your business. Make sure your chosen registrar and its auditors understand the flexibility built into the standard. Stay away from registrars who insist you implement or document your systems in a prescribed, rigid way.
Consider Cost Last: Registration is a competitive field, and there is a wide range of fees charged by various registrars. However, cost should be one of the last criteria you consider. Registrar auditors who have a poor understanding of the standard's requirements (and flexibility) or who try to dictate how your system is implemented will end up costing you much more in the long run.
CHANGES TO ISO 14001
Why are the ISO 14000 standards being revised?
All ISO standards are revised on a 5-year cycle to ensure that they remain current and useful for users. ISO 14001 and ISO 14004 were published in 1996 and were due for revision in 2001. The members of ISO TC 207 delayed these revisions in order to gain more data from use of the standard by a wide variety of organizations before considering any changes. Revisions are now in progress.
What is being changed?
TC 207 understands that thousands of organizations world-wide have used ISO 14001-1996 to implement their EMS's and many more are in the process of using the standard. The stated goal of this revision cycle is to clarify the original intent of ISO 14001, not to add new requirements. The U.S. delegation -- and many other countries -- are committed to this goal and are striving to ensure that these revisions will not change or add to the basic requirements stated in the 1996 version of the standard. Instead, revisions are focusing on clarifying the language used in the standard, the definitions of key terms, and the intent of the original requirements.
ISO 14004 (the guidance standard) is being revised more thoroughly, with a focus on providing clear, concise, non-prescriptive guidance for a wide variety of organizations. In particular, a lot of attention is being given to providing guidance in evaluating environmental aspects and impacts.
When will the standards be revised?
The revision process is proceeding slowly, due to the careful balance in clarifying requirements without adding new ones. Delegations from various countries using ISO 14001 have had many different experiences with the standard, and TC 207 is struggling to come to consensus on definitions, intended meanings, and real-life experiences with the standards. If the process continues on schedule, ISO 14001 and ISO 14004 will both be revised and re-issued by the end of 2004.
How do these revisions affect my organization?
If you already use the ISO 14000 standards or are planning to begin using them, there is no reason to delay your EMS implementation or improvement. The revisions will not be published until 2004 (at the earliest) and should not significantly affect organizations using the 1996 version. In fact, the improved versions of both standards should be helpful to those organizations who've already used them.
Since the focus of the ISO 14001 revision process is on clarifying the original intent of the requirements, it's even more important to ensure that your understanding of the requirements is accurate so that extensive modifications to your EMS will not be needed when the revised ISO 14001 is published. Be sure that you have a clear and accurate understanding of the intent of ISO 14001 requirements by using books and training courses written and developed by experts who were involved in the original drafting of ISO 14001. Then there will be no surprises when the clarified ISO 14001 is published.