ISO 14001:2015: Developing sustainability

Wind turbine farm at sunset in Canada

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standard for environmental management, ISO 14001, was revised in 2015 to ISO 14001:2015.

 

The revised standard helps organizations to demonstrate compliance with current and future legislation and regulations. ISO 14001:2015 provides a competitive and financial advantage through improved efficiencies and reduced costs.

All ISO standards are reviewed and revised regularly to make sure they remain relevant. ISO 14001:2015 is a response to the latest environmental thinking, including the increasing recognition by companies of the need to factor in both external and internal elements that influence their environmental impacts, such as climate volatility and the competitive context in which they work, as well more clearly defining the organization’s sphere of influence, including its supply chain.

The most significant change in the standard is the increased emphasis on leadership involvement, engagement from employees, and improving the organization’s reputation and the confidence of stakeholders through strategic communication and stakeholder engagement. Steve Simmonds, Executive Head: Business Development at IsoMetrix explains, “There is a greater expectation for top management to understand the organization’s environmental issues, support the EMS and champion improved performance.” This involves ensuring that the environmental policies and objectives of the organization are compatible with its strategic direction and requires that all staff contribute to the effectiveness of the EMS.

 

Social responsibility

“ISO 14001:2015 also requires a broader strategic consideration of the organization’s environmental context, including the interests of stakeholders and the direction of the business,” continues Simmonds. Organizations must make specific commitments to sustainable development and social responsibility. ISO 14001:2015 clarifies the role of environmental management in contributing to sustainable development, and underpins the Triple Bottom Line. “It reinforces subjects such as transparency and accountability with respect to environmental management, and broadens the concept of pollution prevention,” he says.

Because ISO 14001 addresses principles related to ISO 26000, the international guideline developed to help organizations effectively assess and address their social responsibilities, an organization would benefit from aligning their ISO 26000 and ISO 14001 requirements within an integrated management system.

 

Supply chain

The revised standard extends an organization’s environmental influence into the supply chain, which has the following implications for procurement:

  • specifying environmental requirements for the procurement of goods and services
  • communicating these to suppliers and contractors
  • considering environmental aspects in the design, development or change of products and services
  • providing information about environmental impacts in relation to the delivery of goods and services and in the use and end of the life of products.

“The revisions give organizations the opportunity to use environmental design as a tool for improvement,” says Steve. “An organization needs to be able to demonstrate an understanding of its environmental compliance status at all times.” The revised text also stipulates that the organization must evaluate compliance at pre-determined frequencies, in order to maintain a knowledge and understanding of its compliance status, and take necessary action to address actual or potential non-compliance.

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