iso 14001 certification

ISO 14001 is an international standard that helps organisations design and implements an effective Environmental Management System (EMS).

iso 14001 certification

ISO 14001 outlines the requirements for building a practical framework and provides guidelines for creating an EMS so that organisations understand all essential elements of their environmental performance. 

What are the simple basics of ISO 14001?

ISO 14001 has become the go-to standard across the globe for designing and implementing an efficient EMS. The standard is published by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), an international entity that publishes and distributes the amalgamation of recommendations utilised worldwide. The most recent version of this standard was published in 2015 and is commonly referred to as “ISO 14001:2015.”

What are the simple basics of ISO 14001

When environmental experts and member countries of the ISO agreed upon the recommendations outlined in the standard, it was updated and released. As it cleared a consensus, the standard is internationally appreciated and widely recognised. A survey conducted at the end of 2018 found a drastic increase in companies implementing ISO 14001 compared to the previous years, indicating a stable trend worldwide.

What is an Environmental Management System?

An environmental management system, often referred to as an EMS, comprises a set of records, practises, plans, processes and policies that help govern the rules of how your company will interact with the environment. To be efficient, the system needs to be tailor-made to the specific needs of your particular company.

This is because the rules are customised per your company’s scope, helping you match your legal requirements and environmental actions with your specific business processes. Although many rudimentary EMS exist across different continents, each has some deficiencies. As you must have gathered, this is because such EMS guidelines were built by the experts of one country or a few countries in collaboration; on the other hand, the ISO 14001 standard was built by amalgamating the expert advice of international and environmental leaders, making it a comprehensive as well as encompassing standard. So, when you apply the requirements of ISO 14001 to build your EMS, you can be assured that your EMS will be successful, efficient, sustainable and reliable. Additionally, ISO 14001 will ensure you have all the essential criteria in your management system.

 We are getting to the heart of why ISO 14001 is essential

Open any newspaper or spend a few minutes on the internet. You will be bombarded with environmental issues. Today, our planet is polluted, our water is contaminated, the air we breathe is dirty, and plastic is littering the entire world. In such a situation, it becomes our duty to take care of our environment and prevent our company from further aggravating it. Businesses today are facing two significant challenges. Firstly, they need to learn how to combat the negative impacts on the environment without compromising their profits. Secondly, more and more environmentally conscious clients are pressuring businesses to change how they interact with the environment or produce their goods/services. In such circumstances, companies need to figure out where to begin.

 We are getting to the heart of why ISO 14001 is essential

 Thankfully, ISO 14001 provides a viable solution. The EMS outlined in the standard guides organisations to reduce their environmental impacts without compromising on their profits and create products or services that are environmentally friendly as well as sustainable. The most significant benefit of implementing an EMS compliant with ISO 14001 is the recognition that comes with it. You are amongst the few international businesses that care enough to reduce their environmental footprint. This can teach better relationships with the public, your customers and the community, helping your company bring benefits beyond their finances.

 In addition to the good public image, ISO 14001 helps reduce liability costs, and insurance can be obtained more reasonably. Cost savings increase as you learn how to conserve input materials and energy through your reduction efforts. Implementing ISO 14001 must be considered a business strategy with many benefits.

 What does ISO 14001 look like?

The ISO 14001 standard is split into ten sections. The first three clauses/sections are introductory, describing standard terms and normative definitions, while the remaining seven contain the requirements for the EMS. Here is what the seven main clauses talk about:

• Section 4: Context of the organisation- This section focuses on the requirements for understanding your organisation so that you can appropriately implement your EMS. The requirements help you identify your organisation’s internal and external issues. Additionally, you will be able to identify interested parties and their expectations, define the scope of your EMS and identify the processes you would require for the implementation of the EMS.

• Section 5: Leadership- This section outlines the leadership requirements instrumental in efficiently implementing your EMS. Top management must demonstrate their commitment to the EMS by defining and communicating the environmental policy, ensuring environmental commitment and assigning roles and responsibilities throughout the organisation.

What does ISO 14001 look like

• Section 6: Planning- For the effective functioning of the EMS, top management must also create an appropriate plan to address all risks and opportunities that the EMS will present to the organisation. The organisation needs to be assessed, and all environmental objectives must be identified and improved. A plan must be created to accomplish these objectives, and an assessment must be done to highlight how organisational processes interact with the environment. Lastly, legal, regulatory and statutory commitments must be outlined and addressed.

• Section 7: Support- The support section focuses on managing all resources needed for the EMS’s adequate functioning. Examples of resources include competence, awareness, communication and controlling documented information. Here, documented information refers to the documents and records needed to implement and maintain your processes.

• Section 8: Operation- This section deals with the requirements of all environmental controls needed by your organisational processes. In this section, any potential emergencies will be identified, and appropriate responses will be planned so that your organisation is adequately prepared for any emergency.

• Section 9: Performance evaluation- This section focuses on the requirements needed to monitor the functioning and efficiency of an EMS. It includes guidelines for appropriate monitoring and measuring your processes, conducting internal audits, assessing your environmental compliance and directing ongoing management reviews of your EMS. 

• Section 10: Improvement- The last section provides guidelines you can incorporate to improve the quality of your EMS over time. This section teaches you to assess process non-conformity and take corrective actions for these non-conformities.

All sections utilise the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle, a cyclic process to implement change and explore opportunities in such a manner that it drives organisations to maintain excellent efficiency within their processes.

 Why should you implement ISO 14001 in your organisation?

There are numerous benefits of ISO 14001, and companies can benefit immensely from implementing the recommendations, irrespective of size, complexity, and scope. Here is a list of just a few of these benefits:

• Improve your brand credibility- Acquiring the certificate demonstrates your commitment to managing your environmental impact, which could significantly enhance your image and market share, helping you maintain a good public image and improve community relationships.

• Improve cost control- One of the biggest goals for any company is to reduce its cost. Implementing an EMS can help you conserve your energy and input materials, helping to improve your cost control. Moreover, incidents from your company that can incur liability costs reduce, and your environmental controls improve, helping you obtain insurance at reduced costs.

• Utilise evidence-based decision-making- As the ISO 14001 standard guides your organisation to use accurate data to decide what you can improve, you significantly increase the chances of improvements being successful the first time instead of suffering several unsuccessful attempts. Utilising insightful data to track your progress can further improve your initiatives before they get sidetracked, helping you save both cost and time.

What are the practical steps to becoming ISO 14001 certified

• Create a culture of continual improvement- The ISO 14001 standard teaches you to work towards better processes. It reduces your environmental impacts systematically, helping you showcase your commitment to continual improvement. With the help of constant evaluations, you potentially reduce your costs, improve your public image and create a culture of improvement where your employees are always looking for ways to improve the processes and your EMS. 

• Engage your people- Employees love to work for an ethical and environmentally conscious company. Given a choice between working for a company that shows concern for the environment and one that does not, most people would prefer the first company. By engaging with your employees regularly, the ISO 14001 standard helps you convey to your employees that reducing environmental footprint is a group effort. As employees can understand how their granular tasks contribute to the bigger picture, their organisational loyalty increases. Hence, you can increase employee focus, productivity and retention.

What are the practical steps to becoming ISO 14001 certified?

Let’s first understand the difference between compliance and certification. When you build a management system as per the recommendations of ISO 14001, you are compliant with the standard. However, certification is only awarded to those organisations that undergo a strict external audit by an accredited certification body. Hence, to acquire your certificate, you need to build your management system, review its efficiency through internal audits, and submit your organisation for an external review.

 Begin with management support and identifying the legal requirements for your EMS. You will need to start by defining your environmental policy, aspects, objectives and targets, which together will compose your overall scope. Defining the scope will help you implement your EMS. Additionally, you may need to create some mandatory procedures for optimising your organisation’s operations. Several mandatory processes are unique to each company.

 Once all your processes and procedures are in place, you will need to operate your EMS for a short period. As you operate your EMS, you are observing your processes in action and collecting the necessary records to submit to the external auditor. As we have clarified above, auditing is essential to becoming certified.

 After observing your EMS and finishing all your documents, your organisation will need to perform three mandatory steps to ensure successful certification. These include:

 Internal audit: An internal audit is an evaluation that checks the efficiency of your EMS processes. Here, the goal is to ensure that all your records are in one place and all your processes are compliant. The auditor is also looking for problem areas that could develop into non-conformances later and weaknesses that tend to stay hidden.

 Management review: Similar to how you submit the report of your internal audit for certification, you will need to present the records of your management review to get certified. In the management review, a formal review of the relevant facts identified in the internal audit is discussed in front of the top leaders and management so that appropriate decisions can be taken and resources can be assigned.

 Corrective actions: Following the management review and the internal audit, you will need to correct the root cause of any problems that were identified during these evaluations. Additionally, you will need to document how you resolved these problems.

 If satisfied with your performance, you can apply to a certification body to undergo an external audit. An external audit is conducted in two phases; where in stage one, your documentation will be reviewed and in the leading audit, the auditors will check whether your activities comply with the ISO 14001 standard and your documentation.

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