What is ISO 14001?

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One of the many challenges businesses face when establishing environmental goals and visions, is to meet expectations of policy makers, stakeholders and the public. The external wills may feel aggravating, as they want businesses to perform according to what they believe is responsible in a modern organization worth investing in. Fortunately, frameworks and standards have been developed so expectations and business activities can easier be aligned. The International Organization (ISO) for Standardization is an independent organisation which develops and publishes standards that can be used by every sector and every purpose. This blogpost will focus on ISO 14001, the standard related to the environmental management system - What is it? How to implement it? And what are the benefits?

This is iso 14001

ISO 14001 is the international standard that specifies criterias for an effective environmental management system (EMS). It provides businesses a framework to follow when establishing environmental performance requirements in their organization, and there are more than 300.000 certifications to the ISO 14001 standard. Regardless of the organization’s location, sector or activity, ISO 14001 is designed to ensure environmental measurement and improvement for every kind of organization. 

All ISO standards are regularly revised to current trends, climate changes and expectations, in order to stay relevant for stakeholders. Bare in mind that 14001:2015 is the latest ISO 14001 standard, which means that the older versions are no longer applicable for certification. Regardless of industry, sector, size or location, the 2015 version is relevant to all organizations.

WHAT IS THE international organization for standardization (iso)? 

The ISO is an independent, non-governmental international organization that provides and develops standards. Since its founding in 1947, ISO has published 23043 standards and documents that can be used by organizations to ensure that materials, products, processes and services are fulfilling set requirements. The standards are covering almost every industry - such as food safety, technology, agriculture and healthcare – to impact everyone, everywhere.

Why implement iso 14001?

It is entirely voluntary to implement ISO 14001, however, the amount of benefits is something you can't oversee. Apart from improving the environment, organizations which have implemented the standard demonstrate credibility and motivate an organization’s commitment to its environment responsibilities. The benefits are many and not all of them are relevant to everyone at your organization, but down below are a list of some of the main benefits of having a ISO 14001 implemented in the businesses core operations:

  • Helps organizations with their legal requirements. Organizations using ISO 14001 have reported to develop a more systematic approach to legal compliances, as the standard is aligned with current and future statutory and regulatory requirements. 
  • … And to go beyond. As external expectations on organization’s responsibility is so high is it not always enough to only meet the legal requirements. An improved overall environmental performance will benefit the organization, not only by meeting customers, investors and stakeholders expectations, but also by becoming industry-leaders!
  • An organized way to engage employees to work towards the environmental goals. Increasing the leadership involvement and engagement of employees will ensure that everyone in the organization are aware of the current and potential impact on the environment – and what actions to be made to achieve them.
  • Creates confidence of stakeholders and improves company reputation through public communication. Being transparent with your businesses environmental action plan will create and develop trust of important stakeholders and partners.
  • Competitive and financial advantage. Organizations which use and certificate of ISO 14001 are being distinguished from other organizations and thus gain a favourable authorization.
  • Its worldwide recognition. A main benefit of using a standard with universal understanding is that it will facilitate the communication with external parts.

how to become iso 14001 certified

An organization which is interested in certifying its EMS according to the ISO 14001 standard must be able to demonstrate a variety of completed action. The process of implementing the whole ISO 14001 takes regularly three years and can sometimes feel overwhelming. However, knowing some of the key steps that organizations typically go through to achieve the EMS certification will provide an understanding of what is expected of you and might smoothen the process. Since the standard is created to be suitable for organizations of every size and accesses, is it possible, to some extent, to exclude the requirements and specifications that are not relevant for your business.

Steps to iso 14001 Certification

  • Learn. Educate and make sure to understand what is expected of your organization to achieve the certificate. 
  • Review. What organizational changes are essential in your current EMS?
  • Plan. Create a baseline for determining tasks, resources and relevant implementations needed for integrating an ISO 14001 certified EMS in your organization.
  • Educate. Train your organization on ISO 14001 and maximize the environmental operations in every field.
  • Report. The organization has a developed and communicated a qualified environmental policy system and in line with the mandatory requirements
  • Get an external validation. One requirement is to get reviewed against the requirements of ISO 14001 by an accredited certification organization.

hoW to get started

You can effectively and digitally start align your business activities with the ISO-standards by using the SIS-Worldfavor tool. The Swedish Institute for Standards (SIS) and Worldfavor have joined together to create an online platform for businesses to manage their processes, procedures and documentations in one place. 

The digital logg-tool helps you to structurize and automize GAP-analysis that will compare your businesses actual performance with the requirements of the ISO standard. The analysis will help you determine the deviations that need to be revised and thus help you reach the desired performance to align your work with the standard. Read more about the service and how to access it here.

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