Why the ISO 14001 revision?

The most widely used Environmental Management System (EMS) standard in the world is the ISO 14001:2004. Over a quarter-million businesses use it worldwide. It was first published in 1996 with a notable update in 2004.

A new and significant revision is underway. It’s expected to be released in summer of 2013 – first draft. Target for final publication is 2015.

Why businesses use ISO standards  A standard is technically a document that provides requirements, specifications, guidelines or characteristics that can be used consistently to ensure that materials, products, processes and services are fit for their purpose. In other words, quality. A standard is a practical guide and an ideological benchmark against which to measure systems or products or both. Ideally, ISO standards help assure that products and services are safe, reliable and of good quality. For business, they are strategic tools that reduce costs by minimizing waste and errors, and increasing productivity. The ISO 14001 EMS standard specifies a process for the control and the continuous improvement of an organization’s environmental performance. The standard encourages a strategic approach to an organization’s environmental policy, plans and actions. A strategic approach is always a good idea.

Why the revision to ISO 14001?  The revision of the ISO standard for Environmental Management Systems (EMS) incorporates a change in document structure. That’s pretty much it. Specifically, there are changes in clause hierarchy, including the nesting area of many subclauses. The adjustments reflect a new universal structure — a standard if you will — recently approved for implementation across all next-generation ISO standards. Best way to approach this new ISO 14001 document is to absorb the new structure. Be mindful that any current processes or products that are ISO 14001:2004 compatible will remain acceptable under ISO 14001:2015. There is no need to rush out and start making changes. However, keep an eye on shuffled clauses in the documentation, as with the following:

Requirements for an EMS will be organized into Clauses 1 – 10:

  1. Scope
  2. Normative references
  3. Terms and definitions
  4. Context of organisation
  5. Leadership
  6. Planning
  7. Support
  8. Operation
  9. Performance evaluation
  10. Improvement

From the intelligence we’ve gathered, there is nothing Quality Professionals need to do differently to remain in compliance with the standard revision. But it might be time to familiarize ourselves with the new structure, and if not today, then bookmark this page for reference later on.

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About Kal

Kal Kawar, CIH, PE, has a bachelor's in chemical engineering and a master's in industrial hygiene. His professional experience includes serving as staff industrial hygienist for IBM's New York semiconductor manufacturing facility, and as industrial hygienist for IBM’s US headquarters. Now executive vice president of Actio, Kal taps more than 20 years' worth of chemical engineering, industrial hygiene, and environmental engineering experience. His far-reaching expertise with global regulatory challenges created by EPA, TSCA, REACH, RoHS, WEEE – and hundreds of others – aid in developing Actio software solutions for MSDS management, raw material disclosure compliance, and product stewardship in a supply chain.