The ISO 14001 environmental management standard has been updated following a three year review, with more emphasis on ‘life-cycle’ thinking and integrating sustainability with business strategy.
The popular international standard is one of the most widely used methods for setting up an environmental management system (EMS) to cover environmental business considerations such as waste and energy use, and has become a vital predecessor for accessing many major supply chains.
Research published in November 2014 showed that the number of ISO 14001 certified businesses had surpassed 300,000 worldwide.
Following a three year review, the standard has undergone its first major revision since 1996 to ensure it maintains its relevance in today’s business landscape and can continue to contribute to tackling the environmental challenges of the future.
Certified organisations will have up to three years to become compliant with the revisions, which put more emphasis on senior management leadership, risk management, product life-cycles and integrating environmental management with wider business contexts and supply chains.
Key changes include:
- A new high-level structure of terms, definitions and headings common to all ISO management system standards, such as ISO 9001
- More emphasis on external risks such as the threat of climate change, resource scarcity and extreme weather
- New requirements to make top-level management accountable for environmental performance and active engagement in the company’s EMS
- More focus on considering the life-cycle stages of products and how to reduce environmental impacts through eco-design.
“[The revised standard] will deliver a step-change in business performance and deliver significant benefits to the environment”, said Martin Baxter, chief policy advisor at the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA).
“The standard shifts business focus on the environment from compliance with regulations and direct operations, to placing the environment at the heart of their thinking and strategy.”
Neil Pike, head of business improvement at Overbury, the first UK company to become compliant with the updated standard, said: “Standards are a vital part of our business – not just to help us achieve new business but also to help with our continual improvement and to facilitate growth.
“We are actively encouraging customers to make the transition as early as possible so that they start to experience the benefits of this new business improvement standard right from the beginning.”
To find out more about the latest revisions to the standard, click here.