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5 elements of a successful ISO 14001 project

How can you improve your chances of successfully implementing ISO 14001? During the implementation you will face challenges to keeping your project on track, and by controlling these challenges you can help maintain your progress toward the goal of ISO 14001 implementation. By putting the following five elements in place, you will ready for any challenges that may come up.

1) Know where to start

Implementation of an environmental management system (EMS) according to the requirements of ISO 14001 will differ from company to company, so there is no one place to start. In order to be successful once implemented, the EMS needs to be company specific, addressing the processes and environmental interactions that are unique to your company. Getting a cookie cutter set of policies and procedures that can’t be edited just won’t work.

For this reason, it is best to start with some sort of gap analysis that compares your current environmental management practices with the requirements of ISO 14001, which will let you know what else needs to be done to be fully compliant.  From this list of missing elements you can develop a reasonable timeframe and budget required to put the processes in place to fill the gap. From here you are on a firm foundation to start your implementation of ISO 14001 without surprises that could have been expected and avoided.

To see how close your current environmental management system is to meeting the requirements of ISO 14001, check out this online ISO 14001 Gap Analysis Tool.

2) Management Support is Crucial

Can you achieve ISO registration without management buy-In? While it may be possible to do this with minimal management support (you will need some sort of management review, for instance), maintaining the environmental management system without ongoing support from management will be difficult – if not impossible. Without management support, your implementation of an EMS is almost certain to fail. Management needs to be on board to make sure that adequate resources (e.g., money and human resources) are available and any roadblocks can be overcome.

3) Start with the basics

There are four basic elements of a good environmental management system that should be put in place first, because a lot of the other parts of the EMS build on these four steps:

  1. Environmental policy: This policy comes from top management and outlines the overall intentions and direction of how the company will address its effect on the environment.
  2. Legal requirements: By identifying, understanding, and maintaining knowledge of the environmental laws that are applicable to your company, you can work toward legal compliance and build your EMS to support this.
  3. Environmental Aspects: The environmental aspects are the ways that your company processes interact with the environment, either negatively or positively. Understanding these interactions is a cornerstone of the environmental management system designed to the requirements of ISO 14001. Find out more with this article on Environmental aspect identification and classification.
  4. Objectives, Targets & Programs: Once you have implemented the environmental policy, legal requirements management, and environmental aspects management, you can develop objectives, targets, and a program to focus the improvement required for your company. After all, improvement is the reason to implement an EMS to start with.

While these are the first documents to do, there are others. For more information on what needs to be documented in an EMS, see this whitepaper on Checklist of Mandatory Documentation Required by ISO 14001:2015.

4) Pick the right EMS representative

Having a member of top management who is responsible for the environmental management system is not only a requirement of ISO 14001 – it is also a good idea. This person is the conduit for top management to find out about how the EMS is running, what resources are needed, and what improvements need to be made. By choosing the right person for this job you can build upon the management support that you have already laid as the foundation of your EMS, but having an ineffective person in this role can cause delays and trouble.

To find out more about the management representative, see this blog post on ISO 14001: What is the Role of the Management Representative?

5) Know how you will gain the necessary knowledge

If this is the first time you have implemented ISO 14001, which is the case with most companies, they you will have to find a way to gather the knowledge you need to successfully implement your EMS. There are basically three options:

  1. Only using your own employees: When you do this you will need to find training for yourself or your colleagues that will make sure you do not miss anything in your implementation. You can send employees for training or gather tools online such as template and tutorials which will help ensure your success
  2. Your employees with outside help: You can choose to implement ISO 14001 on your own as above, but by using some outside resources to help make the job easier. This might be having a consultant as an outside expert to help or using online tools as a resource to help make the job easier.
  3. Use a consultant to do the job: You can always hire a consultant to do the whole job for you. While this can be faster it can also be more costly and the consultant may take a lot of the knowledge about the EMS with them when they leave making it more difficult to maintain afterwards. Guard against this by learning all you can from the consultant, and to help choose a good consultant see this List of questions to ask an ISO 14001 consultant.

Make sure these elements are solid to better ensure success

Having these five elements in place first will help you to identify any problems early, which will make your implementation run more smoothly with minimal delays. Plan well, and your implementation will run more smoothly.

Download this free Clause-by-clause explanation of ISO 14001:2015 to learn how to meet each requirement of the standard.

Advisera Mark Hammar
Mark Hammar
Mark Hammar is a Certified Manager of Quality / Organizational Excellence through the American Society for Quality and has been a Quality Professional since 1994. Mark has experience in auditing, improving processes, and writing procedures for Quality, Environmental, and Occupational Health & Safety Management Systems, and is certified as a Lead Auditor for ISO 9001, AS9100, and ISO 14001.